The media today: A day of shake-ups in the media world

A blockbuster acquisition, succession at the nation’s most influential newspaper, and a decision that could signal the end of the internet as we know it. Thursday provided a bevy of news that will have far-reaching implications on the media landscape.

The day began with news that Disney had reached a deal to purchase most of the assets of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion. On a conference call with investors, Rupert Murdoch, who will retain control of the Fox broadcast network, Fox News, and Fox Sports, attempted to frame the move as a pivot, saying, “Are we retreating? Absolutely not. We are pivoting at a pivotal moment.” Disney will now own 20th Century Fox movie studio as well as the Fox television studio, giving it the firepower to act as a major player in the field of online video. In The New York Times’s piece on the deal, Brook Barnes summed up Disney’s action as “the biggest counterattack from a traditional media company against the tech giants that have aggressively moved into the entertainment business.” As part of the move, Disney’s chairman and chief executive, Bob Iger, will stay on until 2021, apparently bringing to an end rumors that he might run for president in 2020.

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While Iger is staying put, change is coming to leadership at The New York Times. In “a generational changing of the guard” Arthur Gregg Sulzberger will succeed his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., as publisher of the Times on January 1. AG Sulzberger, as he is known, represents the fifth generation of the Ochs-Sulzberger family to helm the paper. The 37-year-old was named deputy publisher of Times last year, a move that signaled he had bested two of his cousins in a family contest to become the paper’s next leader. He has worked as a reporter in and outside the Times newsroom, and is best known for leading the creation of the paper’s 2014 innovation report. Sulzberger Jr., who led the paper since 1992, will stay on as chairman of The New York Times Company.

The digital world in which the Times under the younger Sulzberger will operate may look very different than the one that his father has known. The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules that prevent internet providers from blocking or slowing traffic and offering internet fast lanes to those willing to pay. As my colleague Mathew Ingram noted yesterday, the end of net neutrality could have a significant negative effect on local journalism. The party-line vote by the Republican-led FCC rolls back one of the Obama administration’s signature achievements, though the repeal won’t take effect until next year, and legal challenges will be plentiful. In the meantime, Politico’s Margaret Harding McGill explains how the loss of net neutrality could change the internet.

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Below, more on changes at some of the industry’s biggest names.

  • Murdoch stands down: NPR’s David Folkenflik calls Rupert Murdoch’s decision to sell much of his media empire, “a retreat from the global stage.
  • A lifeline for ESPN?: The Washington Post’s Matt Bonesteel explains how the Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN a local strategy to combat its financial woes.
  • In his own words: AG Sulzberger spoke with the Times’s Sydney Ember, telling her that despite his reputation as an innovator, “I don’t expect there to be some flurry of change.”
  • Tough decision: One of AG Sulzberger’s first decisions will likely involve the fate of Glenn Thrush. Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports that Thrush’s case—he was accused of sexual harassment in a Vox article—has divided the Times’s newsroom.
  • Net Neutrality reaction from the industry: CNN’s Jackie Wattles compiled reactions from tech giants who oppose the FCC’s decision and internet service providers who applaud it.
  • Bizarre leadership: The Daily Caller produced a video of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai engaging in a ridiculous attempt at selling his position on net neutrality. Gizmodo’s Tom McKay takes a hatchet to the “the cringe-inducing clip.


Other notable stories

  • The Boston Globe’s Jenn Abelson has a report on ESPN’s “entrenched locker room culture,” where “the problems for women run deep.”
  • Former New York Daily News EIC and HuffPost Executive Editor Jim Rich is jumping back into local news. He says he’s going to launch a not-for-profit news site in 2018, covering New York City. “We cannot let apathy and the under-informed hijack our democracy,” Rich writes in an announcement posted on Twitter.
  • As Stephen Spielberg’s The Post hits theaters, The Washington Post’s movie critics picked their 10 best journalism films. Happy to see the oft-overlooked Shattered Glass make the list.
  • Longform has posted its always excellent “Best of 2017” lists, which means my workplace production for the next couple weeks will likely drop precipitously.
  • Very cool design work on Michael Hobbes’s very depressing HuffPost Highline story about why millennials are so screwed.

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Pete Vernon is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.