Thursday, June 14, 2018

NYTimes, News Corp CEOs Call For More 'Big Digital' Oversight

Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times, and Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corp., are on ideological common ground in their opposition to the way Facebook and Google are using, or not using, their position as dominant distributors of the news, reports

Both spoke Tuesday at a small conference held by The Open Markets Institute, a think tank focused on the resistance of corporate monopoly power, and pushed not only for more oversight of “Big Digital” (as Thomson put it after comparing the industry to Big Tobacco) but also for the platforms themselves to be more forthright and transparent in their dealings with publishers.

Even though the Times has managed to pull well through the digital disruption to advertising and distribution, Thompson said the paper has “advantages most news providers do not enjoy.” But even with them, “we find the environment for growing our digital revenue — and securing the funding of our newsroom — harder than I believe we should.”

He took direct aim at Google, which owns YouTube, and particularly Facebook for failing to own up to their responsibilities as distributors and de facto publishers, a title the platforms have rejected again and again. But Thompson also admitted that leaders of both organizations are not interested in destroying journalism and have at least shown a willingness to listen and explore possible solutions to the undermining of legitimate news and access to it. But listening isn’t enough.

Thomson joined Thompson in critiquing the opacity of algorithms that operate Facebook and Google and the platforms’ support of “atomized consumption of single stories and the jumbling of stories of different depth and quality from different sources.” Thompson said this feeds into the recent advent of “fake news” consumption and a distrust of legitimate reporting because “essential signals…about editorial intentionality” are lost or removed.

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