'The Messenger' Debuts To A Round Of Jeers

The Messenger, the much-heralded digital news site that recently debuted, is facing intense criticism on a number of fronts.  

Critics are wondering about the mission of the site, which was founded by Jimmy Finkelstein, co-founder of The Hill and a former co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter, with $50 million in backing.  

The main objection seems to be that The Messenger consists largely of rewrites.  

“Perhaps the most striking thing about The Messenger’s first day was the sheer volume of content,” Joshua Benton writes on NiemanLab. “By my count, it published 203 different stories Monday — some as short as a single sentence. The New York Times—with its newsroom of more than 1,800 people—published 141.



“But most of those Times stories were, you know, stories, with reporting and interviews and such. Most of The Messenger’s are of the quick-aggregation variety, with individual staffers publishing 10 or more in an eight-hour shift.

This model has caused staff unhappiness and newsroom confusion. 

“The site has multiple teams dedicated to covering breaking news, which has resulted in confusion over who is working on what, according to five people familiar with the inner workings of the site who spoke on condition of anonymity because company rules prevent unauthorized interviews with the media,” Benjamin Mullin writes in The New York Times. 

Mulltin continues, “On some occasions over the last week, The Messenger published two versions of the same story, with editors unaware of what their co-workers were working on.”

Reporters allegedly are failing to use a tool that would tell them what everyone is working on. 

These tensions led to a confrontation in which Gregg Birnbaum, a politics editor, quit on the spot, according to Mullin. 

One piece of original journalism was an interview with Donald Trump, derided as a “softball.” “David Corn, Mother Jones, wrote that the interview sent the message that the site 'is not up to its self-proclaimed task of healing the nation’s political discourse” and that it “may even be part of the problem’ since the interviewer failed to ask Trump about substantive developments, not least the recent finding against him in a sexual-abuse and defamation case brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll,” Mullin notes. 

Well-wishers hope that the mission and processes will shift. Give it time. 

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