Tribute to soap star Friday

Arts briefs

Staff & Wire Reports

FILE- In this June 20, 2008, file photo Kristoff St. John accepts the award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his work on "The Young and the Restless" at the 35th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. John has died at age 52. Los Angeles police were called to John's home on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, and his body was turned over to the Los Angeles County coroner. The cause of death was not available. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

FILE- In this June 20, 2008, file photo Kristoff St. John accepts the award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his work on "The Young and the Restless" at the 35th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. John has died at age 52. Los Angeles police were called to John's home on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, and his body was turned over to the Los Angeles County coroner. The cause of death was not available. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

Kristoff St. John’s last soap episode airs Wednesday

Thursday, February 7

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The last “Young and the Restless” episode featuring Kristoff St. John will air Wednesday on CBS.

The actor, who played the struggling alcoholic and ladies’ man Neil Winters for 27 years, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 52. The cause of death is under investigation by the medical examiner.

St. John had played Neil Winters on the soap opera since 1991, earning nine daytime Emmy nominations. He won a Daytime Emmy in 1992 for outstanding younger actor in a drama series.

His business guy character wended his way through romances, deaths of loved ones and other daytime travails that descended into alcoholism before going into rehab.

“The Young and the Restless” will broadcast a special tribute to St. John during Friday’s show.

Reporter alleges Jill Abramson lifted material for her book


AP National Writer

Thursday, February 7

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson is facing allegations that she lifted material from other sources for her new book, “Merchants of Truth.” Abramson and her publisher are promising to investigate.

A Twitter thread posted Wednesday by Vice correspondent Michael Moynihan lists several examples of passages in “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts” that closely resemble material in The New Yorker, Time Out and other publications. Released this week and praised by Walter Isaacson and Gay Talese among others, “Merchants of Truth” is a critique of the news business focused on two long-running newspapers, the Times and the Washington Post, along with Vice and fellow digital company BuzzFeed.

“I take seriously the issues raised and will review the passages in question,” Abramson tweeted Wednesday night. “I endeavored to accurately and properly give attribution to the hundreds of sources that were part of my research.” She has previously been criticized for alleged factual errors, with reporters at Vice and PBS among those faulting her. On Wednesday, she responded that some criticisms arose from Vice’s unhappiness with “Merchants of Truth” and its portrait of hypocrisy and sexism. Abramson tweeted that her book offered “a balanced portrayal.”

In a separate statement, Simon & Schuster wrote that Abramson’s book had given “an extraordinary degree of transparency toward its subjects; each of the four news organizations covered in the book was given ample time and opportunity to comment on the content, and where appropriate the author made changes and corrections. If upon further examination changes or attributions are deemed necessary we stand ready to work with the author in making those revisions.”

Appearing Wednesday night on Fox News, Abramson disputed the allegations, saying: “All I can tell you is I certainly didn’t plagiarize in my book and there’s 70 pages of footnotes showing where I got the information.” Writers are generally expected to credit their sources directly in the body of the text if the material is similar.

For her book, Abramson was assisted by John Stillman, whom she credits with helping her with research, reporting and writing. Stillman, a freelance journalist who has written for Gothamist and The Awl among others, declined comment when reached by telephone Wednesday night.

Abramson wrote for the Times and the Wall Street Journal among others before becoming the Times’ first female executive editor in 2011, one of journalism’s most prestigious and influential positions. She was fired three years later after frequently clashing with fellow staff members, and currently teaches creative writing at Harvard University.

Her previous works include “Strange Justice,” a book about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that was co-written by Jane Mayer.

The Conversation

Journalism needs an audience to survive, but isn’t sure how to earn its loyalty

February 7, 2019

Author: Jacob L. Nelson, Assistant Professor of digital audience engagement, Arizona State University

Disclosure statement: Jacob Nelson receives funding from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Partners: Arizona State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Journalism is in the midst of an existential crisis: the profession has undergone decades of declines in readership, revenue and public trust, with no obvious end in sight.

