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Need to Know: Dec. 1, 2017

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism


You might have heard: After Meredith’s deal to buy Time Inc. was announced (New York Times), some speculated that Meredith would begin selling off many of Time Inc.’s titles once the deal closes in 2018 (New York Post)

But did you know: Time Inc. has sold Sunset magazine, and sales of Essence, Golf and Time Inc. U.K. are pending (New York Times)
On Thursday, Time Inc. announced it is selling Sunset magazine to Regent, a private equity firm based in Beverly Hills, Calif. This deal was already in the works before Meredith said it would buy Time Inc., Kim Severson reports — and there’s several other deals still being brokered. Time Inc. says that it’s in the process of securing the sale of Essence, Golf and Time Inc. U.K. Once Meredith’s deal with Time Inc. is complete, the company will control nearly two dozen food-related titles, from Food & Wine and Martha Stewart Living to regional publications such as Southern Living and newer digital efforts like Extra Crispy.

+ Noted: “NBC’s shifting statements on Lauer draw scrutiny” (Politico) and Matt Lauer apologizes for his behavior, saying there’s “enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed” (CNN Money); Vice Media fires three employees amid investigations into allegations of sexual harassment (CNN Money); Vox Media is eliminating the open bar from its holiday party given concerns about sexual harassment at the company (Huffington Post); Sinclair Broadcasting is expected to accept the Department of Justice’s request to sell 13 of Tribune Media’s stations to allow the $6.6 billion buyout of Tribune Media (New York Post); Facebook is giving some news publishers a “breaking” label for news stories (Recode); L.A. Weekly publishes a story questioning its new ownership, saying that “the new owners of L.A. Weekly don’t want you to know who they are” (L.A. Weekly); A judge rules that Peter Thiel cannot stop a legal investigation into his role in Gawker’s demise, but says Thiel can still bid on Gawker’s remaining assets — which include the right to pursue lawsuits against Thiel (Bloomberg)


The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes the difference between “media reliance” and trust, what fake data has to do with fake news, and how Italy is preparing for misinformation in its election season.


What does it mean to ‘pivot to readers’? Giving up the ghosts of scale and having readers pay for journalism (David Skok, Medium)
“If news organizations want to regroup, mobilize, and capitalize, its leaders, myself included, need to re-educate investors about how we will achieve meaningful returns by ‘pivoting to readers’ …  instead of chasing the ghosts of scale,” David Skok writes. “By having readers pay for their journalism, and by using the corresponding readership data, publishers will have to listen to what their readers really want. Instead of catering to advertisers and the scale they demand, news organizations can focus on accountability metrics like loyalty, retention, and churn that closely resemble SaaS businesses instead of having a singular focus on CPM-driven ad businesses.”

+ “Unlearn thinking of ‘everyone’ as the audience. Our audiences are much more specific, and there are many of them” (Poynter); “Online advertising is looking more and more like a contest that publishers can’t win — not on a large scale, at least. Advertising can help to cover some of their costs, but online ads alone won’t pay for big, serious, high-quality journalistic enterprises the way that print ads once did,” Will Oremus argues (Slate)


A group of women in the UK are working to provide support and resources for women who experience harassment at work (
A group of women working in media organizations in the U.K. from broadcast to newspapers to magazines launched a group called the Second Source. Their goal is to provide support, resources and networking opportunities for women working in media who experience harassment. “[The Second Source] is really about looking for more of a cultural, long-term change, a sustainable shift in the way that women in the media are treated,” explains Kirstie Brewer, commissioning editor at The Guardian and co-founder of the group. “The media industry is a very male-dominated workplace and the ‘all-boys network’ still exists, so we’d also like to create an alternative positive space for women to network and be linked up with commissioning editors and female peers that can help each other in that respect.”

