Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Sept. 19, 2017

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


You might have heard:Think of data analysis as simply part of journalism for the modern world. Reporting has always involved numbers. Today, technology enables journalists to use numbers less anecdotally, more authoritatively, and to uncover otherwise invisible stories.

But did you know: A new study of data journalism from the Google News Lab finds that 51 percent of all news organizations in the United States and Europe have a dedicated data journalist (The Keyword)
In partnership with PolicyViz, Google News Lab has conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of the field of data journalism: The study consisted of 56 in-depth qualitative interviews with journalists in the U.S., France and Germany, and an online survey of more than 900 journalists. Their research found that 42 percent of the journalists surveyed use data to tell stories regularly (twice or more per week), and 51% of all news organizations in the U.S. and Europe have a dedicated data journalist. At digital-only outlets, that number is even higher: 60 percent of digital-only outlets have a dedicated data journalist.

+ Earlier: Our Strategy Study on how to get started or go deeper with data journalism in your newsroom

+ Noted: The FCC is asking for more evidence to support Sinclair Broadcasting’s claims about the benefits of its acquisition of Tribune Media (Multichannel News); Tronc is cutting 25 percent of the staff at its Pioneer Press suburban newspaper group (Robert Feder); CNN is launching a tech-focused vertical about the changing media landscape on the West Coast, acknowledging that “media isn’t just in Los Angeles and New York anymore. It’s in San Francisco and Seattle” (Business Insider); A new project called Report for America “aims to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms in the next five years” (Poynter); Vox Media will start selling its ads using programmatic ad technology (Business Insider); Quartz is launching a new newsletter called Obsession, taking a deep dive into one topic per day (Quartz)


‘Help, did we pivot to video?’: What BuzzFeed News has learned about doing reporting and video together (BuzzFeed News)
“Of all the buzzy phrases that define modern journalism, ‘pivot to video’ is one of the few that still has a bite,” BuzzFeed News’ Head of U.S. News Shani O. Hilton writes. “And it should. We’ve seen decisions to stop doing original reporting and start producing commodified slideshows ricochet through the industry.” As BuzzFeed News launches some major new video projects, Hilton writes that they’ve found video and original reporting can go hand-in-hand: “Video is an extension of what we do, not a liability or a threat to our journalism. … We’ve had an amazing opportunity [from video] to experiment and grow and change all without losing the core of what we do: report to our growing audience.”

+ After “pivoting to video,” has reportedly lost 88 percent of its audience (Awful Announcing); Earlier: “We do not believe video comes at the cost of our journalism or people with non-video skillsets. Writing is a crucial component of what we want to offer our audiences – as is photography, video, sound, graphics, and illustrations,” Vox Media’s Melissa Bell wrote earlier this month (Vox Media)


A new study on how the Arab world gets and shares news: Arab nationals are more likely than Americans to get news from social media (Nieman Lab)
Northwestern University in Qatar’s fifth annual Media Use in the Middle East survey finds that Arab nationals are more likely than Americans to get news from social media. The study found that two-thirds of Arab nationals say they get news on social media every day and 79 percent say they get at least some news from social media; in comparison, a recent Pew survey found that two-thirds of Americans say they get at least some news from social media, with 20 percent saying they do so “hardly ever.” There’s also some notable difference in how the Middle East and U.S. get news from social media: 67 percent of Arab nationals use WhatsApp, and 28 percent get news from the platform; Pew found that just 11 percent of Americans use WhatsApp, and just 2 percent get news from the platform.


Look at digital disruption as an organizational and managerial challenge, rather than just a technological challenge (MIT Sloan Management Review)
“Companies will effectively navigate the challenges posed by digital disruption if they look at them as organizational and managerial problems, rather than technical ones,” Boston College professor Gerald C. Kane writes for MIT Sloan Management Review. “It’s true that technological innovation is happening at a faster rate than ever before. … Yet while the increasing rate of technological innovation is a significant part of the digital disruption challenge facing companies, it is not the problem in and of itself.” Kane argues that because technology changes faster than individuals can adopt to it and individuals can change faster than an organization can, companies should focus on structuring their organization and preparing their employees for digital disruption over what new technologies to adopt.


3 things the discussion around Facebook and Russia needs to include: How social media weaponization is a global problem, why Russia wasn’t pro-Trump, and how Russia exploited things that already existed in American culture (Melissa Ryan, Medium)
“Given how integrated social media now is in the fabric of our lives, it’s unsettling to realize just how extensively these platforms have been weaponized. It’s even more unsettling to imagine foreign governments using social media to manipulate us,” Melissa Ryan writes. “Tech companies have a lot to answer for. Consumers are pissed, and I hope both Congress and citizens keep up the pressure. But I’m also hopeful that with all this new information, we can have a broader conversation about internet weaponization.” Three things Ryan says we need more discussion and awareness of: Social media weaponization as a global problem, how Russia tapped into things that already existed in American culture, and why Russia’s goal wasn’t to prop one political party up over another.

+ “In total, there’s a stunning lack of public specificity about an alleged foreign campaign to influence our domestic politics,” Jim Rutenberg writes. “Arguments that sites like Facebook are merely open ‘platforms’ — and not ‘media companies’ that make editorial judgments about activity in the digital worlds they created — fall woefully flat when it comes to meddling in our democracy” (New York Times)


Sean Spicer said he regrets criticizing accurate news reports on the size of President Trump’s inauguration crowds (New York Times)
In an interview with The New York Times following his appearance at the Emmys on Sunday night, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he regrets his decision to criticize accurate news reports that President Barack Obama’s inauguration crowds were larger than President Trump’s. “Of course I do, absolutely,” Spicer said.

+ Spicer’s appearance at the Emmys sparked a new debate, however: “Should [Stephen] Colbert and the Emmys have given Spicer a platform to rehabilitate an image so badly tarnished by his brief stint working as President Trump’s spokesman?” (CNN Media)

+ “If journalists are feeling queasy about Spicer’s second act fueled by entertainers and academics, they don’t necessarily need to sound off on social media; they simply need to practice some of the basic tenets of the profession. One of the core jobs of journalism is providing context and perspective. And it’s hard, maybe impossible, to imagine what Spicer could do in the coming months that would be as newsworthy as his six months as press secretary. Unless he cures cancer, his celebrity appearances and appointments should be treated as a footnote to his overall story,” Philip Eil argues (CJR)

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