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Need to Know: Nov. 17, 2017

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


You might have heard: Sinclair Broadcasting and other major owners of local TV stations have long wanted the FCC to relax its media ownership rules, allowing ownership of a newspaper and a broadcast station in a single market (The Street)

But did you know: The FCC relaxed its long-standing media ownership rules on Thursday, allowing broadcasters to own a newspaper in the same market (Variety)
After the FCC relaxed its media ownership regulations in a vote on Thursday, broadcasters will be allowed to own a newspaper in the same market, as well as own two of the top four stations in a city. The new rules may be challenged in court, but “will mark the most significant changes to media ownership regulations in a generation” if they’re allowed. “The media ownership regulations of 2017 should match the media marketplace of 2017,” FCC Ajit Pai said, adding that the agency is “dragging the broadcast rules into the digital age.” Pai argues that this change is needed, given consumers’ changing consumption habits.

+ The News Media Alliance said the change is “long overdue” and good for newspapers, because it “will allow for targeted investments, particularly necessary in local communities where citizens rely on the local newspaper” (News Media Alliance); Critics say that the vote benefits Sinclair Broadcasting and paves the way for its purchase of Tribune Media (The Hill)

+ The FCC argues that the ownership rules are no longer necessary because of a “multiplicity of alternative sources of local news and information available in the marketplace,” particularly in the form of digital outlets (Federal Communications Commission); Klint Finley argues that it’s worth considering what role those outlets play in people’s media diets: “What the FCC order doesn’t mention, however, is that [a 2011] Pew study found respondents relied on the internet most often for information on local restaurants and other businesses. For news about subjects such as local politics, government, crime, or taxes, respondents turned more often to newspapers or television … More recently, a 2016 Pew study found that respondents were most likely to get news from local television, followed by online, and print newspapers.” (Wired)

+ Noted: NPR chairman Roger LaMay is stepping down as the organization grapples with its harassment crisis: David Folkenflik reports that LaMay is the subject of “a complaint filed with NPR alleging past inappropriate behavior” (NPR); Mashable is sold to Ziff Davis for $50 million, about 20 percent of what Mashable was valued at last year (Variety); Meredith submits a bid for Time Inc. in the range of $17 to $20 per share, which would value the company’s equity at $20 billion (Wall Street Journal); BuzzFeed will miss its revenue targets this year, making an IPO in 2018 unlikely (Wall Street Journal); Sarah Ellison joins The Washington Post as a media reporter, signalling “an expansion of the Post’s media coverage” (Washington Post); Google says it will require AMP pages to have the same content as stories on publishers’ sites, a change that would discourage “teaser” pages (TechCrunch); The Trust Project is working with news organizations and tech companies to tag “high-quality news” (Nieman Lab)


The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes how to keep misinformation from ruining elections, why the truth is still important, and why your newsroom’s social media team should include fact-checking.


Tips for news organizations looking to launch a membership model: Listen to your audience, and consider your pricing strategy (
Through its analysis of news membership programs, The Membership Puzzle Project has found that people who join news membership programs tend to have a few things in common: They have a “sense of shared duty” and they have a desire to see behind the scenes, for example. Based on their research, The Membership Puzzle Project’s research director Emily Goligoski offers a few tips for news organizations thinking about launching a membership program: Listen your audience and make them part of designing your membership model, think carefully about your pricing strategy, and have an “organizational sense of humility.”


Guardian editor Katharine Viner on how journalism must define its value and principles: The industry must become more representative of the communities they serve (The Guardian)
Guardian editor Katharine Viner says it’s more important than ever that journalists ask themselves, “Who are we, fundamentally?” Viner writes: “The answer to this question is in our past, our present and our future. …  Journalists must work to earn the trust of those they aim to serve. And we must make ourselves more representative of the societies we aim to represent. … If journalists become distant from other people’s lives, they miss the story, and people don’t trust them.”


Why don’t philanthropic foundations help their grantees like venture capital does? (NewCo Shift)
“Ideas are cheap. Execution is where the game is played, and talented, passionate teams that are well-supported play it best  —  delivering the greatest impact, no matter the sector,” Gabe Kleinman writes. “Foundations should be bending over backwards to support their grantees’ vision and their execution, yet this is rarely the case today.” Venture capital may be a model for how to do this, Kleinman says: Many venture capital funds offer projects ongoing, operational support, in the form of recruiting, marketing and management help, or just the power of the VC’s network. “Venture investors will help portfolio companies any way they can and often take action when the company is veering off-course, while program officers tend to steer clear of such practices for fear of undue influence,” Kleinman writes on why VC operates differently here. “VCs don’t invest in industries to disrupt  —  they invest in industry disruptors, with high levels of risk and a portfolio approach which, over time, favors more successful investments. Foundations on the other hand tend to treat the majority of grantees similarly (outside a binary yes/no on grant extension) despite their promise or lack thereof.”


Low pay in journalism jobs is a serious issue that affects diversity (Carrie Brown, Storify)
One of the findings of the Tow Center’s new report on small market newspapers is that young reporters at these papers often have to take on second or third jobs to make ends meet. Attending an event for the release of the report, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Carrie Brown tweeted that finding — and ended up getting a lot of responses. Some highlights: “When we talk about the sustainability of local news, we have to talk about sustaining the people who work in it too.Issues of burnout, health and many other factors — as well as wages — are key to the sustainability of local news and the people who do it,” Democracy Fund’s Josh Stearns tweeted, while WPRI’s Erica Ponte shared her own experience: “This is so unfortunately true. I’m a producer in a medium market and work two jobs.

+ “The response to our meticulously reported story about Roy Moore has been a stunning level of deceit, deception and dirty tricks,” Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron says (Washington Post)


‘Journalists aren’t the only ones who feel like the world is moving way too fast’ (Poynter)
Journalists aren’t the only ones who feel like the world and their work has sped up, Kristen Hare writes. But, “a lot of other professions have already been through huge culture shifts and mostly adapted.” In this week’s Local Edition, Hare talks to Shea Smith, who is currently studying to be a physician’s’ assistant and previously worked in communications, about how to adapt to new ways of doing things. Smith’s advice: “Keep pushing and trust that the uncomfortable feelings that come along with change are temporary and leading you to growth.”


+ Racked tracked all the product samples and swag it was gifted by brands for six months, and takes a deep dive into the culture around gifting to writers and editors: The website received 2,894 products and gifts worth $95,000 (Racked)

+ After claims of sexual harassment, the publishers that pay to have their stories shared on George Takei’s Facebook empire are starting to distance themselves: This week, Slate, Upworthy, GOOD, Futurism, Refinery29 and Mic all “made arrangements to no longer have their articles and videos shared on Takei’s Facebook page” (Mic)

+ A teen girl posed as a married man online for eight years to write about baseball, “duping and harassing women on Twitter along the way” (Deadspin)

+ “Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal”: Amanda Robb investigates the part of the Internet that fuels conspiracy theorists and created the claims that Hillary Clinton was part of a child sex ring in a pizza restaurant (Rolling Stone)

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