January 27, 2021

Sharon Begley, a Top Science Journalist, Is Dead at 64

“I think of Sharon as a quintessential Enlightenment-era figure,” Jon Meacham, a former Newsweek editor in chief, said in an email. “She wrote brilliantly about everything under the sun, and beyond it, from the origins of human life to climate change, from the mysteries of the brain to the death of Diana.”

In her 1997 cover story on Princess Diana, she took readers along on the heart-pounding car chase by the paparazzi through the streets of Paris to the stillness of the night at Balmoral Castle, where Prince Charles woke his sons to tell them that their mother — “the mother,” Ms. Begley wrote, “who took them to chow down at hamburger joints and to visit homeless shelters when almost everyone else in their lives thought mainly of palaces and polo” — was dead.

The science beat allowed Ms. Begley to explore anything that grabbed her fancy and, in her modest way, to display her wit. In a short article about whether women were more verbose than men, she concluded, “I could go on, but I wouldn’t want to validate any remaining stereotypes.”

In one of her many stories on climate change, she wrote that magazines were more likely to use a picture of a cuddly polar bear than one of endangered insects, even though the insects’ disappearance would “rip a bigger hole in the web of life.” Newsweek ran that story with a polar bear on the cover.

When Richard L. Berke, co-founder and executive editor of Stat, was assembling a staff in 2015 for what was then a start-up, he asked for the names of the best science writers in the country. Ms. Begley, then at Reuters, was on virtually every list.

Once she came on board, “she brought instant credibility to our fledgling news operation,” inspiring other journalists to sign on, said Mr. Berke, a former assistant managing editor of The New York Times. In her time at Stat, Ms. Begley broke new ground in the esoteric fields of genomics and genetics, but always in reader-friendly prose.

She wrote with moral clarity. In one piece, she suggested that the lack of urgency in finding a cure for sickle-cell disease was because it mainly afflicted “the wrong people” — that is, Black people. In another, she said that a “cabal” of researchers had thwarted progress in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s by clinging “dogmatically” to one theory of the disease while rejecting alternative approaches.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/22/science/sharon-begley-dead.html

Can a Brash Executive in Kansas Save Movie Theaters?

Most of the time, the 116-year-old movie theater business is rather humdrum.

Tickets get sold. Images get projected onto screens, sometimes in 3-D. Every now and then, change-phobic cinema operators get excited about an innovation. The armrest cup holder, for instance, was patented in 1981.

But these are not normal times at movie houses. Just ask Adam Aron.

A year ago, Mr. Aron, who runs AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest multiplex chain, was feeling unusually invigorated about his antiquated industry. Even with streaming services proliferating — and attendance in North America declining — cinemas worldwide collected $42.5 billion in 2019, a record high. “We see dramatic growth in the size of the domestic box office not so far away,” he said with flourish in late February.

By mid-March, the coronavirus had forced Mr. Aron to furlough 35,000 workers, including himself, and close every AMC theater: 10,700 screens in 15 countries. As the coronavirus surged and retreated and resurged, AMC reopened most of its theaters, re-closed many of them and, lately, started to reopen some of them again. To keep the debt-saddled chain alive, Mr. Aron and his chief financial officer, Sean Goodman, who joined AMC just a couple of months before the crisis, have done financial back flips, narrowly averting bankruptcy four times in nine months. AMC has raised more than $1 billion in fits and starts and has secured another $1 billion or so in rent deferrals from landlords.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/22/business/media/adam-aron-movie-theaters-amc.html

An Australia With No Google? The Bitter Fight Behind a Drastic Threat

“The ability to link freely,” he added, “meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees, is fundamental to how the web operates.”

Melanie Silva, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, made the same argument on Friday in the Senate and in a video posted to Twitter, where she asked people to imagine recommending a few cafes to a friend — and then getting a bill from the cafes for sharing that information.

“When you put a price on linking to certain information, you break the way search engines work,” she said. “And you no longer have a free and open web.”

Google and Facebook (along with Twitter and others), however, do not simply link. They frame the work in previews, with headlines, summaries and photos, and then curate and serve up the content while sprinkling in advertisements.