+ Jim Rutenberg argues that the system of network news stars has failed as more and more harassment allegations come to light: “The stature of the men behind the desk was such that they ended up holding a high level of power within their organizations to go with their lavish pay. And, per the accusations against them, they used it on underlings who … did not feel as if they were able to say no or report mistreatment to higher-ups” (New York Times)


How to overcome office politics in your next innovation project (Harvard Business Review)
Most innovation projects inherently come with a set of politics, Brian Uzzi writes: People can be resistant to change, some ideas win out over others, and resources may be diverted from one project to another. Uzzi outlines four steps for managing those politics in your next innovation project: Anticipate resistance to your idea, be transparent about the motives behind the project, find the right person to champion the project, and make sure you not only have proof that the project is successful but “a critical mass of people who believe in the innovation sufficiently to give it a try.”


What Project Veritas tells us about undercover work in journalism: ‘You can never trust an organization whose first choice is to lie’ (Politico Magazine)
Project Veritas went to some extreme lengths in its attempted sting of The Washington Post — but Jack Shafer writes that kind of undercover work isn’t unprecedented in journalism, and raises some important questions about whether it’s ever OK for journalists to lie. “The profession has yet to chisel the accepted rules of undercover reporting into stone, but a consensus has formed in recent decades that basically prohibits the direct telling of lies to get a story,” Shafer writes. “Whatever the Washington Post’s faults and biases — and they exist — the levels of dishonesty and cheating used by Project Veritas may have contaminated the group beyond salvage. In general, you can almost never trust a liar. In specific, you can never trust an organization whose first choice is to lie.”

+ Without Trump’s presidency, The Washington Post’s reveal of Project Veritas’ attempts to discredit its journalism likely would not have happened, Francis Wilkinson writes: “[The Post] took journalism down from its pedestal this week and used it as a sword against character assassins who had set out to murder it. It was a modest, necessary measure of self-defense” (Bloomberg View)


Why don’t people trust news? A new report from the Reuters Institute lets them explain in their own words (Nieman Lab)
A new report from the Reuters Institute finds that two-thirds of people cited concerns about bias, spin and hidden agendas as a reason they don’t trust the news they read. And, that concern is even more acute among people on the right politically: Some responses from survey respondents in the report include “Liberal media is full of bullshit and lies,” “Fox News keeps it fair; CNN tells us left-wing lies,” and “They are so far to the left, they might fall off.”

+ Walmart removed a T-shirt that read “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” after RTDNA sent a letter to the company’s executives (RTDNA); Last year, the editor of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate made his own response to the T-shirt: “First Amendment. Journalist. Your support required.” (Poynter)


+ Meet the man who deactivated Trump’s Twitter account: Bahtiyar Duysak was working for Twitter as a contractor for the last part of his stay in the U.S. under a work visa and says deleting Trump’s Twitter was a “mistake” (TechCrunch); Twitter didn’t delete Trump’s retweets of three graphic, anti-Muslim videos because the company says there is “the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behavior which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability” (CNN Money)

+ Journalists who have reported on extremism offer their advice on how to do it well: “When you’re reporting on this kind of extremism, the best thing we can do as journalists is take whatever person we’re talking about and figure out where they figure into this exact moment we’re living in,” BuzzFeed News’ Charlie Warzel says (CJR)

+ A profile of Reade Brower, who owns 18 weeklies and four of Maine’s seven daily newspapers: “My job is to create a sustainable business model that keeps people who want to be working in this industry working. And to have enough money coming in to pay the bills and make a profit so it’s a viable business. I don’t feel this surging power. All of the papers continue to operate autonomously,” he says (New York Times)

+ Facebook purged clickbait from its feeds — but Bored Panda survived: “With its simple, wholesome tales of ornery animals and feel-good photo projects, Bored Panda has flourished by sidestepping the outrage. NewsWhip attributes Bored Panda’s success to its light-hearted focus,” Erin Griffith writes on Bored Panda’s staying power (Wired)

+ “Will a future generation look back in 10, 20, or maybe 100 years from now and wonder, mystifyingly, why a generation of humans believed in these [social] platforms despite mounting evidence that they were tearing society apart — being used as terrorist recruitment tools, facilitating bullying, driving up anxiety, and undermining our elections — despite the obvious benefits and facilitations they provide?” (Vanity Fair)

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