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Need to Know: Nov. 6, 2017

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


You might have heard: Earlier this year, Spirited Media, owner of Pennsylvania’s Billy Penn and The Incline, merged with the parent company of Denverite in Colorado (

But did you know: Spirited Media laid off staff at its three local news sites last week and is seeking new revenue streams (CJR)
Spirited Media, the owner of local news sites Billy Penn, Denverite and The Incline, laid off staff at each of its news sites last week. “I could give you some corporate-speak about ‘We’re getting smaller but smarter, we’re going to do more with less,’” CEO Jim Brady told CJR. “I could say some of that crap, but it’s just not true. … It was a shitty week.” Brady says that the company raised some money investors, but it wasn’t enough. Going forward, Spirited Media will be seeking new streams of revenue; Denverite will launch a membership model in early 2018. “We’re looking at custom content, custom newsletter kind of things, early access to content and maybe even something like a public Slack channel where members can get a sense of what we’re working on on a given day,” Brady says.

+ Noted: Analysis by Recode finds that news organizations including The Washington Post, McClatchy, BuzzFeed and Vox cited tweets from accounts tied to the Russian government (Recode); ESPN’s new social media policy for employees prohibits breaking news on social platforms and urges caution when posting about politics (Sports Illustrated); Disney declined to participate in Los Angeles Times’ holiday movie previews over the paper’s coverage of Disney’s business ties with Anaheim (Washington Post) and in a statement, the L.A. Times says, “The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public” (Los Angeles Times); Alt-weekly Houston Press ends its print edition (Houston Press); Los Angeles Times columnist David Horsey apologizes for a jab against Sarah Huckabee Sanders (New York Times)


Your perceptions of your audience are shaping your pursuit of your audience (Tow Center, Medium)
“Journalism’s shift from ignoring to embracing audience input is not relegated to one type of news organization, but is instead occurring throughout the profession as a whole,” Jacob L. Nelson writes on his research for the Tow Center on how news organization are pursuing audiences. ‘More importantly, they indicate that striving for a more collaborative relationship with the news audience is ill suited to a traditional mass audience approach to news production.” Nelson explains what he learned from analyzing a traditional newspaper and nonprofit’s efforts, suggesting that news organizations will have more luck segmenting their audiences rather than pursuing “the audience as one loosely connected mass.”

+ “How this local news co-op gets its members interested: Getting them involved in the production of news” (Nieman Lab)


Here’s how Bild evaluates its partnerships with Facebook, Google and Snapchat (Digiday)
To evaluate its partnerships with platforms, Axel Springer’s Bild examines five parameters: Those include brand expression, user engagement, the ability to attract new users, relative monetization, and ability to sign up new subscribers. “During meetings with the tech platforms, this framework keeps the focus on strategic issues and clearly and easily shows when little movement has occurred regarding the parameters,” Lucinda Southern explains on the value of the approach.

+ The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists releases the Paradise Papers, “a global investigation that reveals the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies” (ICIJ)


Why innovation should aim for the extreme ends of organizations (MIT Sloan Management Review)
“Whatever you do next, wherever you go, don’t head for the middle. Not the middle of a relationship, not the middle of an organization,” Paul Michelman writes on why innovation initiatives shouldn’t aim for the middle, whether that’s a change in your own organization or acting as a middleman in a production chain. “It’s a bad time to be an intermediary — at least in the traditional sense of the word.” Michelman suggests: “As the makers of products seek to close the distance to those who buy and use those products, and as layers of traditional management hierarchy fall away, the real worth is increasingly found at the extremes of value chains and organizations, rather than at the center.”


How media outlets cover their own sexual harassment scandals: NPR’s coverage was ‘unsparing,’ while Fox News treated Ailes’ resignation as a ‘honorable discharge’ (Washington Post)
“Reporting on an internal scandal is inherently difficult for a news organization,” Callum Borchers writes. “An outlet risks damage to its reputation by baring its worst side; it also risks damage to its reputation by trying to cover that side up.” In their coverage of their own sexual harassment scandals, NPR and Fox News’ coverage are opposite each other: NPR has covered Michael Oreskes’ resignation with an on-air interview with CEO Jarl Mohn, while Fox News’ coverage of Roger Ailes’ resignation last year “like an honorable discharge.”

+ Mother Jones says it investigated allegations against its D.C. bureau chief David Corn in 2014 and “believes they were remedied” (Politico); New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish resigns as the magazine continues investigations into harassment allegations against Fish (Splinter); Two more women accuse Michael Oreskes of sexual harassment, bringing the total number of women at NPR who have filed formal complaints against Oreskes to five (Washington Post)

+ Female journalists in the U.K. are creating a network to fight sexual harassment in media (Evening Standard)


‘A billionaire destroyed his newsrooms out of spite’ (New York Times)
“Management [at DNAinfo] threatened employees by saying that Joe Ricketts might shut the whole place down if it unionized. Nevertheless, employees last week voted 25-2 in favor of unionization. And on Thursday, Mr. Ricketts abruptly shut the whole place down,” Hamilton Nolan writes. “It is worth being clear about exactly what happened here, so that no one gets too smug. DNAinfo was never profitable, but Mr. Ricketts was happy to invest in it for eight years, praising its work all along. Gothamist, on the other hand, was profitable, and a fairly recent addition to the company. One week after the New York team unionized, Mr. Ricketts shut it all down. He did not try to sell the company to someone else. Instead of bargaining with 27 unionized employees in New York City, he chose to lay off 115 people across America.”

+ “The success of Jeff Bezos-backed Washington Post and Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media have been encouraging signs that, news organizations can thrive and do good work under a billionaire aligned with their efforts. Joe Ricketts offers a counterargument” (Nieman Lab); With the closure of DNAinfo and Gothamist, New York City is facing a “decimation of local news” (CJR)

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