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Need to Know: Feb. 27, 2018

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: “Critics frequently charge that the Times is preoccupied with giving a voice to Trump supporters or even just saying something nice about the president, and the paper has openly struggled with how to cover racists. … And then there’s the steady moan about the Times opinion section — not just stalwarts like [David] Brooks and Ross Douthat, but Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, both of whom joined the paper last year from The Wall Street Journal.” (The New Republic)

But did you know: ‘The newsroom feels embarrassed’: As The New York Times tries to reinvent its Opinion section, it’s facing backlash from the newsroom (Vanity Fair)
“We’re recruiting different types of writers than we have traditionally, and I’ll make some mistakes. It’s just gonna happen,” NYT editorial page editor James Bennet says. Most recently, NYT announced the hiring of Quinn Norton as an Opinion writer — and just hours later Norton’s tweets about a friendship with a neo-Nazi were exposed, and Bennet said Norton and NYT “decided to go our separate ways.” The quick hiring-and-firing of Norton played into “a sense of crisis” at NYT, Joe Pompeo writes, supported by controversy around hiring Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss. “After the Norton fallout, some Times journalists went from skeptical consternation regarding Opinion’s latest iteration, to outright concern that some of Bennet’s decisions were damaging the paper’s credibility,” Pompeo writes. Publisher A.G. Sulzberger defends the section: “We publish dozens and dozens of op-eds a week. Look at them as a whole and you’ll see the breadth of voices there. Sure, Erik Prince wrote in our pages. You know who else has written in our pages? Bernie Sanders, and not just once.”

+ Noted: Broward County’s Sun Sentinel editor Howard Saltz is out, with few details given for his departure: Saltz had a reputation for “censoring controversial stories,” the Miami New Times reports (Miami New Times); NYT is working with The Times-Picayune to cover coastal erosion and sea-level rise in Southern Louisiana (New York Times); Meredith sells Time Inc. UK to Epris for about $182 million (Guardian); Nonprofit news organization Carolina Public Press, currently covering 17 counties in western North Carolina, will expand to cover the entire state (Carolina Public Press); Three sportswriters are launching a subscription-based D.C. sports site (Washington Post)

API UPDATE

Paths to Subscription: Why recent subscribers chose to pay for news
The move toward subscriptions will require measuring audiences differently, with analytics that measure deep engagement and not just page views — and publishers will need to segment their audiences by their willingness to pay, and more closely align their business and editorial sides. To help understand this new landscape, the Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, has conducted a series of studies over the last 18 months to understand what moves readers to subscribe. As a result of that research, we identified nine “paths to subscriptions,” based on the motives and conditions that together lead a person to subscribe.

TRY THIS AT HOME

Could news organizations make ‘stories’ in the style of Snapchat or Instagram — without putting them on a platform? (Nieman Lab)
Stories on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat feel like an ideal experience for your phone: They’re more personal than a post, they can quickly include more info, and you can have a more direct connection with your audience. But there are some downsides: They’re only available for 24 hours, and they’re only accessible by users of the app, for example. Could news organizations adapt the story format off platforms? Some publishers have been experimenting with exactly that: Using a framework from Google for AMP pages, publishers from The Washington Post to Vox Media to Wired to CNN have experimented with using the format in their stories.

OFFSHORE

A Slovakian journalist who was investigating claims of tax fraud linked to the ruling party is found shot dead (The Guardian)
Reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová were found shot dead on Sunday evening in Vel’ka Mača, a town east of the capital. Working for the news site Aktuality.sk, Kuciak was investigating claims of tax fraud linked to the Slovakian government’s ruling party. Slovakia’s most senior police officer Tibor Gašpar says the killings “likely have something to do with [Kuciak’s] investigative activities.” And Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico says if the attack is found to be linked to Kuciak’s work, it would mean “an unprecedented attack on freedom of the press and democracy in Slovakia.”

OFFBEAT

Reddit is cracking down on posts that attack Florida shooting survivor David Hogg (The Outline)
Reddit’s staff is working with subreddit moderators to monitor conversations about Florida shooting survivor David Hogg, who has been falsely accused of being a paid crisis actor. Some subreddits such as /r/conspiracy have served as “hotbeds for disinformation and malicious conspiracies regarding the survivors of the massacre.” Moderators of the /r/conspiracy subreddit say they’ve been in conversation with Reddit’s Trust & Safety Team about curbing harassment of Hogg, and were initially told “that any and all users attempting to link David Hogg to a Reddit account would be in violation of Reddit’s private information policy.”

+ Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen continues to have a presence on YouTube, despite the fact it was implicated in five murders from May 2017 to January 2018: YouTube “says a warning label is sufficient” (Daily Beast)

UP FOR DEBATE

‘In quest to protect image, NPR tarnished it’ (CJR)
“For anyone who has worked in a news organization hit with harassment allegations, NPR’s story is familiar: a litany of whispers, dilatory half-steps, and, ultimately, a corrective enforced only when the evidence became public and the pressure to act became overwhelming,” Bill Grueskin writes. In trying to quietly deal with the situation before it was reported to to the public, NPR tried to protect its reputation — but ultimately ended up harming it. Grueskin argues: “News organizations that pride themselves on holding the powerful to account need to apply those standards of scrutiny to their own hierarchies. [Michael] Oreskes’s bosses had multiple opportunities to learn about and correct for his misconduct. NPR sullied its reputation in its very attempts to protect it.”

SHAREABLE

Can an alt-weekly newspaper survive in 2018? (Recode)
On this week’s Recode Decode podcast, Kara Swisher talks to Washington City Paper owner Mark Ein about the reality for alt-weeklies in 2018. Ein, who bought Washington City Paper late last year, believes local media can still survive — with local ownership. “Any local community needs strong local journalism, and I think local ownership is helpful,” Ein says. “Having someone who really cares about the community makes a real difference. I’d say my conviction for it only grew in the last five years. That’s why when it came back [up for sale] in the fall, I jumped at it.”

+ A history of mass shootings, through newspaper front pages (Tampa Bay Times)

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