Now in the News: The American Press Institute Board Of Trustees Adds Five Media Leaders, Appoints Barbara Wall Of Gannett As New Chair

October 13, 2023

The American Press Institute Board Of Trustees Adds Five Media Leaders, Appoints Barbara Wall Of Gannett As New Chair

Barbara Wall, a board member of Gannett Co. and The Freedom Forum, will serve as the next Chair of the American Press Institute’s Board of Trustees. Wall retired from Gannett in 2020, where she worked for 30 years in positions across the company. She brings extensive First Amendment and legal expertise to the position, in addition to deep knowledge and love of local journalism.

In addition to Wall, who also serves on the board of the News/Media Alliance, the board welcomed four new members, including Steve Grove, CEO and publisher of Star Tribune; S. Mitra Kalita, co-founder and CEO of URL Media and cofounder and publisher of Epicenter-NYC; Geraldine Moriba, senior vice president and chief content officer of TheGrio; and Ross McDuffie, chief portfolio officer at the National Trust for Local News. Wall succeeds longtime chair Kevin Mowbray, President and Chief Executive Officer at Lee Enterprises.

“We are deeply grateful for Kevin’s years of service,” Wall said. “He has helped position API to deepen its impact serving media leaders and journalism organizations. Going forward, the Board of Trustees and I are thrilled to support the extremely talented team at API and their outstanding work helping build a resilient future for our industry.”

API’s Board of Trustees consists of business and journalism leaders from across the U.S. media landscape. The five members joining the board will expand API’s board experience in leading community and local news organizations and emerging forms of media. Their range of experience reflects API’s mission to help develop, support and sustain healthy local news organizations with a focus on civic discourse and democracy; culture and inclusion; community engagement and trust; and revenue and resilience.

“Our Board of Trustees helps set the strategic direction for our work,” said Michael Bolden, API’s executive director and CEO. “We depend on their counsel, and with this group of advisers, I am confident we can better guide the many journalism organizations and media leaders who depend on API’s products, projects and research to help them better serve their communities and navigate our changing industry. ”

Examining AI’s Impact On Journalism

During a panel with news agency CEOs, Veerasingham outlined the opportunities and risks of generative AI and how news agencies must work to keep pace with the fast-moving technology.

“We must invest most of our resources in tackling the threat AI poses to the entire industry,” Veerasingham said. “You’ve got three main areas: transparency, the need to protect our intellectual property and traffic.”

In a separate session, Pace outlined AP’s standards for using generative AI, as well as the news agency’s culture of experimentation when it comes to exploring potential use cases.

“We believe AP needs to be an active participant in the generative AI conversation, and AP’s high standards need to be at the center of the discussion,” Pace stressed. She added that, in the past decade or so, AP has used automation and AI to streamline workflows and free up journalists to do more meaningful work.

Separately, Kaiser outlined the risks to the news industry if generative AI is not developed responsibly or with a proper legal framework.

Kaiser identified three key issues generative AI brings forward: copyright infringement, the increased spread of misinformation, and data privacy issues.

“If appropriate legal frameworks aren’t established, particularly around the protection of intellectual property rights, it could lead to the disruption of our industry and the entire news ecosystem,” Kaiser stressed.

Kaiser argued that the news industry must work together to ensure the new technologies are harnessed for good, ethically, and most importantly, “in ways that preserve the legal frameworks that function as the backbone of protecting the core of what we do.

Why The New York Times Is Looking To Shorten Stories

Not long into his tenure as executive editor of the New York Times, Max Frankel took note of how much reading the paper was assigning its subscribers. “Yes, we need and want enterprise stories,” wrote Frankel in a two-page internal memo in July 1987. “But egads, we are drowning the reader in ink.”

In the judgment of current executive editor Joseph Kahn, the inundation continues. Along with other masthead editors, Kahn has launched a fresh initiative to discipline runaway word counts in routine Times coverage. In his discussions of the imperative, Kahn has acknowledged that others before him have attempted to run the news report through the shrink-a-lator. “I intend to succeed,” he has said.“We’re not looking to just do less,” says a Times spokesperson. “We’re looking to provide a diverse report to meet our readers where they are, and best reflect our reporters’ expertise in multiple ways.”

Like Frankel, Kahn and his top editors are making clear that they’re not bailing on the long-form stories and investigations that often break news and win prizes for the Times. A spokesperson pointed to the paper’s “Great Read” initiative, a showcase for journalistic storytelling featuring stories that average more than 2,000 words. A December 2022 Times investigation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine tallied more than 13,000 words.

If there’s any content category that should hire a lobbyist, it’s those long swaths of context and history that occupy precious real estate in news stories. Sometimes they get served on top of news updates tracking incremental developments on long-running stories. According to Times sources, Kahn & Co. have cited internal analytics showing that readers check out of pieces overloaded with context. The data also show that readers are more likely to click on another Times story if they have finished the first one.

Adam Nagourney, author of the recently published book “The Times: How the Newspaper of Record Survived Scandal, Scorn, and the Transformation of Journalism,” notes that the difference between Kahn’s initiative and similar efforts in the past is metrics. Former New York Times executive editors like Frankel and Bill Keller, Nagourney writes via email, were proceeding on the basis of a “gut call, reflecting their own sensibility and taste.” Frankel tried to implement a three-tier hierarchy under which a 1,500-word piece “ought to be exceptional.” (Nagourney provided the Erik Wemple Blog with the archival memos.) By that standard, there’s plenty of exceptional work these days in the Times. The five stories on the front page of Monday’s Times, for instance, averaged about 1,700 words.

To get the word out, top Times editors have issued shout-outs to reporters who have taken it easy on their keyboards and attracted strong readership at the same time. Several weeks ago, for instance, a top editor credited this piece on Eminem vs. Vivek Ramaswamy (367 words), a guide to charging electric vehicles (881 words) and a dispatch on the London Zoo’s animal weigh-in (365 words), among others.

The backdrop for this Times effort is a discussion in media circles about the role of context and the work-saving value of linking in modern journalism — a discussion that we won’t abridge here, the better to nail a sub-550 word count.