The Listening Post

Covering the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

Conflicting narratives and the mystery of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. Plus, native advertising.

On The Listening Post this week: Conflicting narratives and the mystery of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi‘s disappearance. Plus, native advertising and the shifting economics of the news.

The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist in exile who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never came out, is the subject of intense, international media speculation.

Turkish officials are theorising Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, and the Saudis insist that he came and left. And it has produced a level of news coverage seldom afforded Arab dissidents who just disappear.

That’s because Khashoggi was not just a dissident, he was a former insider-turned-critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and he had a platform at his disposal – The Washington Post.

His disappearance not only sends a chilling message to independent Saudi voices everywhere, it takes Mohammed bin Salman’s well-known intolerance for internal criticism, and the House of Saud’s utter ambivalence to the disapproval of outsiders, to a new level.

Rami Khouri – Professor of journalism, American University, Beirut
Omar al-Ghazzi – Assistant professor of media, London School of Economics
Sarah Aziza – Journalist
Ahmad bin Said – Media scholar and columnist

On our radar

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Flo Phillips about the murder of Bulgarian investigative journalist Viktoria Marinova, and the #MeToo movement finally hitting the Indian news and entertainment world.

Native advertising: The new business behind the news business

Of all the industries disrupted and upended by the internet, the news business is right up there on the list. Newsrooms have shrunk. Many papers have simply stopped printing, since ad space is no longer the valued commodity it was.

Responding to this new reality, many of the biggest names in news have started to sell a new kind of service based on their ability to connect with readers.

It’s now available to corporate clients to burnish their image. And it’s the kind of content a reader might see on that site anyway, even mistake for journalism, which is why this expanding industry is known as “native advertising”.

In their defence, news executives stress the separation of church – the editorial staff, and state – the business side. But consumers are understandably confused about content that got its start in business meetings rather than editorial ones.

The Listening Post‘s Will Yong looks at some of the big names in print that have already starting blurring that boundary.

Meredith Kopit Levien – EVP & chief operating officer, The New York Times
Angela Phillips – Professor, Goldsmiths University of London
Ava Sirrah – PhD candidate, Columbia University and former creative strategist for the New York Times’ T-Brand Studio
Janine Jackson – Programme director, FAIR