Tama Leaver, a professor of internet studies at Curtin University in Perth, noted in a recent essay that this added value lessens the likelihood of someone clicking into the article, hurting media companies while improving the tech companies’ bottom line.

“It is often in that reframing that advertisements appear, and this is where these platforms make money,” he wrote. He added that the code could be adjusted to charge the companies only when they create previews, not just links.

But Mr. Sims, the main architect of the code, said on Friday in the Senate that Google and Mr. Berners-Lee were simply wrong on the details.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/22/business/australia-google-facebook-news-media.html

Biden’s Inauguration Scores Bigger TV Ratings Than Trump’s

The numbers held steady for Mr. Biden’s festivities throughout Wednesday. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., an average combined audience of 29.4 million viewers were watching the six networks on Wednesday, versus the 27 million who watched four years ago. In the five-hour block, CNN had the biggest audience (7.7 million viewers) among the major broadcast and cable networks, and Fox News had the smallest (2.1 million).

The numbers seemed to be a continuation of a ratings trend for so-called good news moments for Mr. Biden. On Nov. 7, when Mr. Biden held a prime-time victory speech several hours after major outlets had projected him the election winner, CNN scored huge numbers and Fox News’s audience stayed away.

The early Nielsen figures do not include streaming statistics, so surely the audience for both inaugurals was significantly higher. Nielsen is expected to release final figures for Wednesday’s total audience in the coming days, which will also include some streaming data, as well as out-of-home viewing in hotels or restaurants.

One thing that Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have in common: Their inaugurations were no competition to former President Barack Obama’s first address. More than 51 million people watched Mr. Obama’s opening speech in 2009, according to Nielsen.

The numbers from Wednesday could sting Mr. Trump, who frequently mocked television personalities for any evidence of sliding Nielsen figures. And it was not the first time he had lost in a television ratings battle to Mr. Biden. In October, the two went head-to-head in town-hall-style events. The broadcast featuring Mr. Biden, on ABC, notched 15.1 million viewers, compared with the 13.5 million who watched Mr. Trump on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/21/business/media/biden-inauguration-tv-ratings-cnn.html

‘A Total Failure’: The Proud Boys Now Mock Trump

The comments are a startling turn for the Proud Boys, which for years had backed Mr. Trump and promoted political violence. Led by Enrique Tarrio, many of its thousands of members were such die-hard fans of Mr. Trump that they offered to serve as his private militia and celebrated after he told them in a presidential debate last year to “stand back and stand by.” On Jan. 6, some Proud Boys members stormed the U.S. Capitol.

But since then, discontent with Mr. Trump, who later condemned the violence, has boiled over. On social media, Proud Boys participants have complained about his willingness to leave office and said his disavowal of the Capitol rampage was an act of betrayal. And Mr. Trump, cut off on Facebook and Twitter, has been unable to talk directly to them to soothe their concerns or issue new rallying cries.

The Proud Boys’ anger toward Mr. Trump has heightened after he did nothing to help those in the group who face legal action for the Capitol violence. On Wednesday, a Proud Boy leader, Joseph Biggs, 37, was arrested in Florida and charged with unlawful entry and corruptly obstructing an official proceeding in the riot. At least four other members of the group also face charges stemming from the attack.

“When Trump told them that if he left office, America would fall into an abyss, they believed him,” Arieh Kovler, a political consultant and independent researcher in Israel who studies the far right, said of the Proud Boys. “Now that he has left office, they believe he has both surrendered and failed to do his patriotic duty.”

The shift raises questions about the strength of the support for Mr. Trump and suggests that pockets of his fan base are fracturing. Many of Mr. Trump’s fans still falsely believe he was deprived of office, but other far-right groups such as the Oath Keepers, America First and the Three Percenters have also started criticizing him in private Telegram channels, according to a review of messages.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/20/technology/proud-boys-trump.html

The Times’s 24-Hour Global Relay: New York to Hong Kong and Seoul to London

Editors in both the Asia hub and in London also handle various live briefings on a variety of topics, with Russell Goldman, Jennifer Jett, Mike Ives and Dan Powell in Hong Kong, and Kaly Soto, Ms. Specia, Mr. Santora and Daniel Victor in London tackling, at times, multiple live briefings at once.