Many in the industry believe that the best way for newsrooms to recover both revenue and public trust is to improve their relationship with their audiences.

News organizations once boasted huge profit margins, which left many feeling confident that they knew exactly what they needed to do in order to reach the public. As a result, journalists rarely sought feedback from their readers.

However, the advent of the internet brought huge drops in journalism revenue. Between 2000 and 2015, newspaper ad revenue in the U.S. fell, as an Atlantic article describes, “from about $60 billion to about $20 billion, wiping out the gains of the previous 50 years.”

As the news industry struggles to recapture this increasingly distant financial foothold, many within it are certain that the first step forward is to no longer take their audiences for granted. Instead, they have to be more deliberate about earning the audience’s loyalty.

Yet this newfound consensus within the industry has resulted in a lot of uncertainty: How, exactly, should journalists do this?

One goal, different methods

Newsroom strategies for better understanding and connecting with their readers, viewers and listeners differ from one organization to the next. These differences matter because journalism’s future, and the audience’s role in it, will depend in no small part on which of these strategies succeed.

Some rely on digital metrics to determine what their readers like and dislike, and use that information to give them more of the former and less of the latter. The news company BuzzFeed, for example, is legendary for its use of data to predict which of its stories will “go viral.”

Others rely on more qualitative information. City Bureau, a Chicago-based, nonprofit news organization, hosts weekly “public newsrooms” intended to “gather journalists and the public to discuss local issues and share resources and knowledge to foster better local reporting.”

What accounts for journalism’s varying approaches to the news audience?

I research the relationship between journalism and the public. In two recently published studies, my collaborators and I concluded that how journalists perceive their audiences powerfully affects what they do to reach them.

Making meaning from audience metrics

The first study, published in the academic journal Journalism Studies, drew on interview and observational data collected from a large daily newspaper.

My co-author Edson C. Tandoc Jr. and I examined how journalists use audience measurement data to understand who their work reaches.

We found that, when presented with a variety of sophisticated tools available for analyzing reader behavior, the newsroom’s staff tended to favor audience size measures above all others. They wanted to know which story got the most readers.

The journalists we spoke to explained their focus on audience size metrics in two ways.

The first was economic: Media companies depend on advertising and subscription revenue. The larger the audience, the more advertisers will pay to reach it and the more financially secure the organization.

The second related to the watchdog mission of the newspaper: The journalists argued that their stories can’t make an impact on their community if no one reads them.

The reliance on these metrics made clear an important assumption these journalists held about the nature of their audience. When they used metrics to observe that readers tended to click on “soft” news stories (e.g., lifestyle, sports, dining) and not “hard” news stories (e.g., city hall), many of the journalists we interviewed concluded that a majority of the public is simply not interested in what they deemed “important” public affairs news.

As one of the paper’s senior editors explained:

The mission journalism — the watchdog journalism, the covering city events, making sure that people aren’t getting screwed over, etc. … There’s not enough people reading those stories … to keep us where we are now. … The money does not exist there.

In short, the increasing emphasis on understanding and measuring the news audience revealed that many within this newsroom perceive reaching a large audience and publishing public service journalism as separate pursuits.

While we can’t generalize from our study of this one organization, a number of other academic studies have similarly observed that journalists associate what people click on with what they like. Since people tend to click more soft news than hard, this association has led some journalism scholars to worry: “The market requires giving the public what it wants; democracy requires giving the public what it needs.”

From measurement to engagement

Not everyone in journalism shares this assumption. A growing group of news industry innovators believes a majority of the public is genuinely interested in reading about civic issues, despite what some of the data appear to say.

This other group believes it’s not a lack of interest that keeps citizens away from those stories, but a disdain for how those stories are being reported.

They argue the public feels alienated by, and distrustful of, journalism that rarely solicits their perspectives and, consequently, fails to accurately reflect their lives. To fix this, journalists need to more actively “engage” with the public. As the journalism researchers Thomas R. Schmidt and Regina Lawrence write, “Many increasingly see engaging with audiences and communities as a key strategy to maintain relevance and achieve sustainability.”

