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illustration, 360 MAGAZINE, Alejandra Villagra

The Decline of Black Media

Spokesperson for the Save Journalism Project, Nick Charles, has a new op-ed in the NY Daily News discussing the impact of Google and Facebook’s decimation of the news industry’s business model and specifically the decline of black media. What were traditionally spaces for communities of color to spread news and ideas are being forced to shutter their newsrooms because of big tech’s stranglehold on the industry, resulting in a lack of representation and a rapid decline of coverage for these communities.

As Charles explains, “revenue from digital advertising, which used to go to news publishers, is more often than not in big tech’s pockets, leading to an unchecked balance of power and gaping holes in local news coverage nationwide… Informing African-American communities should be put before Facebook and Google’s profits. People of color have worked and died so American democracy includes everyone. But there is no democracy, no freedom, without the fourth estate.”

Charles’ op-ed is below and available online.

Some remember well the world where events, issues, policies and histories impacting black people were rarely acknowledged or reported by the mainstream press. In New York City, if it happened above 96th St., it wasn’t news. That began to change after the urban riots of the late 1960s and the Kerner Commission, which prompted mainstream media to begin hiring African-American reporters. African-American media, which had always filled the breach, did hemorrhage talent, but continued invaluable community coverage.

With the emergence of the internet, as legacy media, newspapers, magazines, radio and television news were joined by newer platforms and social media, there was always space to cover disasters like Hurricane Katrina as well as enduring environmental, racial and social injustices. But now that space is shrinking rapidly. McClatchy filing for bankruptcy is just the latest and most ominous example.

An unfettered and thriving press is paramount, especially to otherwise forgotten communities. But what happens when outlets are forced to shutter because big tech chokes off advertising oxygen that is essential to the media’s survival?

Newspapers that adapted and survived the last digital revolution did so through advertising. But today’s digital ad market is dominated by Google and Facebook. Revenue from digital advertising, which used to go to news publishers, is more often than not in big tech’s pockets, leading to an unchecked balance of power and gaping holes in local news coverage nationwide.

Google recently announced it was doing away with third-party cookies by 2022, further jeopardizing the fate of the voices and publishers of communities of color. The move will hit smaller news outlets hard by substantially reducing the value of advertising on their websites. Most don’t have the kind of first-party information nor the kind of scale that will now be required to be valuable to digital advertisers.

Newsrooms across the country are experiencing layoffs at an alarming rate. In 2019, the media shed over 7,800 jobs. The number of black journalists and reporters in newsrooms has also been impacted, with the number of black journalists working at daily newspapers dropping by 40% since 1997. Countless colleagues have left the profession, taking with them their passion, expertise and the trust they amassed over years with community leaders, politicians and activists.

Unable to keep up with a business model steamrolled by the likes of Facebook and Google, the industry is reaching the point of no return. Big tech’s dominance over the digital ad market and unrivaled capacity to scale and monetize its platforms is having drastic effects on journalism as a whole — with especially profound impact on communities of color.

Black legacy outlets, home to some of the most committed journalists and activists in our country’s history, have been the bulwark of accountability for many when racial tensions kept even the government from its role in protecting its citizens. The Chicago Defender itself was one of the sparks in The Great Migration.

Alongside downsizing and retracting their print editions, examples like the Amsterdam News showed a 21% drop in circulation from 2014-2015; The Chicago Defender’s circulation fell by 18% in 2015. Not only are black communities losing their news outlets, black perspectives across the news industry are losing the spaces to voice their opinions.

Founded in 1943 and for decades a space for black communities to share the most pressing news and ideas of the time, Alabama’s longest-running black newspaper, the Mobile Beacon, reported it was planning to close its doors after 2019. It is one of many black legacy media icons in jeopardy.

Frederick Douglass once said: “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Informing African-American communities should be put before Facebook and Google’s profits. People of color have worked and died so American democracy includes everyone. But there is no democracy, no freedom, without the fourth estate.

Charles, a freelance writer, works with Save Journalism Project.

Journalism in America is facing an existential threat from the monopolistic control of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple. Big tech’s dominance over the digital advertising market and their unrivaled capacity to monetize its platforms are having drastic effects on journalism as a whole.

https://savejournalism.org/

RE-ENGINEERING HUMANITY

Everyday new warnings emerge about artificial intelligence rebelling against us. All the while, a more immediate dilemma flies under the radar. Have forces been unleashed that are thrusting humanity down an ill-advised path, one that’s increasingly making us behave like simple machines?

Have a look at the book’s website.

About the Authors

Brett Frischmann is The Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics at Villanova University. He is also an affiliated scholar of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, and a trustee for the Nexa Center for Internet & Society, Politecnico di Torino. He has published foundational books on the relationships between infrastructural resources, governance, commons, and spillovers.

Evan Selinger is Professor of Philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he is also the Head of Research Communications, Community, and Ethics at the Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction, and Creativity. A Senior Fellow at the Future of Privacy Forum, his primary research is on the ethical and privacy dimensions of emerging technology. Selinger is a prolific writer and his next anthology is The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Privacy, co- edited with JulesPolontesky and OmerTene (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2018). A strong advocate of public philosophy, he regularly writes for magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including The Guardian, The Atlantic, Slate, and Wired.

Advance Praise Re-Engineering Humanity

Frischmann and Selinger provide a thoroughgoing and balanced examination of the tradeoffs inherent in offloading tasks and decisions to computers. By illuminating these often intricate and hidden tradeoffs, and providing a practical framework for assessing and negotiating them, the authors give us the power to make wiser choices.

Nicolas Carr, author of The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us, from the Foreword

Re-Engineering Humanity brings a pragmatic if somewhat dystopic perspective to the technological phenomena of our age. Humans are learning machines and we learn from our experiences. This book made me ask myself whether the experiences we are providing to our societies are in fact beneficial in the long run.

Vint Cerf, Co-Inventor of the Internet

Frischmann and Selinger deftly and convincingly show why we should be less scared of robots than of becoming more robotic, ourselves. This book will convince you why it’s so important we embed technologies with human values before they embed us with their own. Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock, Program or Be Programmed, and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus.

Everybody is suddenly worried about technology. Will social media be the end of democracy? Is automation going to eliminate jobs? Will artificial intelligence make people obsolete? Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger boldly propose that the problem isn’t the rise of ‘smart’ machines but the dumbing down of humanity. This refreshingly philosophical book asks what’s lost when we outsource our decision-making to algorithmic systems we don’t own and barely understand. Better yet, it proposes conceptual and practical ways to reclaim our autonomy and dignity in the face of new forms of computational control.

Astra Taylor, author of The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Control in the Digital Age

A magnificent achievement. Writing in the tradition of Neil Postman, Jacque Ellul and Marshall McLuhan, this book is the decade’s deepest and most powerful portrayal of the challenges to freedom created by our full embrace of comprehensive techno-social engineering. A rewarding and stimulating book that merits repeated readings and may also cause you to reconsider how you live life.

Tim Wu, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School, and author of The Attention Merchants

About Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press dates from 1534 and is part of the University of Cambridge. We further the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Playing a leading role in today’s global marketplace, we have over 50 offices around the globe, and we distribute our products to nearly every country in the world. We publish titles written by authors in over 100 different countries.

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