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Need to Know: Jan. 8, 2018

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


You might have heard: Research from API shows 53 percent of adults pay for news, and 26 percent of people who use a source for free might begin to pay for it

But did you know: People want to pay for experiences that meet their needs, Gannett’s CMO says (MediaPost)
Gannett’s CMO Andy Yost says there’s “an appetite” for people to pay for experiences that meet their needs, something that Gannett will be focusing on in 2018. “We need to really lead with why our brand has what you need from a benefits perspective,” Yost says. “That’s a way to help us more effectively convert our audience to a paid subscriber.” Notably, that means different things for different readers: One might want an ad-free experience, while another may be looking for a premium product around sports. Yost also explains why Gannett is expanding its membership programs as part of this strategy: “Subscription’ sounds transactional, ‘membership’ sounds like a two-way relationship that gives you access to things you can’t get elsewhere.”

+ Noted: Brian Ross returns to work at ABC News, where he’ll work on “long-term projects” such as documentaries, after being suspended over a major error in a breaking news report (CNN Media); New research from Pew suggests that fewer Americans are watching local TV news: “Just 50% of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57% a year prior in early 2016,” with local news seeing a greater decline than network or cable news (Pew Research Center); The Offshore Journalism Project helps newsrooms send a “distress signal” when their content is in risk of being lost forever, signaling to other third parties the need to save their content elsewhere (Nieman Lab); “Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions,” Twitter says in a statement (Twitter)


What one reporter learned from sending out 1,018 open record requests: Be diligent about follow-ups, be nice to FOIA officers, and find out what other people are asking for (ProPublica Illinois)
As ProPublica Illinois’ data reporter, Sandhya Kambhampati sent out more than a thousand open records requests in her first six months on the job. Here’s her tips on getting the information you need: Know the law and be diligent about follow-ups, prepare for many records to still be kept on paper, be nice to FOIA officers, and submit FOIA requests for other FOIA requests to find out what people are asking for.

+ Steps for bringing “ethical clarity” to native advertising: Establish in-house rules for the ethics of how content is produced, be transparent about staffing, set boundaries for editorial independence, and clarify the labeling (Nieman Reports)


One of the BBC’s top journalists quit over the organization’s pay gap and ‘secretive and illegal pay culture’ (BuzzFeed News)
Carrie Gracie has resigned as the BBC’s China editor, saying that a “crisis” over the gender pay gap at the BBC led to her resignation. In a letter to BBC viewers, Gracie said the BBC is “breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure.” Gracie says that “a secretive and illegal BBC pay culture” exists, and she was paid 33 percent less than male international editors at the organization. She predicts that the issue will lead to more female journalists leaving the BBC: “Many have … sought pay equality through internal negotiation but managers still deny there is a problem. This bunker mentality is likely to end in a disastrous legal defeat for the BBC and an exodus of female talent at every level.”

+ Earlier: Last year, an internal review found that men at the BBC are paid an average of 9.3 percent than women (The Guardian)


In its first year, the Trump administration has reduced the amount of public information available on federal websites (Sunlight Foundation)
“Despite widespread concern in the beginning of 2017, we do not have evidence that data has been removed from federal websites almost a year into the Trump presidency,” the Sunlight Foundation’s Andrew Bergman and Toly Rinberg write. “What we have seen are substantial removals and overhauls of webpages, documents, and entire websites, as well as significant shifts in language and messaging across the federal Web domain.” One example of that can be seen on environmental federal webpages: The EPA’s climate change website was removed in April, for instance. “It’s difficult to quantify the full extent of website changes across the .gov Web domain, although those efforts are underway. We’ve been paying closest attention to environmental, energy, and climate websites, and we can say with certainty that thousands of those pages have been altered, overhauled, or removed,” Bergman and Rinberg write.


Michael Wolff was ‘willing to throw decorum away and torch his access’ — and more journalists should do the same (GQ)
To write “Fire & Fury,” Drew Magary writes that Michael Wolff had to ingratiate himself within the White House, take advantage of the Trump administration’s “basic lack of knowledge about how reporting works,” and then burn those bridges. Magary argues that more journalists should follow Wolff’s lead: “If Trump refuses to abide by the standard (and now useless) ‘norms’ of the presidency … why should ANYONE in the press adhere to needless norms of their own? They shouldn’t, and it appears that Michael Wolff was one of the few people to instinctively grasp that, and I hope more White House insiders follow his lead.”

+ “Access journalism, at its best, does not replace other forms of journalism — it augments it. And one could argue that Wolff never could have written his book without the hard work of journalists over the past year; the fire he catalogs was often fueled by stories from mainstream reporters” (CJR); “The scandal of Michael Wolff’s new book isn’t its salacious details — it’s that everyone in Washington has known its key themes, and refused to act,” James Fallows argues (The Atlantic)


‘Any journalist’s nightmare’: The subject of an investigative series out of Kentucky died by suicide (CJR)
Two days after Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Louisville Public Media launched their podcast The Pope’s Long Con, the subject of the investigative series died by suicide. “It was a tragic and unexpected outcome following the release of KyCIR’s investigation. Yet the team handled the aftermath with the same sensitivity, professionalism, and commitment to truth that defined The Pope’s Long Con,” Meg Dalton writes. “KyCIR also modified the roll-out of its investigation following Johnson’s death. Initially, the plan was to air all five episodes on the radio, but they chose not to air the last two ‘out of respect for victims of trauma in the immediate wake of [Rep. Dan] Johnson’s suicide.’”

+ A digital day in the life of NYT’s Sam Dolnick, who oversees digital initiatives: His day starts with email newsletters, podcasts on his commute work, and checking Twitter “more often than I should” (New York Times)

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