Pope Francis thanks journalists for uncovering the Church sexual abuse scandals

Image via Reuters

At a ceremony to honor two veteran correspondents, Pope Francis thanked journalists for helping uncover the sexual abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Francis said it was vital for reporters to get out of their newsrooms and discover what was happening in the outside world to counter misinformation often found online.

“(I) thank you for what you tell us about what is wrong in the Church, for helping us not to sweep it under the carpet, and for the voice you have given to the abuse victims.”

Pope Francis

The sexual abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church first hit headlines in 2002, when U.S. daily The Boston Globe wrote a series of articles exposing a pattern of abuse of minors by clerics and a widespread culture of concealment within the Church.

Since then, investigations revealed more and more examples of sexual abuse in the Church in different countries, most recently France where a major investigation found that clerics had abused more than 200000 children over the past 70 years.

Although the church has faced heavy criticism and record numbers of church departures, for example in Germany, critics still accused the Church of responding too slowly to the scandals. Therefore, Pope Francis’s public statement is an important signal for Christians.



Pandemic-led changes to newsrooms look to be permanent and global

Image via PressGazette

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released The Changing Newsroom 2021 report. The report is based on a survey of 132 senior industry leaders from 42 countries, as well as a series of in-depth interviews.

These are the key findings:

  • ‘Hybrid working’ will soon be the norm for the vast majority of journalists. Respondents say their companies are now mostly (79%) on board with the shift to hybrid working and even more (89%) say they themselves are committed
  • Most respondents say their news organization is doing a good job with gender diversity (78%), but fewer say the same about ethnic diversity (38%) and attracting those from less advantaged backgrounds (37%) or with diverse political views (33%). In the light of the Black Lives Matter movement and greater awareness of historic injustices, ethnic diversity remains the biggest priority for media companies – identified by 35% as the single most important priority in terms of improving newsroom diversity, followed by gender diversity (26%) and greater diversity from less advantaged groups (17%).
  • While participants believe that efficiency (70%) and Employee well being (61%) gains from hybrid working, they also think collaboration (45%), creativity (48%), and communication (42%) suffer from it.
  • Participants said they still struggle to attract and retain technology and data skills which are in great demand elsewhere. However, most respondents remain broadly confident (63%) about keeping newsroom staff. Around half of the respondents (47%) felt that the pandemic has made recruitment and retention of media staff harder, with less than a fifth (17%) saying that it was easier.

The pandemic has affected some rapid changes in working spaces in the last two years. It is interesting to see how people experience these adjustments and how they would like to continue working.

More than a third of female journalists feel unsafe doing their jobs

Image via PressGazette

A UK government survey about abuse and harassment reveals that one in three female journalists feel unsafe doing their jobs ins the UK. 80% of the 360 female and male participants said they had experienced threats, abuse, or violence in their jobs as journalists.

However, one in five journalists said they had chosen not to report threats or abuse because they saw it as part of their jobs, and 10% of the survey’s participants said they worried, a reveal could affect their career prospects.

The survey was published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which also put out an action plan on journalists’ safety this year.

The survey confirms that it needs more protection for journalists, to support individuals, but also to enable freedom of speech and freedom of the press. According to the survey, journalists nowadays have low confidence in the current arrangements of police and platforms to deal with incidents. Therefore, the responses confirmed the significant impact this has on their journalistic output.

Media Minister Julia Lopez stated: “The free press is a staunch protector of the public interest and an irreplaceable outlet for ideas and opinions which help to improve society. High-quality journalism should be accessible to as many people as possible, and journalists must feel safe to carry out their vital work in every corner of the country. […] It’s clear there is more to do so we will act on these findings and work with people from a range of disciplines and industries to address the issues raised.”

YouTube hides public dislike counts to prevent public shaming

Image via The Verge

YouTube has announced to gradually make the dislike counts private across YouTube. The company stated the change is to ensure respectful interactions between viewers and creators. Moreover, they said, “Creators will still be able to find their exact dislike counts in YouTube Studio, along with other existing metrics, if they would like to understand how their content is performing.” The dislike button also serves to tune viewers’ recommendations.

“We want to create an inclusive and respectful environment where creators have the opportunity to succeed and feel safe to express themselves.”

YouTube Official Blog

YouTube explained their decision with the results of experiments with the dislike button earlier this year. As part of these experiments, viewers could still dislike videos, but the count was not visible to them. Therefore, viewers were less likely to target a video’s dislike button to drive up the count.

Furthermore, the experiment showed that smaller channels are more often targeted by dislike attacking or harassment. Therefore, with YouTube’s decision to hide the dislike counts, they want to support smaller creators in particular.

It is questionable if dislike counts going private are really going to protect creators from harassment in social media. Moreover, some users criticize that not being able to see public dislikes could lead to more users watching videos that include misinformation or hidden ads.

Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ has taken the world by storm and makes other streaming platforms eager to explore international business

Image via CNBC

Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ took the world by storm since its release and is now considered Netflix’s biggest launch ever, by reaching more than 111 million viewers worldwide. With this incredible success, the South Korean series further opens the doors to non-U.S. productions, which might save a lot of money for giant streaming platforms in the future.

In the past, U.S. productions often used international locations to bypass American taxes and avoid their strict union regulations. Moreover, many countries that are looking for bumps in tourism and recognition “will give you free marketing through government channels or support at festivals. They may even give you free local co-producers.”  (Ajaj Mago, corporate and technology lawyer)

While earlier U.S. productions used international locations as stand-ins American sets, they are now starting to realize the potential of foreign language films and series, which have typically been viewed as niche content only.

“They’d come around to Canada or some place that offered tax incentives, and they’d drop in some American mailboxes and street signs, change the license plates on cars, and voila. What’s happening now is there is local content from these regions. Studios are no longer masquerading.”

Domenic Romano, entertainment attorney and managing partner of Romano Law

All nine episodes of ‘Squid Game’ only cost §21.4 million (in comparison just one episode of Disney’s ‘Wanda Vision’ cost $25 million), partially because of South Korea’s 52-hours workweek rule. With ‘Squid Game’s worldwide success, other video streaming giants are investing in local international productions too:This week, Disney announced its plans for 27 productions in the Asia Pacific region for their streaming platforms.

CNBC noted that these changes in movie and series production “may also be a boon for creators that have felt stuck in an industry that has relied on superhero movies and reboots of old TV shows for reliable revenue. Tapping the world for new stars and ideas allows for new avenues of growth that can mutually benefit artists and studio executives.”

It will be interesting to see, whether the streaming platforms’ content will really become more diverse and ‘creative’ in the next years.

Facebook announces plans for how to ‘nudge’ teens away from harmful content

Image via The Verge

Facebook is planning to introduce new features to protect teenagers’ mental health, including measures prompting teens to take a break from Instagram, as well as features to nudge young people away from harmful content. In CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday, Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg commented: “We’re going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that a teenager is looking at the same content over and over again, and it’s content which may not be conducive to their well being, we will nudge them to look at other content”. Moreover, he added Facebook is pausing its plans for an Instagram Kids platform, which was also strongly criticized.

“We cannot, with a wave of the wand, make everyone’s life perfect. What we can do is improve our products, so that our products are as safe and as enjoyable to use.”

Nick Clegg, Facebook vice president of global affairs

The announcement comes less than a week after whistleblower Frances Haugen accused the company of failing to improve Instagram after internal research confirmed that the social media app negatively affects the mental health of young people. Clegg explained that Facebook has invested $13 billion in the last years to keep the platform safe. However, he also noted: “We need greater transparency,” and that Facebook’s algorithms “should be held to account, if necessary, by regulation so that people can match what our systems say they’re supposed to do from what actually happens.”

It is very interesting to observe how Facebook is defending its strategy in this ongoing debate. The social media company is one of the most powerful forces in our times and therefore influences people’s daily life worldwide. Therefore, this debate is not only about Facebook’s repetition, but also determines how people, and in particular teenagers, are going to consume and use social media in the future.

The Digital News Report 2021 raises questions about the future of news organizations

Image via Reuters Institute

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published their 2021 Digital News Report. The report is based on a YouGov survey of over 92000 online news consumers in 46 countries and the whole report can be downloaded here.

A summary of the most important findings in the 2021 Digital News Report:

  • After recent periods of decline, the overall trust in the news has increased in the last year, with 44% of the total sample saying they trust most news most of the time. However, the U.S. has the lowest level of overall trust in the survey (26%) and Black and Hispanic audiences and younger women in the U.S. feel that news coverage is unfair to them.
  • Familiar and trusted new brands continue to attract more attention, especially in those countries with strong and independent public service media. However, particularly young people have weaker ties to traditional news media. There are less likely to visit a news website or app directly but are more likely to find news via social media.
  • The pandemic has also heightened awareness about misleading or false information. In the survey, 54% of news consumers say they have seen misinformation about COVID-19 in the previous week. Those who use social media are more likely to say they have been exposed to misinformation about the pandemic than non-users.
  • Although reliable and trustworthy news media is very important these days, the industry has been hard hit by the pandemic, leading to job cuts in news organizations worldwide. There has been a significant increase in payment for online news in a smaller number of richer Western countries, while the overall percentage of people paying for online news remains low.

This survey is very important, as it draws attention to some of the biggest problems in media and news organizations. It gives added urgency for a more diverse and inclusive newsroom, as well as showing how important it is to spread awareness for misinformation, in social media in particular. Furthermore, the survey raises the question about the future financing of news organizations.

