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Need to Know: Jan. 30, 2018

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


You might have heard: Facebook announced earlier this month that it would decrease the amount of news in its news feed, emphasizing posts from friends and family (New York Times), while prioritizing posts from “trusted” publishers (Ad Age)

But did you know: Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will prioritize local news in its news feed as part of its changes to show people more ‘trusted’ content (Axios)
On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will make a series of updates to show its users more “high quality, trusted content” — including showing them more local news. “Research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement,” Zuckerberg wrote in the announcement. “People who know what’s happening around them are more likely to get involved and help make a difference.” Facebook says it’s identifying “local” publishers as those whose links are clicked on by readers in a specific geographic area. “This feels like the missing piece — or one missing piece that’s crucial, anyway — in Facebook’s previous algorithm announcements that caused so much anxiety among local publishers,” LION Publishers executive director Matt DiRienzo said in response to the announcement.

+ Related: Facebook launched a test of its new local news section, called “Today In,” in five cities on Monday: Olympia, Wash.; New Orleans, La.; Binghamton, N.Y.; Little Rock, Ark.; Billings, Mont.; and Peoria, Ill. (GeekWire)

+ Today in sexual harassment: Newsweek Media’s chief content officer Dayan Candappa was fired from Reuters in 2016 after he was accused of sexual harassment, but was still hired by Newsweek Media months later, despite warnings about his past (BuzzFeed News); Newsweek Media said Monday that Candappa is taking a leave of absence from the company (Newsweek); Glenn Thrush is returning to the NYT newsroom this week, covering HUD, HHS and the social safety net under the Trump administration, after he was suspended for allegations that he’d acted inappropriately toward female colleagues (Washington Post); A National Geographic photographer was investigated for sexual misconduct and quietly left the company, but women at the magazine are starting to speak out (Vox); Tronc names Jim Rich editor in chief of the New York Daily News after two of the paper’s top editors were suspended amid sexual harassment investigations (Wall Street Journal)

+ Noted: The Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia files for bankruptcy, and is expected to be purchased by Wheeling Newspapers (Charleston Gazette-Mail); Chicago Sun-Times says it will not publish columns or reviews by Richard Roeper as it investigates claims that he bought followers on Twitter (Chicago Sun-Times)


‘Focused listening’ can help address journalism’s trust problem — here are four examples
Focused listening is a practice in which newsrooms make efforts to listen to their underserved or disengaged audiences. We asked four journalists in communities across the country to share how they’ve used focused listening approaches to deepen their ties with communities they want to better serve: David Plazas shares how the The Tennessean held meetings with alienated audiences, Chris Faraone from the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism explains its pop-up newsrooms, Brittany Schock from Richland Source describes the “Listening Post,” and Alabama Media Group’s Connor Sheets explains its community “deputy” program.

+ President Trump’s first State of the Union address is Tuesday night. Here’s how to prepare for fact-checking and coverage


The first month of Apple podcast analytics shows listeners are typically listening to 80 to 90 percent of podcasts (Wired)
Podcast listeners may be turning out to be “the holy grail advertisers hoped they’d be,” Miranda Katz writes. A month after Apple’s podcast analytics were made available in beta, podcasters are seeing early signs that their audiences “really are the hyper-engaged, super-supportive audiences that everyone hoped.” Katz reports that many podcasters are seeing completion rates of 80 to 90 percent, with relatively few people skipping over ads. “What we’re not seeing is any glaring indication that all podcasts should be, say, 15 minutes and 30 secs long, and that’s the optimal length,” says Panoply’s CTO Jason Cox. Expect more experimentation from podcasters now, given that they’ll be able to better evaluate how listeners respond to releasing an entire series at once or switching formats.


A PwC review of pay at the BBC finds no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making, but makes recommendations (BBC)
Today, the BBC is publishing the results of a PricewaterhouseCoopers review of its pay practices. That review found no evidence of gender bias in the BBC’s pay decision making, but it did identify a few “anomalies that need addressing.” Those issues include too many pay decisions being made at a local level without a clear pay framework, a lack of clarity and openness about the basis behind pay decisions, and a slower rate of pay progression in the last decade for both men and women. PwC’s report makes a few recommendations for the BBC: More transparency around pay decisions, narrower pay ranges, a clearer pay framework, and simpler contracts.

+ BBC Women, a group representing female employees of the BBC, say they received “veiled threats” while trying to raise the issue of equal pay (BBC)

+ Earlier: The BBC announced last week that four male hosts agreed to take pay cuts after China editor Carrie Gracie left the company over the BBC’s pay gap (NPR)


Don’t take on new technologies one at a time: For the greatest impact, combine innovation projects to transform your company as a whole (McKinsey & Company)
Last spring, McKinsey published a report on what it called the “next-generation operating model,” a way of approaching digital transformation that prioritizes customer journeys and using multiple technologies together in a strategic way to achieve the best results. In McKinsey’s most recent podcast, the authors of that report explain how this model transforms customer experiences and benefits companies’ internal operations, too. Alex Singla, one of the report’s authors, explains that by taking on new technologies one at a time, companies are siloing innovation and even holding these new projects back from having the greatest impact: “The next-generation operating model combines a bunch of technologies and operational levers in a tailored sequence and integrated way to get stacked wins for companies in terms of customer experience, significant reduction in cost, and better positioning for growth.”


To tell the stories of sexual assault victims, newsrooms need to revisit their anonymity policies (Poynter)
“For too long, we’ve failed as journalists to listen to victims of sexual assault and let them tell their stories. This moment presents an opportunity to change our approach,” Kelly McBride writes in the wake of the Larry Nassar case. McBride argues that means revisiting anonymity policies: “Rather than starting with a policy that tells us what to avoid, what if our policies encouraged us to tell the story of sexual assault more completely, so that the public might understand how it happens and how to prevent it? Today’s policies presume that our journalistic motive for telling a sexual assault story is rooted in our urge to improve public safety. But sexual assault isn’t really a public safety problem; it’s a public health problem.”

+ The journalistic practice of getting a response from the accused gives those accused of sexual harassment and assault a chance to control the narrative: “Harassers often are able to create the narrative right off the bat,” says lawyer Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Gretchen Carlson in her 2016 suit against Roger Ailes. “How many victims have their own PR teams at the ready?” (Washington Post)


What’s lost when alt-weeklies shut down: Communities lose local ombuds, diverse writers lose career entry spots, and strong voices lose a platform (CJR)
As a number of alt-weeklies have shut down in recent months, Philip Eil writes that much of what is lost when these publications shut down is their voices. “They’re an extra set of eyes on legislators, local officials, and law enforcement. They’re often the ombudsman for the local media, monitoring daily newspapers and airwaves the same way government environmental agencies track water and air quality,” Eil writes. These outlets are often an entry point for aspiring journalists, and serve as a platform for strong voices who aren’t heard elsewhere. “In a moment when The New York Times has a special section called ‘Wealth’ … alt-weeklies remain the official papers of the vulnerable, invisible, and underserved,” Eil writes.

+ Two years ago, local owners bought the Berkshire Eagle in Massachusetts back from Digital First Media: Now, they’re focused on putting out “better, local-focused news, and more of it,” with the idea that it can rebuild its standing in the community and subscribers will return (Nieman Lab)

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