A smart doorbell company owned by Amazon is looking for a new managing editor to oversee a team of journalists breaking crime news for an app tailor-made to stoke fear in its users and loop in the cops.
The company, Ring—which Amazon acquired for $1 billion last year—wants to hire a Managing Editor, News, according to a job posting on Amazon. This individual “will work on an exciting new opportunity within Ring to manage a team of news editors who deliver breaking crime news alerts to our neighbors,” the job posting states. “This position is best suited for a candidate with experience and passion for journalism, crime reporting, and people management. Having a knack for engaging storytelling that packs a punch and a strong nose for useful content are core skills that are essential to the success of this role. The candidate should be eager to join a dynamic, new media news team that is rapidly evolving and growing week by week.”
According to the job posting, Ring is looking for someone who has several years of experience breaking news, crime reporting, and working on an editorial team, with a “deep and nuanced knowledge of American crime trends,” among other qualifications. The job details indicate that this role would likely run out of Southern California. Ring is headquartered in Santa Monica.
Despite what it sounds like, a Ring spokesperson downplayed the managing editor role in an email to Gizmodo as simply “a backfill position for a team and an initiative that’s been live for a long time.”
The crime news team—which Ring’s director of communications, Yassi Shahmiri, told us is “not a crime news team”—simply creates “crime and safety” alerts for users of Ring’s Neighbors app. The app allows users to post things like videos from their Ring doorbell cameras and view posts by other users in their homes’ vicinities, as well as posts by Ring’s editors. And in a vacuum, having editors posting accurate information seems like a good idea!
It’s also worth pointing out that the Neighbors app is part of Ring’s partnership with police departments across the U.S. Cops can use the app to make posts or comments and view posts published to the app from within their jurisdiction, according to Ring. The company describes the app and its users as “the new neighborhood watch.”
What’s disturbing about this smart doorbell company’s team of editors is that Ring’s mission—“to reduce crime in neighborhoods and empower consumers by creating a Ring of Security around homes and communities with its suite of smart home security products”—is directly fulfilled by stoking public fear around local misconduct. If people are increasingly wary of their neighborhood, they’re more likely to purchase a product purported to help keep them safe.
As Nieman Lab, which first reported on the editor job posting, points out, most Americans have a warped view of crime; despite the fact that crime rates continue to fall across the U.S., survey after survey has found that the majority of respondents believe crime is getting worse.
“These mistaken beliefs are driven largely by the editorial decisions of local media — especially local TV news, which are just as bloody today as they were when murder rates were twice as high,” Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton writes. “There’s a term for it: mean world syndrome, the phenomenon where media consumption makes people see the world as more violent and dangerous than it really is.”
It doesn’t take a lot of mental gymnastics to see how a company that both owns a newsroom churning out “crime and safety” reports and partners with local law enforcement might have a conflict of interest, at best. At worst, it’s creating a fine-tuned machine to chill people into not only buying their surveillance machines, but acting as watchdogs and sending that data right back to headquarters.