Disney Warned Fusion Not To Do News Coverage That Might Embarrass It Or Others In Hollywood

The NY Times has an interesting profile of “Fusion” — the briefly high-profile project that was a combined offspring of Disney and Univision. Fusion got some attention last year for scooping up a bunch of high-profile journalists (including a few that I really like) to power its rush into the “we’ll cater to the millennials!” market. The article suggests things aren’t actually going that well, but that’s not that interesting to me. Instead, what caught my attention was a brief aside about how Disney keeps stepping in to tell Fusion to shut up about stuff that Disney and its friends in Hollywood don’t like — such as coverage of the leaked Sony emails:

For instance, according to two senior Fusion staff members, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Disney put the organization on notice that it would not take kindly to coverage that might dent its standing with consumers. The warning came after Fusion published several stories based on documents that hackers stole from Sony.

Fusion is not alone: In negotiations to create a Vice cable channel, Disney and Hearst insisted on a clause protecting the companies in the event that Vice content “embarrasses Hearst or Disney in any way,” according to people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.

Hmmm. If true, I’d hope that some of the journalists who joined Fusion would consider standing up and speaking out about that kind of bullshit corporate interference with the journalism side of things. Every time a big company owns a journalism outlet, we always hear that they promise not to interfere, but everyone knows the reality is different. But for the actual journalists, this kind of thing requires standing up and telling the corporate parents to shove off.

And it is true that Fusion was one of the leading online sources publishing stories based on the hacked Sony emails, with a whole bunch of stories by both Kevin Roose and Kashmir Hill — two of Fusion’s high-profile hires. It doesn’t appear that either have written about the Sony hacks since back in December — even though there have been a bunch of stories that have come out of the leaks since then.

Remember when CBS stepped in and blocked CNET, a publication that it owned, from giving an award to DISH, because CBS was involved in a legal dispute with DISH? At least one CNET reporter ended up resigning over that kind of interference. If the reports about Disney interfering with Fusion’s coverage of things like the Sony hack emails is true, one would hope that Fusion’s high-profile journalists would do the same.

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