The Front Page: Day and Knight

Issue 19

It’s Friday, February 26th.

This time on The Front Page: How the Knight Foundation spends its money, Reply All has its own fallout, and leadership shake-ups all around.

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The 2021 Knight Media Forum is next week and, like years before, attendees will have the chance to hear from individuals who are connected to white nationalist-aligned organizations and equate “cancel culture” with the civil rights movement, writes Simon Galperin.

The Knight Foundation’s links to right-wing extremism don’t stop at panelist selections, though. Galperin directs attention to thousands of dollars the organization gives to the American Enterprise Institute, the American Council on Education, and the Heritage Foundation — often in the form of grants omitted on the foundation’s awards directory.

Perhaps most concerning, however, is how criticism of the foundation can injure those looking to succeed within the journalism industry. With connections to newsrooms, higher education, and fellowships, Knight Foundation avoids scrutiny through its powerful connections.

Journalists and civic leaders I spoke with agree it’s difficult to criticize the Knight Foundation. No one — grantee or otherwise — wanted to go on the record, citing Knight’s influence over their livelihoods. For years, its philanthropy has been one of the cornerstones of U.S. journalism. … But while we agree it’s difficult to criticize the Knight Foundation, we also agree that is unaccountable and its behavior — from its speaker lineups to its grant-making to its board of trustees and endowment — is actively undermining its mission and grantees.

You can read the rest of Galperin’s reporting here

Reply All has its own internal problems

On Thursday, Alex Goldman, one of the hosts of Reply All, recorded an update on the Test Kitchen miniseries: No new episodes will be released. 

Though the series was first lauded for its deep dive into structural racism at Bon Appétit, Eric Eddings, former co-host of Gimlet podcast The Nod, wrote a viral Twitter thread calling out the hypocrisy of the Reply All team. In it, he said that Reply All host PJ Vogt refused to discuss diversity at Gimlet and that Test Kitchen host Sruthi Pinnamaneni personally organized an anti-union meeting.

Shortly thereafter, others shared their own professional and personal experiences associated with Pinnamaneni and Vogt that upheld Eddings’ account.

Both Pinnamaneni and Vogt are leaving Reply All, according to Goldman. In separate notes app apologies, Vogt said he “should have reflected on what it meant to not be on the same side of a movement largely led by young producers of color,” and Pinnamaneni expressed regret for “ill-informed, ignorant, and harmful” conduct.  

The existing Test Kitchen episodes remain on the website and feed, with a disclaimer: 

“Ultimately, we don’t want to bury our failure,” Goldman said. “We plan to find a way to get to the bottom of what went wrong here, with the series and with our show. And once we fully understand it ourselves, we also want to tell you, as best we can, what happened.”

Gimlet Union is still bargaining for salary increases, diversity and inclusion standards, and promotion pathways: learn more

Changing of the guard

As winter becomes spring, media mastheads are undergoing their own changing seasons.

Swati Sharma, a former managing editor of The Atlantic, is taking over as Vox’s editor-in-chief. With the retirement of Washington Post editor-in-chief Marty Baron, the Post’s managing editor Cameron Barr is stepping in as acting executive editor while the search for a permanent replacement continues. ProPublica president Richard Tofel is retiring once a successor is found. At the New York Times, deputy national editor Jia Lynn Yang has been promoted to national editor

The leadership shake-ups create possibilities for greater top-down commitment to addressing and tackling inequity in each respective newsroom.

Baron’s legacy in leading the Post is muddled. His leadership helped steady the paper when he took over in 2013 and pushed the newsroom to embrace the internet as a reporting tool. But according to recommendations from staffers at the newsroom’s national desk this past year, Baron’s inconsistent policy on social media left many reporters — especially reporters who are part of marginalized groups — feeling unsupported.

The Times has similar work to do when it comes to rebuilding a healthy work culture: This week, they released a report spearheaded by senior leaders Amber Guild, Carolyn Ryan, and Anand Venkatesan with four action items for the newsroom: transforming the newsroom culture, increasing the number of Black and Latino journalists in leadership roles by 50 percent by 2025, strengthening Human Resources practices to improve hiring and engagement processes, and diversifying editorial ranks. 