TikTok has reached 1 billion active global users

Image via Variety

On Monday, TikTok revealed that it has crossed a major milestone, by reaching more than 1 billion monthly active users. TikTok, which is privately held by the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, is the successor to Musical.ly and was originally a platform for lip-syncing videos. During a rapid growth in the last few years, the app has expanded to other categories and is now considered one of the most used interactive platforms, especially among teens and young adults.

“Each month, over a billion people from around the world come to TikTok to be entertained, inspired or discover something new, like sports, music, arts and culture, fashion, DIY and more.”

TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas

In my opinion, this is a relevant article because TikTok is one of the most successful apps, and therefore has an impact on further developments in social media brands, as well as user behavior. Moreover, I find the statements Sofia Hernandez made an interview last week very interesting. Talking to Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit, the head of North American business marketing at TikTok explained: “TikTok runs on a content graph so we consider us as more of an entertainment platform. What we’re finding is our users are spending a movie’s worth of time-consuming content on TikTok daily. So, while people will go check social platforms they came to watch TikTok.” I was wondering why Hernandez wants TikTok to be considered as an entertainment platform, rather than a social platform. Maybe, this definition is more profitable or honorable for TikTok.

YouTube launches first podcast “The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy”

Image via YouTube

YouTube announced the launch of their very first podcast “The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy”. Partnering up with National Public Media, YouTube offers a look behind the scenes of the so-called “Creators Economy”, a term to describe the growing numbers of creators who monetize their on-platform effort.

“We wanted to showcase the magic of the creator economy in an entirely new way, by taking people behind the scenes to learn what goes into the businesses of the creators whose videos they watch every day.”

– YouTube

This podcast is another way for YouTube to support creators in becoming businesses, which therefore keeps them posting on YouTube regularly. The 5-part-series will be hosted by Britanny Luse, an award-winning journalist, and co-host of For Colored Nerds podcast. In an introduction video, Luse asks her potential future audience: “How much do you really know about how YouTube works? Like how do creators go from uploading a video to running an actual business? What does it take to go from recording in your living room to scaling, hiring a team, and turning your passion into a full-time career?” She will discuss all these questions with her guests, including popular YouTubers like Lilly Singh,  Caleb Marshall (The Fitness Marshall), Emmy Cho (emmymade), Leah Bolden (See Jane Drill), the Lau Family (Made with Lau), and rap artist DDG (DDG). 

New episodes of “The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy” will be released every Wednesday, starting on September 22nd. The podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Podcasts, and more.

Because of YouTube’s pioneering role and enormous influence on other digital media businesses, its’ first podcast is a piece of interesting news. As I want to work in a media company someday, it might be interesting to get some background information on how this giant media business works and how creators can be successful in it.

YouTube’s first podcast is also a reaction to the growing significance of music streaming. In the last year, YouTube reported that YouTube Music itself has more than 77 million subscribers and that music video streaming is at an all-time high. The success of this new audio-offer might influence whether YouTube will dive deeper into the podcast business.


HBO Max is coming to Europe!

Image Via Apple Insider

Warner Media confirmed on Wednesday that HBO Max will launch in Europe on October 26. The first six launch markets are going to be Andorra, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. 14 more European countries will receive the streaming service in 2022, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. More details on pricing and content offering will be announced in a virtual launch event in October.

The streaming service will include content from Warmer Bros. HBO, DC, Max Originals, and Cartoon Networks. HBO Max’s European arm is focusing on television shows and plans to broaden the scope of its content beyond programming typically offered in the U.S. Christina Sulebakk, general manager for HBO Max EMEA, explains that the brand is trying to create an unique identity in the highly competitive market, where Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are increasingly dominant rivals.

“Our brand with HBO Max is much broader than our legacy HBO brand. It’s much more energetic and diverse in terms of content and scope. There’s a lot of love in the brand, and energy and inclusion and playfulness.”

Christina Sulebakk, general manager for HBO Max EMEA

While HBO Max announced plans to continue launching in European countries outside of the 20 countries listed above, streaming fans in Germany and the U.K. have to wait a little longer. Because of existing deals with other companies in these countries, HBO Max wouldn’t be lucrative at this time. Sulebakk stated: “We are evaluating market by market in terms of commercial strength in programming, [and whether] it’s the right portfolio that we can bring to market — not only the HBO slate but WarnerMedia in general.”

For me, as a European, that is very interesting because so far HBO Max hasn’t played a role in streaming in Europe. I am curious how this will change streaming habits and if HBO Max will be able to compete with Netflix and Amazon as they are already well established. I think in the first months it is most important for HBO Max to have a unique and outstanding advertisement strategy to draw attention to their streaming service.