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Need to Know: Mar. 20, 2017

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


You might have heard: Last summer, Gannett bought North Jersey Media Group, which includes NJ’s second-largest daily The Record and a number of community newspapers ( and announced last fall that it would cut half of North Jersey Media Group’s 426 jobs, as well as another 141 cuts earlier this year (

But did you know: These New Jersey newspapers had ‘fewer and less substantive news articles about their respective communities’ after the purchase by Gannett (CJR)
A new report from the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University examines the impact of Gannett’s purchase on the local newspapers. The report found that these Gannett-owned newspapers “included fewer and less substantive news articles about their respective communities after the sale, in addition to an increase in pieces shared across newspapers.” The researchers also noticed an attention shift from local board meetings to crime: “Any time a community sees such a loss in the number (and experience level) of reporters and editors covering its news, and a corresponding change in available content, it is fair to say the consequences are negative,” the report says.

+ Noted: New York Times’ T Magazine is reducing its frequency from 13 issues/year to 11 issues/year (WWD); NowThis is launching a sports vertical, focusing on sports stories outside of game coverage (Digiday); Ad industry group ANA is calling for independent audits of ad campaigns at platforms including Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and Pinterest (Ad Age); New York Times will offer a personalized version of its website for readers by “midyear” (New York Times); A startup called Lead Stories is debunking misinformation that’s trending on social media (


‘Who shared it?’: How Americans decide what news to trust on social media
When Americans encounter news on social media, how much they trust the content is determined less by who creates the news than by who shares it, new research from API shows. As social platforms become important thoroughfares for news, the news organization that did the original reporting still matters — but the study shows that who shares an article on social media has an even bigger influence on whether people trust what they see.


When evaluating how your story performed, think about who you engaged more than numbers (Viktoria Isabel, Medium)
When journalists have their story published, they all ask themselves the same question: “How did my story do?” The answer to that question is usually measured by numbers — whether that’s number of clicks, pageviews, or something else. But NYT’s director of global analytics James Robinson argues that instead of just thinking about numbers, reporters should be thinking about who they’re engaging and how they’re relating to the content: “The true value of analytics is the synthesis of readers and stories. It’s about bringing the audience into the newsroom,” Robinson says.


Russian parliament calls for an investigation of US media, after a US senator calls for an investigation of Russia Today (Politico Europe)
After U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced a bill to investigate Russia Today, the Russian parliament is calling for an investigation of U.S. media in return. Shaheen’s bill calls for an investigation of Russia Today to explore whether it influenced the 2016 presidential election. And on Friday, the Russian parliament said it would investigate whether U.S. media outlets including CNN and Voice of America comply with Russian law.


To build an inclusive organization, Salesforce’s new ‘equality chief’ is thinking beyond diversity (Fast Company)
Tony Prophet, Salesforce’s new “equality chief,” is tasked with improving diversity and equality throughout the company — a goal he’s working toward by focusing on more than diversity. “Diversity is absolutely essential, and we have work to do that, but once you have diversity you’re not done. Then you have inclusion where you’re really getting the very best out of every employee,” Prophet says. “When you have an inclusive environment, you feel seen, you feel included, and you feel valued. You feel like you can bring your whole self to work. … ‘Equality’ asks the questions, ‘Are you standing for my rights when I step outside my workforce? Are you fighting for equality for me?’ … That added dimension goes beyond pure diversity and inclusion internally and goes to why we came up with the notion of this being an equality role versus diversity and inclusion.”


The problem with ‘fake news’ solutions: We should be ‘careful not to build our own self-censorship machines’ (Global Voices)
“The consternation about fake news from Western journalists, scholars of propaganda, and policymakers has inspired waves of stories and talk-shops addressing its growth as a threat to our public discourse, our journalism, and our systems of governance. And we see many attempts to understand, fix, or apportion blame,” writes Ivan Sigal. “Yet many of the proposed fixes are deeply problematic because they advocate overly broad and vague restrictions on expression. Solutions that would limit suspected ‘fake’ expression or strongly encourage private intermediaries to restrict some kinds of speech and prioritize or ‘whitelist’  others are particularly troubling. … When posing solutions to fix fake news, we should be extremely careful not to build our own self-censorship machines.”

+ “No one in our community wants fake information. We are also victims of this and we do not want it on our service. We don’t want any of it. … It’s not always clear what is fake and what isn’t. A lot of what people are calling fake news are just opinions that people disagree with,” Mark Zuckerberg said at a town hall at North Carolina A&T State University last week (CNBC); “Facebook made itself the middleman of media, but has yet to take responsibility for that role and its influence. Though the response after the election seems sprawling and elaborate, it comes only after a public outcry — Facebook itself admits that fake news has existed on the platform for years. And given these latest comments from Zuckerberg, which adds Facebook’s victimhood to a list of excuses and distractions that have comprised Facebook’s post-election response, it seems more clear that Facebook will never take any real responsibility for the veracity of the content pouring through the site,” Jordan Crook argues (TechCrunch)


Tracking special treatment from the White House when media organizations ‘play nice’ (Washington Post)
Margaret Sullivan is introducing an “occasional feature” to her column: Access Watch, which will track the special treatment media organizations get from the White House when they “play nice.” “It is not the proper job of journalists to provide favorable coverage but rather to hold powerful figures accountable. But that doesn’t get you far these days, at least in terms of access,” Sullivan explains. “So we’ll be taking note of what does.” Some examples: Tomi Lahren got a personal phone call from Trump thanking her for her “fair coverage,” and a reporter from IJR was the only press representative on Rex Tillerson’s trip to Asia.

+ More on IJR and Rex Tillerson: “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it. … When we’re ready to talk about what we’re trying to do, I will be available to talk to people. But doing daily availability, I don’t have this appetite or hunger to be that. … When I have something important and useful to say, I know where everybody is and I know how to go out there and say it,” Tillerson said (The Hill); “Long experience teaches that foreign policy is rarely made in the kind of media-free bubble that Mr. Tillerson wants … Both at home and abroad, public diplomacy is about persuading the world that a particular solution is in the global interest, not just the American interest. And that often means building an argument while the diplomacy is in progress, or else risking a loss of influence and control of the narrative,” David Sanger argues (New York Times); Nick Ayers, a top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is an investor in IJR (BuzzFeed)


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