What’s happening

*$$$ denotes a paid event

  • 5 days until … the next Solutions Journalism Online Story Workshop. This recurring webinar is for individuals who have already participated in the Solutions Journalism 101 webinar. Applications are reviewed every two weeks.

  • 5 days until … NICAR 2021. You must be a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors to register, but fellowships are available for a select number of journalists, students, and educators. ($$$)

  • 14 days until … the Parenting Journalists Conference. Workshop topics include podcasting, productivity tips, and ways to protect children’s privacy in written work. Early-bird pricing ends March 5. ($$$)

  • 20 days until … LinkedIn’s journalist webinar. Applications are due March 2. Workshop participants will learn how to connect with potential sources, track post performance, and utilize other website resources for reporting.

  • 20 days until … the National College Media Convention. Early-bird rates are available for select college students and advisers until March 5. Submissions to the Associated Collegiate Press’ Best of Show awards are due March 8. ($$$)


A bit more media

#MyBlackLA

Cerise Castle says that #MyBlackLA, the newest community-based reporting project from KCRW, LA’s NPR station, is a replica of her idea which the studio shot down last year. KCRW denies Castle’s claims, but says they “can and will do better.” Castle, who resigned in summer 2020, responded by publishing her resignation letter, in which she talked about the“microaggressions, gaslighting, and blatant racism” she experienced during her time at the station. Her account was backed up by Jerome Campbell, another former Black KCRW staffer: “Palatability was how I survived. Cerise chose to speak out. And she should not be silenced for that..” 

National Press Foundation selects no Black fellows

Earlier this month, the National Press Foundation announced their 2021 Statehouse fellows. Many journalists, including NABJ president Dorothy Tucker, noted that out of 25 journalists in the promotional graphic, none are Black. In response to Tucker, the organization admitted it “need[s] to try harder,” and the announcement now lists 29 fellows.

Audit confirms Philadelphia Inquirer has “serious problems”

A report conducted by Temple University researchers shows the Philadelphia Inquirer is disproportionately white and male — in both coverage and in composition. Auditors also interviewed nearly four dozen employees, several of whom discussed racism in the workplace. The Inquirer, which first commissioned the report,has not publicly committed to making changes suggested by researchers, which include hiring and retaining journalists of color and improving community engagement.

Hugo Balta says he was “unfairly terminated” from WTTW

In an interview with Current, Hugo Balta disclosed he is considering legal action after being fired from WTTW, a Chicago PBS affiliate. The station said Balta was terminated because “he repeatedly violated the WTTW News Standards” in his time as news director, during which he posted an Instagram video of him doing shirtless pushups with his son and made political statements on social media. Balta is the owner of Latino News Network and a two-time president of NAHJ.

FairWarning is shutting down

The shutdown follows allegations that Levin dismissed freelancer Matt Krupnick’s suggestions to improve diversity while interviewing him for a position. In his farewell statement, FairWarning founder Myron Levin said the publication produced “many stories about bad practices that disproportionately harm powerless people, including people of color and low-paid workers.” 

How to become an expert on Iran in 20 easy steps

Ladane Nasseri writes: “As an Iran commentator, write confidently and on behalf of all Iranians, even if you have never been to Iran nor speak Persian. You are a bona fide Iran expert if you are white, male, and have an assistant who can tweet in Persian on your behalf.” Read the rest of her satirical piece in McSweeney’s

Mike Pesca suspended from The Gist

Defector reports that Slate’s Mike Pesca has been placed on indefinite suspension without pay. Pesca, who hosts The Gist podcast, reportedly argued in Slack that white people should be circumstantially permitted to use the n-word. Multiple sources say this is not the first time Pesca has argued the point, and that he has used the slur before.

A room of their own (again): Al Jazeera launching Rightly

Republicans who feel “left out” of mainstream conservative media will soon have a new platform when Al Jazeera launches Rightly. A former Fox News columnist, Scott Norvell, will reportedly be editor-in-chief of the platform, and Stephen Kent, who “abandoned” the Republican party in 2018, is expected to host a podcast.


And finally, a few resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | JournalismJobs.com | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | StudyHall XYZ | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook

If you’re a new reader, you can subscribe here. As always, if you like what you’re reading, forward this to a friend (or your boss). This issue is by Holly Piepenburg and Janelle Salanga with editing by Curtis Yee and Gabe Schneider.

Thanks for reading. We’ll have more for you soon.