Welcome to this week’s edition of Confider, the media newsletter that pulls back the curtain to reveal what’s really going on inside the world’s most powerful navel-gazing industry. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
EXCLUSIVE — TUCKER’S TAKEAWAY: Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker has outlined her vision for the paper following the completion of a months-long content review, Confider has learned. Tucker, who joined the Journal from the Sunday Times in London in February, addressed the newsroom at a recent all-hands meeting to detail her “audience first” strategy and emphasize the need for the writing in the Journal to be more engaging. “Our review found that the most powerful thing we can achieve in the newsroom is to better engage readers with our digital products with a view to reducing churn,” Tucker emailed staff following the Sept. 21 meeting. “Specifically, we will think more deeply about journalism that brings readers back to our digital products more often and has them reading more while they’re with us.” The “audience first” strategy is guided by a set of principles that instructs staff to ask at the start of every story who the target audience is, what they want to know, how might the Journal broaden its audience, and what format is best for telling that story. According to multiple people who attended the meeting, Tucker wants to broaden coverage areas of the Journal in the hopes of attracting a younger readership (the average age of a WSJ reader is currently 59). In March, Confider first reported that Tucker was eager to move the paper away from commodity news in favor of enterprise journalism and that she intended to slash the paper’s laborious page-one process. The Brit is expected to streamline the paper’s Standards process, which is known for having an outsized role and at times slowing down the publication of stories. “We will work harder to always bring ‘the WSJ angle’ to every story; go deep over broad; unique over commodity; and be faster while we do it. We will also be making efforts to make our writing more accessible, while retaining our rigorous standards,” she wrote to staff. But one Journal staffer told Confider, “there are a lot of people on edge in the newsroom waiting for what comes next,” adding that they and many of their colleagues fear there will be a round of layoffs now that the content review is complete. Meanwhile, the paper’s D.C. bureau is struggling to contain a mouse infestation that several staffers have complained to management about. “There are mice running around the office nonstop,” one political reporter told Confider. A rep for the Journal declined to comment.
EXCLUSIVE — WITH ALL DUE RESPECT: Earlier this summer, Confider reported on the comeback attempts of some of the powerful media men who were taken down by the #MeToo era. One of those men we highlighted was Mark Halperin, the former NBC News political star who was fired after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct, allegations he’s long denied. At the time, we noted that after attempts to rehab his mainstream media career failed, Halperin has been stuck working for Fox News wannabe Newsmax, the MAGA channel notorious for giving accused creeps a second life. But Halperin isn’t just satisfied with making near-daily appearances as the right-wing propaganda network’s in-house political analyst. The Game Change author, who launched his Wide World of News blog on Substack in 2019, announced to his subscribers in June that they would only be able to receive his daily newsletter if they signed up for two very pricey “concierge” packages. The two membership “tiers,” labeled Mario and Luigi, cost between $3,360 to $4,800 annually. Both tiers include access to the newsletter, “breaking news emails” and Zooms and two email replies from Halperin a month. However, the more expensive “Mario” package also includes access to Halperin’s focus groups, two private Zoom calls per year, and monthly “salon conversations” over Zoom. Acknowledging how “admittedly expensive” these packages are, Halperin justified the expense because of how much his readers are spending on other services. “Many organizations and individuals (including some of you) pay monthly fees to consultants who charge as much as one hundred times the cost of my new service,” he wrote. It would appear that Halperin is trying to resuscitate the glory days of his time as political director at ABC News, where he served as the editor and main voice of the Beltway newsletter The Note until 2007. If any of our readers have been willing to pay nearly $5,000 a year to read Halperin and chat with him on Zoom, or know someone who has, we’d love to hear from you. Halperin did not respond to a request for comment.
