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Need to Know: July 7, 2017

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


You might have heard: Last week, hundreds of New York Times employees walked out of the newsroom in protest of cuts to the copy desk intended to “streamline” by reducing the layers of editing (Washington Post)

But did you know: NYT copy editors are being ‘told that there’s no place for them and they should strongly consider the buyout’ (Poynter)
“One-by-one, copy editors at The New York Times are learning today that they won’t have jobs at the newspaper once the latest round of cuts takes place,” Benjamin Mullin reports. Copy editors at NYT were being encouraged to take buyouts on Thursday. Grant Glickson, president of New York NewsGuild and NYT employee, said the copy editors “are being called in [to meetings] and told that there’s no place for them and they should strongly consider the buyout.” According to an open letter published by the copy editors at the end of June, the number of copy editors will be cut to between 50 and 55 editors from the 100 currently at the paper.

+ Dean Baquet says that NYT is changing “our editing system to accommodate the changes in journalism,” by streamlining the editing process and “using the savings to change the staff” (New York Times)

+ The New York Times sells a luxury around-the-world trip with access to NYT journalists for $135,000. Is that an ethical problem? “More than anything, it raises a sad commentary on the state of our business, that there’s a need for newspapers and news organizations to raise money like this. This is another high-end way to make money,” Poynter’s Indira Lakshmanan says (Washington Post)

+ Noted: White House suggests it could block a Time Warner-AT&T merger if CNN’s critical coverage continues (New York Magazine) and HuffPost reports that the White House may block the merger if Jeff Zucker remains president of CNN (HuffPost); Just a week after CNN forced three resignations from its investigative team, CNN abandoned its own standards when granting a source anonymity in the Trump-CNN video story (Washington Post) and Gizmodo reports that a CNN executive vice president wrote the line in Andrew Kaczynski’s story that led people to criticize the network for blackmailing the Reddit user who created the video (Gizmodo); After setting a goal in September of raising $800,000, Berkeleyside has raised $556,000, and has learned that “success means reaching out to a bigger audience than they originally anticipated” (Poynter)


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 why we might be addicted to misinformation, whether Twitter users would use a “fake news” button, and whether Germany’s attempts to fight misinformation are misguided.


Inside the Dallas Morning News’ transformation from a print-focused legacy news outlet into a digital-focused organization (WAN-IFRA)
Over the last two years, The Dallas Morning News has undergone a lot of changes — and those changes have transformed the newsroom from a print-focused operation to a digital-focused operation. These changes started two years ago when incoming editor Mike Wilson invited two dozen people from across the newsroom to weigh in on a plan for DMN’s future, outlining the necessary steps to turn the newsroom’s focus to digital. WAN-IFRA’s Simone Flueckiger breaks down the changes DMN has taken on, and what they’ve learned from it.


Google is funding a robot in the UK that will write 30,000 local news stories a month (PressGazette)
As part of its Digital News Initiative, Google is awarding €706,000 to the U.K.’s Press Association to develop a robot reporting project that is expected to write 30,000 news stories a month for local news outlets. The project, called Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR), uses open government records and local databases along with story templates to generate stories on subjects ranging from health to crime to the economy. “RADAR is intended to meet the increasing demand for consistent, fact-based insights into local communities, for the benefit of established regional media outlets, as well as the growing sector of independent publishers, hyperlocal outlets and bloggers,” the Press Association explained in a statement.

+ Other recipients of Google Digital News Initiative grants include WikiTribune, the Open State Foundation in the Netherlands and in Spain (The Keyword)


‘In TV Ratings Game, Networks Try to Dissguys Bad Newz from Nielsen’ (Wall Street Journal)
“In a game largely sanctioned by TV-ratings firm Nielsen, television networks try to hide their shows’ poor performances on any given night by forgetting how to spell,” Joe Flint reports. For example: NBC fooled Nielsen’s automated system by airing “NBC Nitely News” the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, a day when a lot of people were away from their TVs. As a result, NBC dramatically improved its average viewership for that week and avoided falling behind “ABC World News Tonight.” But are these inflated, higher numbers used to sell advertising? Flint reports that TV networks say the higher numbers from show misspellings are only used for publicity purposes, and accurate ratings for the shows are available to advertisers.