Coverage of the coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, which the Asia hub oversaw. As the virus spread, so did the demands of the coverage, becoming an all-hands-on-deck live briefing article that continues today, with London or Hong Kong editors starting a new coronavirus briefing every day. Coverage of the U.S. election, which lasted days, was passed from news hub to news hub. When the Politics desk managed a few hours of sleep, the Asia and London hubs continued to watch for breaking news, maintain live coverage and edit articles.

When U.S. news breaks overnight, as it did with President Trump’s diagnosis with the coronavirus, the Asia hub can work with the Washington bureau as well as with London to follow that story from thousands of miles away.

“We’re built to do anything,” Ms. Carter said. “It can be frenetic and crazy at times, but that’s the excitement, right? You get to experience it all.”

Jim Yardley, the Europe editor, said that the way the international newsrooms are structured helps makes the joint efforts seamless. “One of the things about London and Hong Kong is that, primarily, they are outgrowths of the International desk, but they are part of every desk in many ways,” he said. “It’s an attempt to actually make the work more collaborative and less siloed.”

In late November, there were signals of a covert meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, a major story. Editors in London phoned the correspondents responsible for covering that news in both Lebanon and Israel, whose primary editors were based in New York. The breaking news was published, and the wheels of coverage were set in motion.

“It was a very complicated story because it kept changing,” Mr. Yardley said. “And by the time New York woke up, we were probably on the fifth version of that story.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/20/insider/asia-london-newsrooms.html

War-Zone Experience Carries Journalists Into Inauguration Coverage

CBS and The Associated Press said in statements that they were taking precautions to protect their inauguration reporters, while Reuters said it had “redoubled” its safety efforts before, during and after the presidential election. Time magazine said it was dispatching two of its journalists with conflict experience, Kim Dozier and Simon Shuster, to help cover the event.

The New York Times is sending nearly all of its reporters in Washington to cover the inauguration, and many of them have experience reporting in war zones “given that the national security team and Pentagon correspondents are based in the bureau,” Elisabeth Bumiller, assistant managing editor and Washington bureau chief, said in a statement.

Hugh Brumfitt, the managing director of the British company Insurance For, said he had recently seen “a significant increase” in requests from news outlets for insurance coverage for their journalists.

“What is very interesting is that clients have been extending the coverage for a few days after the inauguration, possibly anticipating further marches,” he wrote in an email.

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Richard Hall, the senior U.S. correspondent for the British news site The Independent, covered the Syrian civil war and the Islamic State as a correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon. Mr. Hall, who will be in Washington for the inauguration, said he planned to stay in constant communication with his colleagues in a WhatsApp group.

“I’m a white man, and I can kind of just blend into the crowd, which is what I did when the Capitol protests were going on,” he said. “I’m fully aware that most journalists and especially photographers and videographers don’t have that privilege.”

Vice News will have security advisers with its journalists, and protective equipment will be available, said Sebastian Walker, the outlet’s Washington bureau chief.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/business/media/journalists-inauguration.html

Fox News Fires a Key Player in Its Election Night Coverage

Fox News declined to comment on the departures; Mr. Sammon’s retirement was previously reported by The Hill. In addition to their exits, roughly 20 Fox News digital journalists were laid off on Tuesday. The network attributed the layoffs in a statement to a realignment of “business and reporting structure to meet the demands of this new era.”

Executives at Fox News — the profit center of Rupert Murdoch’s American media empire — have been concerned by a postelection drop in ratings, a slump that has persisted for two months as upstart rivals like Newsmax gained viewers by featuring fringier fare that embraced Mr. Trump’s baseless theories about electoral fraud.

Prominent conservative pundits at Fox News who supported Mr. Trump, like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, remain popular and are tied to the network under long-term contracts.

