Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: July 13, 2017

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


You might have heard: Time Inc. is exploring the possibility of a name change to “reposition the publisher as a modern media company with growing digital and video ventures” (Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: A name change isn’t a shortcut to innovation and changing a company’s reputation (Adweek)
“Who exactly is meant to be convinced by the idea that a name change is transformative in this way, or that it is necessary to evince the specific idea of itself the company is selling?,” Corinne Grinapol writes as Time Inc. considers a name change. There are cases where a name change makes sense, Grinapol notes: PolicyMic dropping the “Policy” from its name, for example. But a name change can’t be a shortcut to innovation and changing a company’s reputation, Grinapol argues: “Imagine The Washington Post changing its name to WashPost or WaPo. We certainly wouldn’t want to see that, and there’s no need for it. Its legacy name certainly didn’t preclude it from earning a reputation in recent years as ‘the most innovative company in the newspaper business’ or of having gotten ‘its swagger back.’”

+ Noted: The Wall Street Journal announced a major editorial reorganization on Wednesday, dubbed WSJ2020: The newspaper’s leadership structure will be altered with the “aim of transforming the 128-year-old newspaper into a mobile-first news operation” (Wall Street Journal); The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Reader will be acquired by a union group led by Edwin Eisendrath (Chicago Sun-Times); NYT memo on editing cuts: “We believe it was deliberate, fair and necessary” (Poynter) and as buyout talks continue, about 60 editor positions are expected to be cut (New York Post); Former NYT senior editor Dana Canedy is named administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes (Pulitzer Prizes), the first woman and the first person of color to serve as administrator (Poynter); NPR and the union representing more than 400 employees call in federal mediator for the first time in union negotiations (Poynter); Weld, a weekly newspaper in Birmingham, Ala., suspended its print edition (Poynter)


Partisanship and the media: How personal politics affect where people go, what they trust, and whether they pay
New research from API and AP-NORC shows that although Americans are in many ways divided in their attitudes toward the media, Republicans and Democrats are in many ways strikingly alike in their behavior toward the news. Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to pay for news, to get news from social media, to seek it out actively rather than passively, and to get news multiple times a day  — but where they differ is in the specific sources they rely on, as well as their satisfaction and trust in the news they receive.


How can you lead your news organization through tough times? Look outside your newsroom (Poynter)
“More than ever, the challenge for people in leadership positions is to recognize [the rapidly changing news] landscape, embrace it, and foster a culture in which the prospect of ongoing change is inspiring, not intimidating,” Marty Kaiser writes for Poynter. “Leaders must set the tone, built on sound strategy, disciplined focus and skillful guidance.” So how do you do that? Kaiser recommends looking outside your newsroom for inspiration: “It is … necessary to listen and learn from those outside the organization. There are issues you can’t discuss inside your organization. You might need confidentiality. It is a gift to have experienced, impartial outside voices for counsel. So let’s go outside your news organization to find some helpful advice — or at least give you some leadership, culture and change issues to think about as you make decisions.”


The Guardian’s latest virtual reality project tells the story of what life is like in the UK for asylum seekers (
The Guardian’s newest virtual reality project “Limbo” shows viewers what life is like in the U.K. for asylum seekers who are waiting to hear whether they’ll be allowed to stay in the country. “There has been a lot of media coverage on the difficulties of leaving a war-torn land and crossing the sea, but there has been less about what happens when you reach the country that you’ve been aiming for,” Guardian News and Media’s executive editor for virtual reality Francesca Panetta explains on why they pursued this story as a VR experience. “We wanted to give audiences a sense of what it was like to reach a country where you really know nothing about your rights, the system, where you live, and you’re feeling really isolated.”

+ Here are some of the Journalism 360 Challenge winners, funded by Google News Lab, Knight Foundation and ONA: The Arizona Republic will document the future of the wall between the U.S. and Mexico, The Washington Post will develop a tool that uses augmented reality to analyze a reader’s facial expressions while they view images and statements that may affirm or contradict their beliefs, and the MIT Future Ocean Lab will develop ways to immerse audiences in underwater stories (Nieman Lab)


Lessons from the tech industry on finding and retaining your best employees (Business Insider)
Business Insider’s Áine Cain talks to Indeed’s senior vice president of engineering Doug Gray about the best strategies for recruiting and retaining the best employees in technology. Notably, Gray’s ideas apply for recruiting and retaining talent across all industries. Some of his advice: Encourage employees to hold ownership over the projects they work on, give them the space to work on intellectually challenging problems, foster a culture of professional growth and development, and explain to your employees why your work matters in real-world terms.

+ “Many [executives] fundamentally mismanage the growth gap, which is the difference between their growth goals and what their base businesses can deliver. Filling the gap requires either innovative new offerings or acquisitions”: Rita Gunther McGrath and Alexander van Putten explain how to set better growth targets for your company (Harvard Business Review)


‘Why Haven’t Reporters Mass-Adopted Secure Tools for Communicating With Sources?’ (Slate)
With leaks appearing to become more common in Washington, Scott Nover and Nikki Usher set out to answer: “Is secure leaking really more simple and widespread than ever before?” Nover and Usher conducted a survey of journalists in Washington, finding that many journalists don’t take precautions to protect themselves or their sources in terms of technology. Their findings also suggest that secure communications aren’t common practice among journalists yet. “When journalists don’t step up, sources with sensitive information face the burden of using riskier modes of communication to initiate contact — and possibly conduct all of their exchanges — with reporters,” Nover and Usher write. “It increases their chances of getting caught, putting them in danger of losing their job or facing prosecution. It’s burden enough to make them think twice about whistleblowing.”

+ The Washington Post reports that GOP operatives will try to defend Donald Trump Jr. by discrediting the reporters who covered the story, using conservative media to attack them: The plan is to research the reporters’ previous work going back years, to exploit “any mistakes or perceived biases” (Washington Post); Trump Jr.’s transparency “could have long-term implications for the Trumps’ ability to shape coverage,” Michael M. Grynbaum argues (New York Times); McClatchy reports that investigators are examining whether Trump’s digital operation, run by Jared Kushner, helped guide Russia’s “sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks” on Hillary Clinton during the election (McClatchy DC)


A newsletter from The Nation is giving readers ways to take action on the stories they read (Nieman Lab)
Aptly named, The Nation’s Take Action Now newsletter is helping readers find ways to do something about the stories they read. Launched last month, the weekly newsletter offers readers three ways they can take action on stories in the news that week. For example: A recent edition of the newsletter suggested donating to disability-rights organization ADAPT, while another explained how to help organize with the “Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.” “We’re about ideas, but we’re also about instigating actions. Though I believe our role is to seed ideas for the future, you want a journalism that has impact. It’s news readers can use,” explains editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

The American Press Institute

Our mission

We help transform news organizations for an audience-centered future.

Our programs for publishers focus on four things:

  • 1. Understand your audience
  • 2. Get your audience to pay
  • 3. Transform your culture
  • 4. Do your best journalism
  • Find out more about API »

API solutions for publishers

What we can do for you

API offers a suite of original tools and services for solving the biggest challenges in news:

  • Decide what beats to cover and how
  • Identify and develop the skills you need
  • Assess and improve your culture
  • Drive more reader revenue
  • Drive loyalty through accountability journalism
  • Make analytics work for you
  • Contact us to find out how »