The motivations and pursuit of engaged journalism came up in another study recently published in the academic journal Journalism Practice, which I co-authored with Valerie Belair-Gagnon and Seth C. Lewis.

We examined how journalists at two different public media news organizations attempt to engage with their audiences. This research also relied on interview and observational data.

We found that these journalists felt strongly about creating opportunities for more meaningful engagement with the public than has traditionally been the case, especially with communities the journalists felt had been “left out.”

These opportunities included online initiatives like soliciting questions from listeners about topics they are interested in, as well as offline events like “listening sessions” designed to build trust and strengthen ties with minority residents whom these journalists cover in their reporting – but do not necessarily reach with their reporting.

For example, when the 2010 census revealed that Wisconsin led the nation in black male incarceration, this newsroom hosted a listening session with black men who had been released from prison.

The journalists we interviewed explained that the session was led by a university professor who had experience guiding a listening session and creating a safe place for people to share their stories.

“We didn’t record it or anything. We used it more as a way to try to understand the issues that we’re overlooking,” one of the editors who organized the session said. “Out of that grew this sense that we weren’t really giving these men a place … to tell their own stories” in the newsroom’s reporting.

By pursuing these initiatives, these journalists sought to ensure their stories did not solely originate from what they believed to be the most important issues facing their readers.

Instead, they wanted to create opportunities to hear from their readers – specifically those who they infrequently hear from – about what they believed needed to be covered.

Same goal, different assumptions

These two studies show that journalism’s growing focus on the news audience has not been accompanied by a growing consensus about who these audiences comprise and what they want from news.

Even when journalists agree that the audience consumes less public affairs news than it does other kinds, they draw different conclusions about why this is the case. Some blame the audience, others blame the journalists.

One thing that these studies make clear: As the news industry struggles to survive, many within it increasingly believe their best path forward lies with an improved relationship with the public.

However, the steps journalists take to do the work of improving that relationship remains an open question.


Joe Dirk: It is my feeling that newscasts used to be much more PSA than they are today. Today they feel more like entertainment than information. Do you have any thoughts about that?

It is my above mentioned feeling that explains why people may not trust the news as much as they used to. The internet has brought an increase in the amount of news sources available. Unfortunately, most of those sources are all about sensationalism, or worse, copy and pasting of tweets. People feel mislead when they discover that the headline had very little to do with the article, or that 5 tweets about a subject makes it ‘news’.

Another reason is that the ‘news’ tends to be more opinion than analysis. People get plenty of opinion from their friends, they don’t need it from a stranger wearing a tie with perfect teeth. News should disseminate facts and leave the forming of opinion to the audience. A hard goal to obtain when the financial survival of a news source depends on the revenue derived from catchy headlines and bombastic reporting.

Democrats court rural Southern voters with Stacey Abrams’ State of the Union response

February 6, 2019

Author: Sharon Austin, Professor of Political Science and Director of the African American Studies Program, University of Florida

Disclosure statement: Sharon Austin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Stacey Abrams is the first African-American woman to deliver a State of the Union response in the 53-year history of this tradition.

In a brief, direct and optimistic speech about fighting immigrant scapegoating, racism and voter suppression, Stacey Abrams celebrated diversity in her Democratic rebuttal to Donald Trump’s divisive 2019 State of the Union address.

“We will create a stronger America together,” she said.

Abrams is the first African-American woman to deliver a State of the Union response in the 53-year history of this tradition. She is the first black woman to be nominated by a major party to run for governor. Before that, she was the first African-American ever to serve as House minority leader in the Georgia General Assembly.

Her State of the Union response has increased speculation that she is a rising political star with a bright future in the Democratic Party.

By choosing Abrams to give the State of the Union response, Democrats were clearly reaching out to African-Americans and women, a key base for the party.

But Abrams’ speech also spoke to an often-overlooked constituency the Democratic Party may not have even thought about when they picked her. It’s a constituency Abrams has already cultivated: rural Southerners of color.