Podcast analytics are getting better. Does that help all podcasters? (Recode)
Last month, Apple announced plans to give podcasters more analytics through its Podcasts app, offering when listeners play episodes, what parts of an episode they listen to, and when they leave an episode. In the latest episode of the Recode Media podcast, Nicholas Quah explains why this is good news — but not necessarily good news for everyone. “There’s going to be a lot of podcasts realizing that they didn’t have audiences as big as they [thought],” Quah explains. “And there’s going to be a smaller percentage of podcasts that realize they have a very, very engaged audience base and it’s as big, if not slightly less, than what they thought it was. So we’re really going to see a shakeout, resizing and reconceptualization of, how do you measure for the success of a show?”

+ An “IMDb for podcasts” is trying to help solve the podcast discovery problem: Podchaser is building a tag-based database of podcasts, intended to help people discover new podcasts to listen to (Nieman Lab)

+ “Trump voters do not, in fact, seem impervious to truth. Present them with a falsehood from their man and they’ll acknowledge he was wrong. But that doesn’t have much effect on their support for Trump,” new research finds (The Atlantic); Robert Leonard emphasizes the importance of Fox News in changing conservative voters’ minds: “Fox News is always on the TV in diners and other restaurants. In bars, if there isn’t a game on, Fox News is there. If there are a couple of televisions or more, one will most likely be tuned to Fox. … To me, only that network has the power to convince conservatives that, if one or more of the investigations raises the question of impeachment, it’s in the best interest of the party and the conservative agenda to dump Mr. Trump.” (New York Times)


‘There’s a newspaper chain that’s grown profits for the past 5 years, and it’s looking to buy more papers’ (Nieman Lab)
There’s a newspaper chain that’s growing profits, but rarely discussed in conversations about the future of the newspaper industry, Ken Doctor reports. Hearst, which owns 22 daily newspapers and 64 weekly newspapers, has grown its profits over the last five years — and it now says it’s looking to acquire more papers. Last month, Hearst bought the New Haven Daily Register, Connecticut Magazine and several other smaller titles from Digital First Media, making Hearst the biggest newspaper publisher in Connecticut. As for Hearst’s acquisition strategy, Hearst Newspaper Group president Mark Aldam says: “You can also expect us to look outside of the markets where we presently have businesses when the right assets are available at a reasonable multiple.”


+ Heather Bryant writes about journalism’s class problem through the lens of journalists’ surprised reactions when learning that her husband has a blue-collar job: “The reaction makes me wonder how badly our industry really lacks for people with more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Our journalism would be better if we were a better representation of the backgrounds and experiences our audiences have.” (Heather Bryant, Medium)

+ News organizations that are “pivoting to video” aren’t really doing video, Silvia Killingsworth argues: “It’s a glorified powerpoint presentation — slides, essentially, with words and pictures that flash and Ken Burns around the screen, sometimes with a shaded overlay. … These videos are not about ‘news’ or even ‘stories’ as much as they are pink-slime content nuggets. There is no nutritional value in most of the videos that advertisers are paying for these days.” (The Awl)

+ On the boom-bust cycle in the journalism job market: “There’s this cycle that happens, that I was a part of. [A company] gets the idea that they want [to invest in] editorial, and then a couple editors who all know the other editors are like ‘Come here, the faucet is on.’ And everyone runs to that faucet and it attracts the attention of higher-ups who realize there’s too much money coming out and shut it down. Then somebody you bring to your faucet gets their own faucet, and so you run over there,” former MTV Hive editor Jessica Suarez says, in the wake of MTV News ending its longform journalism experiment (Spin)

+ Jon Marcus on the ethics of publishing leaks: “It’s important to question a leaker’s motivation for leaking. But while authenticating documents and scrutinizing why someone might have leaked them are longstanding parts of investigative journalism, that process has been newly complicated by the speed of the news cycle and the steady supply of disclosures. More people are being encouraged to leak, including by news organizations themselves.” (Nieman Reports)

+ “The Houston Chronicle has a BBQ podcast, a site for smarties and big plans for turning readers into subscribers” (Poynter)

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