Fox’s corporate leadership has been scrutinizing the news division, which is led by Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor of Fox News Media, according to a person with knowledge of internal discussions. Fox News’s daytime news programs, which often feature conservative guests but are helmed by anchors who do not report to the network’s opinion side, have experienced a sharp loss in viewership.

Mr. Stirewalt appeared on Fox News several times on election night and the days afterward. He vigorously defended the network’s early call of Arizona, even as anchors like Martha MacCallum grilled him about the decision; other TV networks did not call Arizona for Mr. Biden until days later. On Nov. 4, asked on-air about the Trump campaign’s baseless claims of fraud, Mr. Stirewalt memorably replied, “Lawsuits, schmawsuits. We haven’t seen any evidence yet that there’s anything wrong.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/business/media/fox-news-chris-stirewalt-trump.html

Investors Push Home Depot and Omnicom to Steer Ads From Misinformation

Companies have struggled in recent years to reach potential customers while making sure their online ads do not appear close to dubious, salacious or potentially harmful content. AARP, which was mentioned in the NewsGuard report as one of the companies that had placed ads on sites promoting false election claims, said that, despite rigorous monitoring procedures, some ads slipped through the cracks.

“We follow strict ad placement protocols, but no system is 100 percent foolproof,” Martha Boudreau, an AARP executive vice president, said in a statement.

An AARP internal review found that “a tiny portion” of its ads, less than 1/100th of 1 percent, appeared on the sites flagged by NewsGuard, Ms. Boudreau added.

Matt Skibinski, the general manager of NewsGuard, said companies should treat sites that publish misinformation the same way they treat sites that promote behaviors that do not align with their corporate values or that publish content they do not want to be associated with.

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“At many brands, there is somebody whose job it is to make sure they don’t place ads in what they would call unsafe or unsuitable environments, and that includes violence, pornography and gambling,” Mr. Skibinski said. “We need the industry to start seeing misinformation in that category — of creating real-world harm.”

NewsGuard reported that Procter Gamble ads had appeared on The Gateway Pundit, one of the sites it called out for publishing election misinformation. In an email, Procter Gamble said it had not intentionally advertised on the site. Erica Noble, a Procter Gamble spokeswoman, said that when the company’s ads are placed on a site that does not meet its standards, it acts quickly to remove them.

“These are all standards that were in place well before the horrific events of Jan. 6, but we appreciate they take on renewed importance now,” she said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/18/business/media/investors-push-home-depot-and-omnicom-to-steer-ads-from-misinformation.html

True-Crime Podcast Puts Spotlight on Irish Coach Accused of Abuse

Since then, numerous Irish pedophiles have faced successful prosecution on even older charges, based mainly on victim testimony.

In the late 1990s, the Irish police investigated other child sex assault allegations against Mr. Gibney, but public prosecutors declined to press charges or seek his extradition, according to Justine McCarthy, a journalist for The Sunday Times of London and author of “Deep Deception,” a 2009 book about sexual abuse scandals in Irish swimming.

When asked for comment, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, an Irish government agency, said it “does not comment on individual cases.”

No criminal complaints or charges have been brought against Mr. Gibney in the United States. But Ms. McCarthy said she had interviewed an Irish woman — once a prospect for Ireland’s Olympic swimming team — who said she had been raped by Mr. Gibney at a training camp in the Tampa Bay area of Florida in 1991, when she was 17.

John D. Fitzgerald, a senior trial lawyer with expertise on Irish criminal and extradition law, said that were there to be new criminal charges in Ireland, this could potentially result in an extradition request under Ireland’s bilateral treaty with the United States. This application could then be contested in the American courts.

After leaving Ireland in 1994, Mr. Gibney sought to resume his career, first in Scotland — where he was forced to resign from his position at an elite swimming team in Edinburgh after an uproar from parents — and then in the United States.

After his case was dropped, he was able to enter the United States on a visa he obtained in 1992, soon after he was accused of abuse by two leading figures in Irish swimming — Francis White, a coach who said he was abused by Mr. Gibney, and the former Olympic swimmer Gary O’Toole, who heard about abuses from other swimmers — but before charges were brought.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/17/world/europe/ireland-george-gibney.html