Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Dec. 20, 2017

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


You might have heard: On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality rules that prohibited ISPs from blocking websites or charging for certain content (New York Times)

But did you know: Rep. Marsha Blackburn proposed a bill that would allow ‘fast lanes’ and would bar the FCC from regulating ISPs as common carriers (Ars Technica)
Not even a week after the FCC voted to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules, a Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban blocking and throttling, but would allow ISPs to create “fast lanes” and would prohibit the FCC from regulating ISPs as common carriers under Title II. Rep. Marsha Blackburn explained the bill in a video on Twitter on Tuesday. “Unlike the net neutrality rules repealed by Pai’s FCC last week, the bill would not prohibit ISPs from charging websites or online services for prioritization,” Jon Brodkin explains. “Blackburn’s bill would define broadband Internet access as an ‘information service,’ preventing the FCC from ever regulating home and mobile Internet providers as common carriers. This prohibition would prevent the reinstatement of numerous consumer protections besides the net neutrality rules.”

+ Noted: Google Chrome will start blocking ads that do not comply with Coalition for Better Ads guidelines on Feb. 15 (VentureBeat); Financial statements show Mashable was “in deep trouble financially” before it was sold to Ziff Davis (Business Insider) and Ziff Davis’ first meeting with the Mashable staff  “shed light on plans for folding Mashable into its existing e-commerce business at sites like IGN and PCMag” (Splinter); The Intercept is working with The Coral Project to relaunch its commenting platform, using its tools to “help us become more responsive and engaged” (The Intercept); Twitter’s internal emails about un-verifying Milo Yiannopoulos show its own confusion about its own harassment and verification rules (BuzzFeed News); New York Times investor Carlos Slim is planning to sell more than half of his 17 percent stake in the company (Bloomberg); Sinclair Broadcasting and its mobile partner Circa are being sued for sexual harassment and sex discrimination by three of the company’s former employees (BuzzFeed News); Potential buyers for Rolling Stone include Penske Media, BandLab founder Kuok Meng Ru, and the owners of The Hollywood Reporter and Playboy (Vanity Fair)


We’re working with news orgs on journalism’s biggest challenges in 2018 — you can get involved
In 2017 API has helped news organizations reinvent beat structures, focus content strategies using better analytics, transform their workplace cultures, learn new skills, generate more revenue from readers, and excel at the best journalism that holds powerful officials accountable. We’re looking to reach even more news organizations as we head in 2018, so we wanted to take a moment to highlight four of the major challenges we’re helping publishers confront, and how you can get involved.

+ 4 new topics launch on Better News: Better News, a resource for news and media innovators from API, just added resources and best practices on four new subjects: data journalism, loyalty and community, subscriptions and membership, and native advertising.


The stories of 2017 that engaged readers the most (Chartbeat)
Chartbeat has ranked the 100 most engaging stories of 2017, across topics from culture to sports to science and tech to politics. The year’s most engaging story was The Atlantic’s “My Family’s Slave,” which Chartbeat says readers spent a total of 57.9 million minutes (or the equivalent of 110 years) with. Some topical trends Chartbeat identified: Readers were interested in “deeper perspectives on the new political environment” in coverage of Trump’s first year as president, “the environment is ripe for a more transparent discussion on the elusive but important topic of mental health,” and personal profiles of attackers got the most attention in the wake of this year’s terrorist attacks.

+ “Only 7 percent of monthly unique visitors drive 50 percent of traffic on average,” data from Piano shows (Piano)


A merger of New Zealand’s two largest print media companies is blocked by a judge who says it would threaten the country’s democracy (The Guardian)
A high court in New Zealand has rejected a merger of the country’s two largest print media companies, with the judge saying the merger would have concentrated media ownership to an “unprecedented level” and threatened the county’s democracy. NZME, which owns the New Zealand Herald along with a number of local newspapers and radio stations, and Fairfax Media, which owns the county’s most popular news website Stuff and three metropolitan papers, were seeking a merger that would have had the combined company reaching 3.7 million New Zealanders and controlling 90 percent of the country’s print media market.

+ A profile of the two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar and accused of breaching the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act: Reuters says that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been held without contact with their families or lawyers (Reuters)


‘The Anxiety of Waiting to Be Laid Off (The Cut)
“Layoff season … comes to companies toward the end of the year the way Santa comes to your house on Christmas when you’re a kid: swiftly, silently, and clockwork-dependably, except that one leaves you presents and the other threatens to abscond with your health insurance,” Ashley Fetters writes. “Invariably, layoff season brings its own particular type of extended anxiety: the kind that comes from knowing that one day in the near future, you might get called into a conference room, subjected to a corporate version of the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech by an HR representative you’ve never seen before, and informed you have a few hours before your key card stops working and a few weeks or months before you stop getting an income — or, you might not. And you just have to keep showing up for work, positive attitude and team-player mind-set intact, until the day of reckoning arrives. Someone somewhere knows whether your job is safe, but you don’t.”


Will robots automate journalism jobs? In many ways, they already have (Poynter)
2017 has been full of fears that robots are coming to replace our jobs, from PricewaterhouseCoopers estimating that one-third of U.S. jobs could be at risk by 2030 to McKinsey & Co. predicting “half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.” Should we be afraid that robots will replace our journalism jobs? Quartz’s Sarah Kessler argues that in many ways, they already have — and there are parts of journalism that should be automated, such as transcribing interviews. “Putting together a story based on information from sources rather than data isn’t something that programs for automating news writing currently do well,” Kessler says on the parts of our jobs that can’t be automated.

+ Earlier this year, Kessler set out to determine which parts of her job could be replaced by robots or automated, finding that “robots aren’t as scary as we think” (Quartz)


How an anonymous Maine ‘news’ site may have tipped a major election in the state (Bangor Daily News)
In Lewiston, Maine, progressive activist Ben Chin lost the mayoral election to Republican Shane Bouchard after the final days of the election were swayed by stories from an anonymous website with the help of Maine’s Republican party. “Chin may be the first Maine politician derailed by a new phenomenon: anonymous conservative ‘news’ websites whose most effective pieces blend a kernel of truth from opposition research with large factual and rhetorical leaps traditional media ethics would prohibit,” Michael Shepherd reports. While the “news” sites look legitimate, it’s not clear to readers who’s financing the site or writing the posts.

+ The best reporter reactions of 2017, from April Ryan’s reaction to Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying Trump’s tweet about Kirsten Gillibrand is only suggestive “if your mind is in the gutter” to Anderson Cooper rolling his eyes at Kellyanne Conway (The Cut)

Today is our last newsletter of 2017; we’ll be back on Jan. 2.

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