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Need to Know: Dec. 14, 2017

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


You might have heard: In 2016, Facebook signed nearly 140 contracts totaling $50 million with publishers and celebrities to produce videos for Facebook Live, “a way to encourage publishers to produce a steady stream of high-quality videos until Facebook figures out a more concrete plan to compensate creators” (Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: Facebook is planning to stop paying publishers to create videos for its news feed (Digiday)
Digiday’s Sahil Patel reports that multiple publishers say Facebook has told them it plans to end the program that paid publishers to produce videos for the news feed each month. Most of the deals, which required publishers to produce a minimum number of both on-demand and live video minutes each month, are set to expire at the end of this year. “The sources said Facebook has told them it’s ending this program and won’t be renewing the deals, which by one estimate encompassed some 300 publishers, celebrities and other video creators,” Patel reports. “Now, Facebook’s efforts are entirely focused on funding shows for Watch, for which it’s already telling content partners that it wants to fund less shows but with bigger budgets.

+ Noted: Jonah Peretti says BuzzFeed expects its platform revenue to grow significantly in 2018, but needs to continue to build out a “multi-revenue model to compliment our advertising business” (BuzzFeed); NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman urges a postponement of the FCC’s vote on net neutrality because the public comment process was corrupted with as many as 2 million comments made under stolen identities (New York State Office of Attorney General); Business Insider is changing its name to Insider as it broadens its coverage and distribution (Wall Street Journal); Axel Springer joins the News Media Alliance, the first publisher from outside the United States to join (Poynter); LA Weekly suspends its interim editor over his “homophobic, misogynistic, and racist tweets”: Hillel Aron was the only staff writer to be retained when Semanal Media purchased the alt weekly (Spin); The Volokh Conspiracy blog moves from The Washington Post to Reason, citing the Post’s paywall and editorial independence as the reasons for the move (Reason)


4 applications of automated transcription in the newsroom (BBC News Lab)
Newsrooms have a lot of reasons to be excited about automated transcription, BBC News Labs’ senior software engineer Alex Norton writes: “Speech-to-text technology, which uses machine learning to produce transcripts of audio, has the potential to save journalists the time they spend manually typing up their interviews and news organizations the money they pay third-party companies to do the same work.” Norton highlights some examples of how automated transcription can be used in the newsroom: Transcripts make the contents of audio/visual files easily searchable, auto transcription can speed up video captioning and subtitling, and it can cut down video editing time by allowing editors to work directly from a transcript as opposed to timecodes.


2 Reuters reporters who were working on stories about a military crackdown on the Muslim minority in Myanmar were arrested (Reuters)
Myanmar’s government said on Wednesday that two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were arrested along with two policemen and were facing charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act. Reuters says the journalists were working on stories about a military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rahkine State, which has led to almost 650,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh. The government says the reporters “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media.” Reuters’ president and editor in chief Stephen J. Adler said: “We are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom. We call for authorities to release them immediately.”

+ The U.S. Embassy’s statement on the reporters’ arrest: “We are deeply concerned by the highly irregular arrests of two Reuters reporters after they were invited to meet with police officials in Yangon last night.  For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely.  We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists.” (U.S. Embassy in Burma)


Transforming the hiring process: ‘Just banish the cover letter’ (Poynter)
When KPCC started hiring its managing editor, Southern California Public Radio’s chief content officer Kristen Muller set out to totally transform its hiring process. The first step? Getting rid of the cover letter. Taking a cue from Hearken’s hiring process, KPCC is instead asking a few specific questions about the organization and the job itself. Besides creating more work for the person who has to read them, cover letters can cause a person who has the skills for the job, but not necessarily the skills for writing a cover letter, to get overlooked.


‘Roy Moore thought attacking the press could save his campaign. Voters opted for the truth.’ (Washington Post)
Roy Moore’s “relentless disparagement [of the news media] was as ugly as it was anti-democratic,” Margaret Sullivan writes. “But this is an encouraging moment nonetheless. Because what amounted to a test case for relying on the ‘fake news’ technique failed in Alabama. That might mean candidates running for office all over the nation will be a bit less likely to consult the Trump playbook for their own campaigns. You can be sure that if it had prevailed, the technique would have spread to every state legislature race and sheriff’s campaign in the country.”

+ Erik Wemple argues that Moore’s loss also shows the risk of politicians relying on the support of just one media outlet: “When all you have is Breitbart, you have trouble,” Wemple warns Republican candidates (Washington Post)

+ Vox Media’s Lindsey Nelson argues that scale still matters, when done in the right way: “What doesn’t exist at a lot of places is quality at scale. Of course, an advertiser wants scale and to work with fewer partners. It’s about doing it in a way that they can get customization that they often want or the ability to work with one brand but extend it [to other relevant audiences] across the brand. Every media company has pressure to scale. For a lot of companies, it meant you had to cover a lot of things with inevitably less and less authority. When you do that without a strong brand identity, you are known for nothing. Your business doesn’t fit anywhere.” (Digiday)


2017 has been a turning point for the tech industry, forcing the platforms to think about their responsibility in the outside world (New York Times)
“Five or 10 years from now, we will come to regard 2017 as a turning point,” Farhad Manjoo argues. “This year, for the first time, tech giants began to grudgingly accept that they have some responsibility to the offline world. The scope of that responsibility, though, is another matter entirely.” Facebook has had to reckon with its role in the 2016 election, YouTube has had to remove thousands of disturbing kids’ videos, and Uber has had to acknowledge its culture of harassment and misogyny. “If the big shift of 2017 is that tech companies now accept some responsibility for how their platforms impact the world, the big mystery of 2018 and beyond is what, exactly, that responsibility will look like,” Manjoo says.

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