Abrams campaigned in both urban and rural counties last year, defying the logic of a Democratic Party that tends to court big city voters while leaving rural Americans to be won over by Republicans like Donald Trump.

Forgotten Southerners

I have been studying minority politics in the South for over 20 years.

The rural South is home to about 90 percent of America’s entire black rural population, and politics in this region have long been defined by black and white polarization. The South was a Democratic stronghold until the civil rights movement, and Democrats know they can’t win national office without winning here.

But the South – both urban and rural – is changing. In recent decades, a large number of Asian and Hispanic immigrants have settled in Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and other southern states, bringing greater demographic and political diversity to this formerly black-and-white region.

Chinese immigrants first came to rural southern areas like the Mississippi Delta after the Civil War, so Asian-Americans have deep roots in the South. But between 2000 and 2010, the population of Asian-Americans in the South grew 69 percent, to over 3.8 million, largely due to the region’s many job opportunities and affordable housing.

The South’s Hispanic population has grown by 70 percent in recent years, surpassing 2.3 million people in 2010, when the last U.S. Census was taken. Many of these individuals have settled in rural communities, filling agricultural and other jobs and sending their children to public school.

Racial and ethnic minorities now make up over 20 percent of the entire rural population in 10 southern states, from Florida to Virginia.

U.S. President Donald Trump enters House chamber to deliver the State of the Union address before Congress, 2019. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Democrats’ rural base

Democrats can and should court these communities if they want to win in the South. Stacy Abrams knows that. She even opened her speech wishing viewers a “happy Lunar New Year,” a nod to Chinese-Americans.

The overwhelming majority of black rural Southern residents are Democrats. Asian-American and Latino voters across the nation lean Democratic.

Abrams won big in rural northern Georgia, in places like Calhoun County, which in addition to being heavily African-American has one of the highest Latino populations in the state outside Atlanta.

Abrams benefited not just from rural votes but also from their turnout.

In predominantly black and rural Washington County, Georgia, where Abrams received 69 percent of the primary vote, the turnout rate nearly doubled from 2014. From the first days of her campaign, Abrams targeted rural voters, bringing them into the electoral process.

She did the same thing for the Democratic Party in the general election.

Voter suppression

Abrams’ State of the Union response also focused on an issue that has marred Southern elections for over a century: minority voter exclusion.

“Let’s be clear,” she said. “Voter suppression is real. From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places, to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy.”

Abrams’ focus on voter suppression as a candidate was appealing to people of color, some of whom learned late in the 2018 campaign season that many of their ranks had been purged from voting rolls.

Some 107,000 people were removed from Georgia’s voter registration list because they hadn’t voted in previous elections. Another 50,000 applications to vote submitted by black, Asian and Latino Georgians were invalidated because of Georgia’s “exact match” law, which requires that the name on voter registration applications match exactly the information already on file with the government.

Voting rights groups said the law amounted to voter suppression, and blamed Abrams’ narrow loss on fraud by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, her opponent. Kemp denied the accusations and said his office was working to ensure “election integrity.”

Georgia’s exact match law disproportionately affects immigrants who had recently become citizens as well as Asian-Americans, who in 2016 were six times more likely to have their applications rejected because the names they registered to vote with differed minutely from their names on other identification forms.

Because of her political accomplishments, charisma – and, now, her national name recognition – Abrams’ importance for the Democratic Party goes beyond her obvious appeal to African-Americans and women.

If Democrats want to win big in 2020, they’ll need Stacey Abrams.

FILE- In this June 20, 2008, file photo Kristoff St. John accepts the award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his work on "The Young and the Restless" at the 35th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. John has died at age 52. Los Angeles police were called to John’s home on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, and his body was turned over to the Los Angeles County coroner. The cause of death was not available. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File) In this June 20, 2008, file photo Kristoff St. John accepts the award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his work on "The Young and the Restless" at the 35th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. John has died at age 52. Los Angeles police were called to John’s home on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, and his body was turned over to the Los Angeles County coroner. The cause of death was not available. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
Arts briefs

Staff & Wire Reports