February 24, 2024

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Media Insider: CNN Names Mark Thompson as CEO, Washington Post lays off Arc XP staff

4 min read
Also in the media news roundup: Media companies block access to ChatGPT and NYT unions react to return-to-office policies.
Media Insider: CNN Names Mark Thompson as CEO, Washington Post lays off Arc XP staff

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the week.

Mark Thompson tapped to lead CNN
Politico | Matt Berg

CNN has tapped Mark Thompson to become the network’s next leader. Thompson, who previously worked as the chief executive of The New York Times and director-general of the BBC, succeeds Chris Licht, whose tumultuous tenure saw the network’s ratings and employees’ morale drop. Starting Oct. 9, Thompson will take the reins during a pivotal time for the news organization. A number of high-profile departures have roiled the network, including Licht and hosts Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo, who were also fired within the past two years. The CNN+ streaming service was also abruptly shuttered, massive layoffs impacted hundreds of employees, and some of the network’s most popular shows saw staffing rotations amid internal disputes.

Speaking of CNN, the company plans to launch a livestream channel on the streaming platform Max.

The Washington Post lays off staff from tech arm
Semafor | Max Tani

The Washington Post has quietly laid off staff from Arc XP, the company’s in-house publishing tool and software business. Last year, the Post declined offers to sell Arc XP, saying it would instead invest $50 million in the business in 2023. But on Aug. 22, the paper told several top marketing staffers, program managers, and product designers at Arc XP that the Post would be eliminating their roles in the coming weeks. In a statement, the company’s union said it was frustrated with the cuts, saying the paper did not give staffers an explanation for why their roles were being eliminated. The union added that the decision contradicted the paper’s previous claim that there would be no further layoffs this year.

ICYMI: TechCrunch has acquired media startup StrictlyVC.

NYT unions file cease-and-desist letters to management over return-to-office policies
Axios | Sara Fischer

Two of the New York Times’ unions have sent cease-and-desist letters to management over its new policies that will see the Times monitoring its workers’ return to office via badge swipes. The Times said it would require workers to return to the office three days per week until Sept. 2, 2024, at which time the company has the right to increase the in-office requirement to four days per week. As part of the policies, the Times said newsroom leaders may periodically observe badge swipe data to review attendance trends and “may flag individuals with particularly low attendance.” The New York Times Guild, which represents the majority of the Times’ newsroom workers, and the Times Tech Guild, which includes more than 600 Times tech workers, both sent cease-and-desist letters to management last week, following the badge swipe announcement. The New York Times Guild argues the move violates its new contract with management, which doesn’t mention badge swipes being used to surveil office attendance. The contract does, however, acknowledge that the company has a right to enforce its return-to-office policies.

With the summer season winding down, more media companies are beginning to push employees to work from the office more regularly.

Disney, The New York Times and CNN are among a dozen major media companies blocking access to ChatGPT as they wage a cold war on A.I.
CNN | Oliver Darcy

Some of the nation’s largest newsrooms are actively taking defensive measures to safeguard their content from ChatGPT, the groundbreaking artificial intelligence chatbot that is seen as a potential aggressor to an already struggling news industry. A multitude of leading newsrooms – including CNN, The New York Times, and Reuters – have recently injected code into their websites that blocks OpenAI’s web crawler, GPTBot, from scanning their platforms for content. Other news and media giants that have also quietly taken this step include Disney, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Axios, Insider, ABC News, ESPN, and the Gothamist. Publishers such as Condé Nast, Hearst, and Vox Media, which all house several prominent publications, have also taken the defensive measure. The deep archives and intellectual property rights of these news organizations are immensely valuable — arguably crucial — to training A.I. models such as ChatGPT in efforts to provide users with accurate information.

In more AI news: Google has debuted a new method to watermark AI-generated images.

More funding is flowing to local journalism and for-profit newsrooms, study finds
NiemanLab | Sarah Scire

In a new report on journalism grantmaking, more than half of funders said they’re investing more in journalism than ever, including many who funded journalism for the first time in the past five years. The report — out last week from NORC at the University of Chicago, Media Impact Funders, and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism — is based on responses from 431 news organizations and 129 funders. The funders surveyed included private foundations, community foundations, family foundations, and other philanthropic institutions that support journalism. The report found strong support for local and issue-based journalism among donors: 74% of funders said they support journalism that addresses a specific topic or problem, and 71% said they made investments to increase local journalism. Though more than half of funders said they prefer to fund nonprofit journalism, the report also found more philanthropic giving is going to for-profit newsrooms.

Read next: Bipartisan representatives have come together to co-sponsor the Community News & Small Business Support Act, which makes refundable tax credits available to local newspapers.

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