EXCLUSIVE — ROOT RUMBLINGS — Staffers at The Root have revolted against editor-in-chief Tatsha Robertson in recent weeks, filing a grievance in August through the G/O Media union accusing her of creating a “toxic and hostile work environment” and violating its union contract’s provisions on editorial policy, workplace culture, and non-discrimination, Confider has learned. “The Union demands that the Company immediately suspend the EIC of The Root from directly managing/supervising any editorial employee at The Root until a thorough investigation is completed,” the Root’s staffers asked in a Sept. 19 request to G/O Media’s top lawyer Kai Falkenberg to move the grievance to arbitration. The alleged problems with Robertson have been ongoing since she was brought on as deputy editor, staffers who spoke to Confider said, but they were exacerbated upon her promotion to editor-in-chief earlier this year. Staff writer Kalyn Womack, who called Robertson’s tenure “hostile and toxic,” insisted that the grievance “isn't just us trying to fight for each other as a staff and ourselves as employees of this company, but also trying to fight for the integrity of our magazine.” Womack and staff writer Noah McGee told Confider in a joint interview that Robertson was prone to chastising staffers for questioning her news judgment on certain stories—including some, they said, that weren’t timely or journalistically sound—and for injecting her own opinions into stories without running them by the story’s author. But a G/O spokesperson pushed back on those claims, telling Confider, “Tatsha's editorial judgment is stellar.” The spokesperson cited her career at the Boston Globe and Essence, among other publications, and noted, “Change can be hard, as anyone in the media business can attest. The necessary changes Tatsha is implementing—more rigor, more reporting, more relevance—are designed to grow and strengthen the brand and its journalistic bonafides.” Meanwhile, the company hit back at the union by filing an unfair labor practice charge over its request to suspend Robertson—which prompted the union to file its own unfair labor practice charge against the company for not addressing its grievance. “Working at G/O Media is challenging, but the way the company has attempted to silence the voices of its only Black site is deplorable,” the union wrote on Twitter last month. The union has since considered withdrawing its request to have Robertson suspended from managing staffers, Confider has learned, though it maintains its allegations of bad management. The head-spinning ordeal follows months of turmoil at G/O Media, which has been roiled by its staff’s opposition to its deployment of AI bots and its exodus of top editors, most recently Jezebel editor-in-chief Laura Bassett. It also comes as Falkenberg, the company’s general counsel who received the arbitration letter, left G/O Media last week for The Guardian, Confider has learned. UPDATE: The day after this story was published in Confider, the two sides agreed to withdraw their respective unfair labor practice charges after the union dropped its language to suspend Robertson as The Root’s editor, though the grievance will still be processed. “The Union refiled the grievance today demanding as remedy the Company take all ‘necessary steps to cease and desist in the behaviors that created the toxic workplace at The Root and take all steps to make the editorial staff whole,’” it emailed Confider on Tuesday. A G/O spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that it would drop its unfair labor practice charge.
X MARKS THE SPOT: White nationalist and virulent antisemite Nick Fuentes is one of the few people that edgelord billionaire Elon Musk has outright banned from X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Last month, Confider reported on Fuentes’ repeated attempts to evade his Twitter ban, which featured the former Kanye West confidant boosting the antisemitic #BanTheADL campaign and blaming Jewish people for the 9/11 terror attacks. With Fuentes continuing to create burner accounts to circumvent his suspension, other popular far-right accounts have assisted him in getting his message across on the microblogging site. Following Musk’s recent Twitter Spaces sitdown with Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro and other prominent conservative Jewish figures, all in an attempt to push back against claims that the social media site has become a haven for antisemitism, Fuentes was invited to partake in a separate Twitter Spaces to “review” Musk’s performance and discuss “free speech.” That space, hosted by Andrew Tate loyalist Sulaiman Ahmed, took place on Thursday night and clocked in at over eight hours. Ahmed, who claimed that “they want to cancel me for giving him a voice,” insisted that Fuentes is “one of the most censored men on the planet.” Fuentes, who appeared under his latest burner account @autumngroyper, spent his speaking time raging against Jews and blaming them for America’s societal ills. The following day, Ahmed hosted another Twitter Spaces featuring Fuentes, claiming the previous chat “was EPIC and so there was a need to run it back.” Over on his channel on the messaging app Telegram, Fuentes called on his followers, known as “groypers,” to “juice” the Twitter broadcasts on their social media channels. During the Friday broadcast of his web show America First, Fuentes expressed disappointment in Musk for going before a “tribunal of rabbis” in order to “appease them on their concerns about antisemitism,” which Fuentes said were “things that were actually factual.” After Musk purchased Twitter last year, he began reactivating thousands of accounts that were previously banned due to hate speech and misinformation, including Fuentes. However, a day after the unabashed neo-Nazi was reinstated, Fuentes was booted after hosting a Twitter Space that featured him yelling “we love Hitler” in defense of West’s antisemitic rants and praise for the Nazi leader. Ahmed, meanwhile, has continued to call on Musk to bring Fuentes back to X, saying the “people voted and the result wasn’t even close” while linking to a Twitter poll. Fuentes, under his latest burner account, has of course retweeted Ahmed’s posts. Musk, Ahmed and Fuentes did not respond to requests for comment. A request sent to X’s press email address was returned with the company’s standard auto-reply.
