Did The NY Times Give Up Its Journalism Standards The Second Facebook Threw A Few Million Its Way?

from the seems-like-a-problem dept

Last month, we discussed how Facebook was apparently forking over truckloads of cash to various media companies to get them to use Facebook Live, the company’s new livestreaming video platform. This arrangement struck us as odd — and potentially an FTC violation, in that these media companies are basically promoting and endorsing Facebook’s product, after getting paid millions of dollars, without ever disclosing the payments and the relationship. That seems… questionable. Apparently the two largest recipients of the cash were Buzzfeed and the NY Times, who each got over $3 million to stream these videos. Buzzfeed, for its part, has embraced the ridiculousness of this situation with Buzzfeedian gusto, putting on stunts like livestreaming exploding a watermelon with rubberbands. But that’s kind of what you’d expect from Buzzfeed.

The NY Times, on the other hand, is a bit of a different beast. The newspaper likes to pride itself on being serious, careful, thoughtful journalism. And while that’s often a lot more what the people there tell themselves than reality, it does raise some questions about what the NY Times is doing with that $3+ million and how journalistic it is. Apparently, I’m not the only one to wonder about this, as the NY Times recently appointed public editor, Liz Spayd, is concerned about what the NY Times is doing here as well.

here?s the problem. After watching countless hours of live video in the past few weeks, I have hit upon many that are either plagued by technical malfunctions, feel contrived, drone on too long, ignore audience questions or are simply boring, by I imagine most anyone?s standards.

Too many don?t live up to the journalistic quality one typically associates with The New York Times. Take one produced at the Republican convention, where we?re on the floor chatting up delegates. The idea is right, but the sound cuts in and out for three long minutes and becomes so grating that one Facebook viewer messaged: ?WOW. THE AUDIO IS HORRIBLE!? Another added: ?Unwatchable,? and one humorously said, ?RIP headphone users…? Another video on raging fires in Canada shows the narrator staring off-screen while the sound keeps breaking up. Not a single flame ever appears. One viewer, April Simpson, sent in this comment: ?It would be a much more effective interview if you could roll in some of the amazing video of the fire. Seriously, nyt contact me ? I could help you with all of this.?

And in a category all its own, there is a video of an editor with two reporters who are pitching their stories in hopes of getting good play on the home page. It?s an odd meeting ? of a type I?ve never seen nor heard of in my 30 years in newsrooms. And it turns out it was more of a simulation to show the kinds of conversations that take place in a newsroom. In other words, it was posed.

Now, to be clear, I think there’s value in experimentation — and if you don’t fail with your experiments, you’re probably not experimenting enough. But when Facebook is throwing millions at publications like the NY Times, some of these don’t feel so much like “experimenting with this neat new technology” but more like “oh, fuck, we need to make more videos because we promised Facebook in exchange for all this cash.” Indeed, Spayd suggests the quantity over quality approach is a part of the problem here:

On the one hand, it has before it a compelling new form of journalism, a young and eager audience, and the crown prince of social media opening up its checkbook. On the other hand, if you?re producing about 120 videos a month, implementing good quality control can take a back seat.

And, when the paper’s editor defends all these videos under the “this is how we experiment” banner, Spayd responds, rightly, that there are ways to experiment that still live up to the kind of quality standards the NY Times likes to think it has:

But this particular experiment veers significantly from The Times?s past approach to new journalism forms. The newsroom has shown that innovation doesn?t have to equate with poor quality. Whether it was with interactive graphics, virtual reality or podcasts, The Times is a model for innovating at a thoughtful, measured pace, but with quality worthy of its name.

This time, that?s not the case. It?s as if we passed over beta and went straight to bulk.

Does anyone believe that this would play out this way if Facebook hadn’t added 3 million reasons for the NY Times to go for bulk? I think that’s the bigger story here. Spayd mentions the cash in passing, but doesn’t spend much time on it. It still seems like the real issue. I get that the NY Times is a business and that it needs to make money, but usually there’s a separation. Here, when a private company is paying for a specific type of coverage that is promoting their own technology — and the NY Times isn’t disclosing it, while pumping out lots of low quality content, it should raise a lot of questions about why that’s okay.

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Companies: facebook, ny times

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Comments on “Did The NY Times Give Up Its Journalism Standards The Second Facebook Threw A Few Million Its Way?”

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kallethen says:

I still think you aren’t right about this being a potential FTC violation. What Facebook did doesn’t look much different than purchasing exclusive broadcast rights to a TV show. TV companies do it all the time. Heck, even Netflix and YouTube have purchased exclusive content.

The FTC rules you point out in the prior article are intended for people doing actual reviews of products. That requires a disclosure (and I absolutely agree with that). But that’s different than this Facebook Live situation.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In my opinion, there is a distinct difference. When you see a Netflix show, you know Netflix paid for it. Youtube Red? You know they paid for it. (have they paid for exclusive content that didn’t go under the Youtube Red banner?

With Facebook Live, the choice of streaming venue is assumed to be natural. If someone streams live over youtube Gaming or twitch, you dont assume they are getting paid to use that specific platform. Same with Facebook Live. I never knew that the reason I was suddenly turning off all these Live notifications was potentially because they were getting paid for it. Each one that used it drew attention to that platform. And if they did not naturally choose that specific platform, then my decisions as to which streaming platform I might consider using are influenced. It advertises the platform, because in streaming you don’t assume the content is paid for by the platform.

Anonymous Coward says:

a familiar kind of story

Journalistic enterprises having a conflict of interest and not disclosing it to the readers — wasn’t that what Gamergate was all about?

