Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: July 14, 2017

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


You might have heard: In May, Sinclair Broadcasting announced it would acquire Tribune Media’s TV stations for $3.9 billion (Bloomberg)

But did you know: A shareholder lawsuit is trying to stop Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune Media (Chicago Sun-Times)
A lawsuit brought by Tribune Media shareholder Sean McEntire is trying to halt Sinclair Broadcasting’s acquisition of Tribune Media. In the lawsuit, McEntire argues that Tribune Media misled stockholders by “failing to disclose information about the process leading up to the merger agreement between Sinclair and Tribune.” McEntire is asking a judge to stop the deal from going through unless that information is disclosed, arguing that the information that has been withheld concerns “Tribune’s financial projections, the value of other bids for Tribune, and the material terms of confidentiality agreements with potential acquisition partners, including Sinclair.”

+ Noted: NPR’s staff could be headed toward a strike as union negotiations continue between SAG-AFTRA and management on issues including a tiered salary system and “eliminating the union’s ability to enforce various contract clauses through arbitration” (Hollywood Reporter); Slate is launching a weekly Facebook Live talk show, produced entirely in virtual reality (Variety); CNN’s mobile app is under attack from Trump supporters: There’s been a wave in the past week of one-star reviews, with users claiming that CNN disseminates fake news, propaganda and falsehoods (Digiday); Two years after its own launch, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism is helping other community news outlets develop membership programs (


The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes a recap of the Fourth Global Fact-Checking Summit, a growing number of people who believe the earth is flat, and a game that tests your ability to identify fake news headlines.


A project from a JSK fellow is aiming to making collaboration within newsrooms a little simpler (Nieman Lab)
John S. Knight Journalism Fellow Heather Bryant, a journalist and software engineer, is trying to make collaboration within the newsrooms a little bit easier. Project Facet is a web-based dashboard with communication and shared files, where newsrooms can “schedule check-ins, develop stories, track team progress, and even write and edit stories alongside each other.” “There are newsrooms that want to collaborate but it is logistically painful,” Bryant explains. “Most places are using email, maybe there’s a calendar they share, they’re trying to make Trello boards, they’re trying to get everybody into Slack. … While collaboration is historically a people/culture challenge as well, the pain caused by tools is not insignificant.”

+ Here’s how the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch is experimenting with Amazon’s Alexa platform: “Producers select stories they believe their audiences are interested in and then summarize them into four or five sentences for the text-to-audio briefings. Only five stories can be sent to the platform at a time, but content can be swapped out for breaking news and other stories throughout the day.” (Reynolds Journalism Institute)


People in the UK are most likely to think that broadsheet newspapers provide trustworthy information, but few cite print newspapers as a way they stay up to date with the news, a new survey finds (PressGazette)
When asked what type of media is “most likely to provide trustworthy and factually-validated information,” 61 percent of people in the U.K. said broadsheet newspapers were “most important” — but when asked how they stay up to date with news, people in the U.K. are least likely to say print news. In the survey, which was commissioned by video agency Newsflare and conducted by Morar Research, 31 percent of respondents said they use TV news to stay up to date, followed by 24 percent saying online newspapers and 18 percent saying social media channels. Just 7 percent cited print newspapers.

+ Earlier: API’s research on trust in the media has found that while many people rely heavily on social media for news, they’re also skeptical of the news they receive there and who shares the content has more of an effect on trust than who created the content; Our research has also found that many people are skeptical of “the news media” in the abstract, but generally trust the news they themselves rely on, with differences across partisan lines on how likely they are to pay for news and their attitudes about the news they encounter


Why the ‘disrupt or die’ mindset isn’t right for all industries or companies (Inc)
Michael Graber, managing partner of consulting firm Southern Growth Studio, argues that “disrupt or die” isn’t the right path to innovation for all companies and industries. Graber explains that the primary time an industry needs disruption is if “it is owned, in spirit, by a single channel that dictates terms, price barriers, and sometimes wants a hand in designing the product.” Instead of giving his clients a mandate to continually disrupt, Graber says he instead advocates for three “modes”: order, disorder, reorder. Graber explains how these three “modes” allow for internal innovation without total disruption.


‘Student Journalists Are Our Future — We Should Start Treating Them Like It’ (The Nation)
“Student journalism has gained new importance in the face of the deep decline of local news,” William Anderson writes, explaining how student journalists have covered important stories in their communities as local newspapers cut jobs and even close. “Student journalists are uniquely positioned to fill the hole created by the decline of local news. When major news explodes on campuses and nearby communities …  student journalists have already filed a story and are often working on the next. …  Student journalists are working hard to fill gaps in local coverage, so why haven’t major media outlets made a serious effort to work with and support them? Creating long-term ties between major news outfits and student news organizations would do more than help plug the ever-widening coverage gap — it would help train the next generation.”


HuffPost editors are going on a 23-city bus tour to ‘listen to America’ (Politico)
With a goal to “listen and learn what it means to be American today,” HuffPost staff members will go on a seven week, 23-city bus tour through middle America. Eschewing cities on the coasts, a rotating cast of HuffPost staffers will visit cities like Fort Wayne, Ind., Oxford, Miss., and Odessa, Texas. In each city, HuffPost will host events, publish stories in partnership with local news outlets, and send out its reporters to cover the communities and collect stories from residents “in their own words.” “We are in a moment for [determining] our own identity and the role we play in the overall news ecosystem and what the next iteration of that looks like,” HuffPost editor Lydia Polgreen explained in an interview. “This felt like a great way to go out and … report out the story of who we should be in the world.”

+ USA Today’s managing editor for news Ron Smith’s advice for newsroom leaders:  “Change is like oxygen: We need it to exist. It’s part of the daily rhythm of life. Instead of running away from it, try to embrace it. And the biggest change begins with your attitude. We can’t control many of the things we face as a leader, but the one thing we can control is how we react to any given challenge.” (Poynter)


+ A look at what’s happened at the Las Vegas Review-Journal since it was acquired by Sheldon Adelson in 2015: “Coverage of night cops is not that different,” but coverage of the issues Adelson cares about “pretty much comes out of public relations,” says the Review-Journal’s former deputy editor Jim Wright, now at the Louisville Courier-Journal. “The idea that the Review-Journal is run as an independent body is laughable” (CNN)

+ Jennifer Griffin and Greg Myre are two journalists that cover the same beat, on opposite ends of the news spectrum for NPR and Fox News. They’re also married: “Maybe there’s a recipe for our politics in that, given the decline of debate and recent tendency among Americans, including some journalists, to brand people they disagree with as dumb or racist or PC, without a sincere effort to understand why they think or vote the way they do. Seeing them together teaches a lesson we’re all prone to forget lately: Be open, ask questions, don’t take yourself too seriously. To my mind that’s what makes them admirable as journalists, and as a couple,” says NYT editorial writer and friend Elizabeth Williamson (CJR)

+ Inside the transfer of power and reinvention at Politico Playbook, which has launched a podcast, traveled the country, started hosting events and recently signed a book deal (Vanity Fair)

+ “There’s a sense of dread that the move into video is fundamentally different from the advent of digital and that writing jobs may disappear permanently,” Lucia Moses writes. “The shift to video is a convenient scapegoat. With the rise of digital, print writers could reinvent themselves as online journalists. This time, they don’t have that option.” (Digiday)

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 »