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IN PLAIN SIGHT: Guardian US has announced the creation of a new investigations unit, to be headed up by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists senior editor Michael Hudson.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Apple’s Eddy Cue was invited to speak at a New York Times board meeting last week…Former New York Post politics editor Terry Moseley has joined Vanity Fair as a contributing editor.
MORE FROM THE BEAST MEDIA DESK
—A federal judge handed down a sentence for ex-ABC News producer James Gordon Meek last week over charges of transporting and possessing child pornography, nearly a year after Confider uncovered that his journalism wasn’t a reason for an FBI raid on his home. Click here for the sentence.
—Philadelphia journalist Josh Kruger, known for his reporting and commentary on LGBTQ communities, was shot dead after an intruder broke into his home early Monday morning. Read more about the investigation here.
—Former Washington Post editor Marty Baron’s new memoir comes out Tuesday, and he spends more than a dozen pages blasting then-Post reporter Felicia Sonmez and her social media behavior. Read what he wrote here.
—What a week for Britain’s answer to Fox News. After a misogynistic tirade from contributor Laurence Fox live on Dan Wootton’s GB News show, the channel suspended both men pending an investigation. On Monday it was revealed police are now investigating Wootton over
—The conclusion of the writer’s strike could spell the formal end of “Peak TV,” with studios and streamers accelerating the retrenchment that was already building before writers hit the picket line. Expect fewer TV shows to get greenlit as entertainment companies look to rein in spending, The Wall Street Journal reports.
—Following the long-awaited announcement that Rupert Murdoch was semi-retiring (or trying out a version of “quiet quitting”), News Corp insiders have shared their views of the media mogul. Check out what Fleet Street figures such as Piers Morgan, Kelvin MacKenzie and others had to say about their old boss here.
***WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?***
Come for Taylor Swift at your own peril. That is a lesson Fox News’ resident “media critic” Joe Concha learned this past week after he tried to gin up outrage over the most famous woman on the planet saying a swear word at a football game. Swift, who is romancing Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce, appeared to yell “let’s fucking go” during the Chiefs’ blowout win against the Chicago Bears. Concha, meanwhile, went into full pearl-clutching mode over the “Bad Blood” singer tossing an f-bomb while sharing a suite with Kelce’s mom. Having already called Swift “trash” during a radio interview on Wednesday, Concha decided to “double down” on his criticism during a Thursday appearance on Fox & Friends First. “If I heard that and my son was dating a girl that has a mouth like a teamster, that’s it,” Concha sneered, adding that Kelce and Swift were an “annoying” couple. It didn’t take long for Concha’s case of the vapors to draw widespread mockery online and by Monday morning, even the lib-owning columnist had to admit that Swift was a boon for the NFL’s ratings. As is always the case with the right-wing industrial-outrage complex, the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.