Disney Warned Fusion Not To Do News Coverage That Might Embarrass It Or Others In Hollywood

from the so-that-happened dept

The NY Times has an interesting profile of “Fusion” — the briefly high-profile project that was a combined offspring of Disney and Univision. Fusion got some attention last year for scooping up a bunch of high-profile journalists (including a few that I really like) to power its rush into the “we’ll cater to the millennials!” market. The article suggests things aren’t actually going that well, but that’s not that interesting to me. Instead, what caught my attention was a brief aside about how Disney keeps stepping in to tell Fusion to shut up about stuff that Disney and its friends in Hollywood don’t like — such as coverage of the leaked Sony emails:

For instance, according to two senior Fusion staff members, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Disney put the organization on notice that it would not take kindly to coverage that might dent its standing with consumers. The warning came after Fusion published several stories based on documents that hackers stole from Sony.

Fusion is not alone: In negotiations to create a Vice cable channel, Disney and Hearst insisted on a clause protecting the companies in the event that Vice content ?embarrasses Hearst or Disney in any way,? according to people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.

Hmmm. If true, I’d hope that some of the journalists who joined Fusion would consider standing up and speaking out about that kind of bullshit corporate interference with the journalism side of things. Every time a big company owns a journalism outlet, we always hear that they promise not to interfere, but everyone knows the reality is different. But for the actual journalists, this kind of thing requires standing up and telling the corporate parents to shove off.

And it is true that Fusion was one of the leading online sources publishing stories based on the hacked Sony emails, with a whole bunch of stories by both Kevin Roose and Kashmir Hill — two of Fusion’s high-profile hires. It doesn’t appear that either have written about the Sony hacks since back in December — even though there have been a bunch of stories that have come out of the leaks since then.

Remember when CBS stepped in and blocked CNET, a publication that it owned, from giving an award to DISH, because CBS was involved in a legal dispute with DISH? At least one CNET reporter ended up resigning over that kind of interference. If the reports about Disney interfering with Fusion’s coverage of things like the Sony hack emails is true, one would hope that Fusion’s high-profile journalists would do the same.

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Companies: disney, fusion, univision

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Comments on “Disney Warned Fusion Not To Do News Coverage That Might Embarrass It Or Others In Hollywood”

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21 Comments
John Fenderson (profile) says:

Not journalism

If there exists a clause like with Fusion & Vice, it is a clear admission that the outlet is not engaging in journalism at all, but that it is simply another PR mouthpiece.

Anybody working for them who thinks of themselves as journalists should quit immediately, before people can point to their work as PR flaks to discredit them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not journalism

It is not PR per se. But neither is it actual free journalism.

I am not sure this isn’t a standard clause for many modern outlets. Likely the ones not getting caught are just better at hiding their owners interference. Furthermore, who would bite the hand that feeds them?

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not journalism

It is not PR per se.

Of course it is! Slanted news, bought and paid for, is PR not objectivity. In traditional news orgs, there’s supposed to be a wall protecting the meat (editorial) from the chaff (sales). That’s what makes the meat worth paying for!

Furthermore, who would bite the hand that feeds them?

Real journalists doing real journalism!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not journalism

“I am not sure this isn’t a standard clause for many modern outlets”

It undeniably is. It may not always be written in contractual terms (the same effect can be had in much sneakier ways), but the all amounts to the same thing.

It’s also one of the major reasons why there is so little journalism left in US media.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Not journalism

… but that it is simply another PR mouthpiece.

Indeed. Any “tech journal” that didn’t report on the Sony hack debacle would stand out like a sore thumb, but they want us to believe they’re doing journalism? Why would I want to believe anything they say if certain subjects are spiked before they’re even written or researched?

Yoohoo, I’d drop ’em like a hot potato and never return as soon as I learned the truth about them! How many times does this truth need to be learned?!? Morons in marketing are destroying civilization.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not journalism

The way many companies are now, they’d view not showing up for X number days as “theft” and have you arrested for stealing from the company.

I tend to blame that sort of crap on clueless managers (who’re also employees), not corps. Corps have their own unique brand of stupid, and corp policy seldom reaches as far down as line employees (except via policy).

Anonymous Coward says:

“In negotiations to create a Vice cable channel, Disney and Hearst insisted on a clause protecting the companies in the event that Vice content ’embarrasses Hearst or Disney in any way,'”

This should be known as the Naked Emperor Clause. Everyone knows that it was the little boy’s fault for telling everyone that the emperor was naked, after all.

Dale says:

Oh, as usual, you ‘Muricans are waaaaayyyyy behind Canada:

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/03/25/bell-media-president-apologizes-for-interfering-in-ctv-news-coverage.html

But don’t feel bad for Mr. Crull: Sprint took one look at what he’d done and said “He’s our kinda guy!”

http://www.thestar.com/business/2015/05/21/sprint-hires-former-bell-media-president-to-head-its-marketing-content-efforts.html

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Does Sprint own any interests such as nation-wide television networks? In other words, win-win! He apologized for being a dumbass, but his new employer expects him to be a dumbass. I’m glad he found his niche, and that niche is far away from journalism and objective news reporting.

Why don’t they teach these people stuff like this in school?

WTF is wrong with Bell Media that they don’t get this?

Nomad of Norad says:

Too big....

It is things like this that show why we *desperately* need to force all these mega-companies to divest themselves of *all* news outfits, and why it is that having all of the major news outlets owned by a tiny handful of companies is an unbelievably horrible idea. Unfortunately, until it is illegal for corporations to dump huge amounts of money into politics, none of this is likely to change. oO

I’m reminded of the fact that ages ago, the government had to step in and declare it absolutely illegal for the movie studios to own ANY movie theaters. They basically forced the studios to divest themselves of all theater chains, declaring by law that theaters had to be totally independent entities from the outfits making the movies that were shown in them. It is VERY long overdue that something like that is done again, by declaring the studios can ONLY OWN studios, and NOT OWN TV stations or networks, and NOT OWN internet services (including ISPs AND including things like VOD services such as Netflix), and absolutely NOT own news services! Period! No exceptions!

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