New York Times Journos Missing in Libya; New York Observer Launches Betabeat Tech Site

It's a sad, scary day in journalism, as it too often is, with the New York Times announcing that four of their own are missing in Libya, where government forces continue to clash with demonstrators. This after last week, when four BBC journalists were detained by Colonel Muammar el Qaddafi's men and were said to have suffered beatings and put through mock executions. More on what is known of the Times journalists' predicament inside Press Clips, our daily media round-up. Plus, why the launch of the New York Observer's tech spin-off site, BetaBeat, makes sense for the paper's young owner Jared Kushner, and other media news tidbits.

Harm's Way: The missing New York Times journalists include photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, along with Beirut beau chief Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell, a reporter and videographer, according to the Times' Lens blog, which features some of their work today. The group was last heard from on Tuesday morning, according to editors.

"We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists," said Times executive editor Bill Keller. "We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed." Two of the four missing men have been kidnapped before in the line of duty. The Media Decoder blog has more information.

Follow the Beat: On Wednesday morning, the New York Observer, reinvigorated under the leadership of founding Gawker editor and woman-about-the-internet Elizabeth Spiers, launched a new standalone website called Betabeat, affixed with the tag line, "The Low-Down on High Tech."

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The spin-off site will "deliver insider information on the latest ventures, startups and investments in Silicon Alley, profiling the personalities who rule the scene, offering social scorecards ranking top players, and analyzing trends and new products with The Observer's house wit and irreverence," according to yesterday's announcement.

The move makes sense for Spiers, who opened her reign with the mission of making the Observer "a website with a newspaper, rather than a newspaper with a website," and founded niche websites in the past about finance, law and fashion.

But it's also logical and convenient for the 30-year-old owner of the Observer Media Group, Jared Kushner. "In January, we started a tech section of Observer.com and within weeks, it became one of the most active sections on the site," he said in the press release. "The NYC tech scene is vibrant and Betabeat will be a great vehicle to cover it in depth."

Kushner is no stranger to the vibrant scene, as his little brother Joshua Kushner is one of the Observer-dubbed "Littlest Angels" making it possible through venture capital. While still at Harvard, Josh co-founded the social gaming start-up Vostul, named one of New York's five hottest by the Observer, and went on to start his own seed fund last year at the age of 25, with advisers like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and former Hot Potato CEO Justin Shaffer. Josh's Thrive Capital invested initially in hot companies like Group.Me and Hot Potato, which was acquired by Facebook, with 12 of Thrive's first 15 fundings based in New York City.

Thrive is just one arm of Kushner Companies, which is also the parent company of Jared's Observer Media, which runs the newspaper and various other publications. Josh and Jared have also both invested in Profounder, which calls itself a company working to "ensure all entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need."

In the past, the Observer has attached a disclosure to articles about Kushner-affiliated start-ups, tech stories that have since been funneled into the new Betabeat site: "Thrive Capital is an affiliate of Kushner Companies, which owns The Observer." When asked about the policy of addressing possible conflicts moving forward, as the Observer focuses more on the tech space, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Spiers told us, "We'd disclose anything relevant the same way we already do with real estate news where Kushner Co. may be involved."

"Even in casual mentions where the investments themselves aren't being discussed, we bring it up," she said.

A new Betabeat article on GroupMe, which Josh Kushner's Thrive Capital invested in, did not initially have such a disclosure, but Spiers said one would be appended.

"Basically if they own it, or a part of it, and we cover it, we note that," she said.

In other Observer news, deputy editor Christopher Stewart, leftover from Spiers' predecessor Kyle Pope, quietly slipped out, and new hires are said to be coming soon.

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Elsewhere...

Also in Spin-Offs: New York magazine's online presence continues to thrive, getting its own new sections websites under the entertainment brand Vulture, including Seat 42F, about theater, Futon Critic, for TV reviews, and Brokelyn, which may or may not be about hipsters. For readers, this changes almost nothing, but advertisers probably love it. (UPDATE: A New York rep says that the additions are not "sections," but "independent sites whom we are going to sell ads for because they're in the Vulture Network.")

Fair and Balanced: The Washington Post has added clearly marked labels of partisanship to its opinion section, with tabs that read "Left-Leaning" and "Right-Leaning." But for real though.

Yahoo News News: Andrew Golis, who led Yahoo's new focus on editorial content (not unlike AOL's) as managing editor of The Upshot section of news blogs, is leaving to become director of digital media and senior editor at PBS's Frontline. Golis will be replaced by his deputy editor Chris Lehmann.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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