It was the NY Times front-page bogus “investigative reporting” stories by Judith Miller purporting to expose Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons stockpiles and the country’s (fictitious) alliance with Osoma Bin Ladin that the Bush administration often pointed to as providing ample evidence of the need to invade Iraq.

The $3 million the NY Times got under the table pales in comparison to the $3 trillion the NY Times cost the country for spearheading the disastrous Iraq military invasion.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: a familiar kind of story

It was the NY Times front-page bogus “investigative reporting” stories by Judith Miller purporting to expose Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons stockpiles and the country’s (fictitious) alliance with Osoma Bin Ladin that the Bush administration often pointed to as providing ample evidence of the need to invade Iraq.

Step 1. anonymously leak bullshit to NYT
Step 2. wait for them to print unverified claims
Step 3. cite NYT as evidence for aformentioned bullshit
Step 4. go to war for no good reason
Step 5. ???
Step 6. Profit!

Personanongrata says:

Gray Lady Down

Did The NY Times Give Up Its Journalism Standards The Second Facebook Threw A Few Million Its Way?

Whatever journalistic standards the New York Times once may or may not have had were completely jettisoned when it decided to carry water for the George W Bush Administration and print the lies that helped push the US to launch a wholly elective and criminal war against the nation of Iraq in March 2003.

Paragraph below was excerpted from The NY Review of Books article published on 26Feb2004 titled Now They Tell Us authored by Michael Massing:

The performance of the Times was especially deficient. While occasionally running articles that questioned administration claims, it more often deferred to them. (The Times’s editorial page was consistently much more skeptical.) Compared to other major papers, the Times placed more credence in defectors, expressed less confidence in inspectors, and paid less attention to dissenters. The September 8 story on the aluminum tubes was especially significant. Not only did it put the Times’s imprimatur on one of the administration’s chief claims, but it also established a position at the paper that apparently discouraged further investigation into this and related topics.


The New York Times is however excellent for collecting bird droppings at the bottom of a bird cage.

Groaker (profile) says:

Journalistic standards?

I am not sure what journalistic standards you are referring to here. The NSA/Bush spying story, kept quiet for a year over the 2004 election season, which would have undoubtedly changed the outcome of the election?

The support of an illegal and criminal war which killed well over a hundred thousand, displaced millions, destabilized the middle east, causing more wars and deaths.

And too much more to include here?

John Mayor says:


I’ve lost track of the number of websites I’ve gone into wherein the Facebook plug_in was being used, and there was either one lone Comment posted, or there was none whatsoever! It got to the point, that if I saw the Facebook plug_in face icon, I would leave the site (you know!… the Mohawk wearing clubber from the 80s!… or!… some guy that doesn’t know how to comb his hair!)!
But!… of recent… I’ve been making a special effort to communicate my disinterest in this plug_in, to as many website “Contact Us windows” as I can!… and!… my rationale, as to why websites should consider switching to an alternative Blog Hosting Service!
I don’t like, or use, Facebook!… and none of the people I hang with use Facebook! In fact, no acquaintance that I’ve met, uses Facebook! And for me, that’s either an indication that I’m hanging with the wrong crowds, or Facebook is not all that its hype suggests!
Apart from its poor record on Digital Human Rights, it’s another case in point of a Hosting Service that obliges hurdles, in order to participate in said “Public Discussions”, re “Publicly posted” stories! And!… for what reason?
In light of the abundant news stories concerning Facebook’s poor record on Digital Human Rights, why would I– SHOULD I!– hang with an “element of bloggers” who have: a) foresaken their FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION b) foresaken Facebook’s accountability re Digital Human Rights c) potentially compromised anonymity as a consequence, and d) individually, and collectively, entertained a spirit of utter indifference to the very means these have chosen, to communicate their respective messages? In other words… and to paraphrase Aldous Huxley!… THE MEANS THESE HAVE CHOSEN, HAVE DETERMINED THE VERY NATURE OF THE “ENDS” THESE HAVE PURSUED!… I.E., THEIR RESPECTIVE “MESSAGES”! And!… to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan!… THE MEDIUM (THE “MEANS”!) HAS BECOME THE MESSAGE (THE “ENDS!)! Thanks!… but!… NO THANKS! Whether it’s blogger stupidity, or callous bloggers!… either way!… their “MEANS OF COMMUNICATION” is a direct and indirect TAINTED COMMENT on the ENDS of their respective communications! And thus, MY participation in the site, would TAINT M-Y ENDS/ message!… and, regardless of the story, or stories to be discussed!
And despite the rare occasions wherein Facebook hosted sites may entertain dozens of bloggers, MY association– at least!– is not based on supporting ARTIFICIALLY CREATED MASS HYSTERIA!… AND LIGNUPS!… AT THE LATEST “CYBER CLUB OF THE WEEK”!
Signing in, on, or up, logging in, on, or up, becoming a member, registering, getting an account, securing a password, providing an email address, paying (yes, paying!), and otherwise obtaining a “cyber mark of the beast” in order to PUBLICLY COMMENT on stories in said PUBLIC SITES, is not only SOOOOO PASSE, such website practices breach the spirit of the words, in, http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:klS2KB9e_98J:www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session29/Documents/A.HRC.29.32_AEV.doc+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us… AND!… BREACH THE COMMON SENSE THAT (CONSCIONABLE) SOULS BRING TO PUBLIC DISCUSSIONS!
It’s time for a different approach to Comment Logging/ Clogging!
Please!… no emails!

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