Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Sept. 6, 2017

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard:The web has a surplus of copy versus advertising. Companies have decided that sticking an ad at the front of a video makes it less ignorable than putting a similar ad next to an article,” Bryan Curtis wrote in July on why “pivots to video” are happening (The Ringer)

But did you know: Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell says, ‘There will be no pivot to video at this company. We are very much in video’ (Vox Media)
If you’re already succeeding at video, there’s no need for a pivot to video. In a memo to staff about the company’s approach to video, Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell emphasized the importance of its journalists across all platforms — from writing to video. Bell writes: “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. To do this work, we need different skills across the board – writers and researchers and reporters and visual journalists and video producers and audio producers — all are necessary to our mix. Great videos don’t emerge from the ether, or from a desire to make more money from higher advertising rates. Great videos emerge out of great journalism, a great creative culture, and deep collaboration with creators of many different kinds.”

+ Noted: Conde Nast is preparing for another reorganization this week: “Heavy” cuts on the business and editorial teams are expected, with more restructuring of its ad sales teams resulting in “more centralization and teams working across titles” (WWD); Digital Content Next tells the NRA in a letter, “It is un-American to threaten journalists” after NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch said “we’re coming for you” in an attack of a NYT story (CNN Media); The fallout from the retracted Anthony Scaramucci story by the CNN Investigates team is a “illuminating chapter in the network’s effort to carry out the meticulous, time-consuming work of investigative journalism within the fast-paced, ratings-driven world of 24-hour cable news” (New York Times); The Student Press Law Center names Hadar Harris as its next executive director, succeeding Frank LoMonte (SPLC)

TRY THIS AT HOME

‘Want to get results? Learn how to fail first — and fail often’ (Poynter)
“Learning something new is uncomfortable, especially when you’re used to being good at what you do,” Kristen Hare writes in the latest Local Edition. Failure is often part of learning something new — and as such, it has to become something we’re comfortable with. Hare outlines some tips for getting more comfortable failing, and how to learn more from your failures. Some of her advice: You don’t have to start out learning something new with something that will be public-facing, connect what you’re doing with why you’re doing it, and connect with a colleague who’s good at the thing you’re trying to learn.

OFFSHORE

The Cambodia Daily is shutting down after 24 years in operation (New York Times)
Ordered by the government to shut down, independent newspaper The Cambodia Daily printed its final print edition on Monday morning. The Cambodian government claims that the Daily has not paid millions of dollars in taxes; the Daily responded by saying, “The power to tax is the power to destroy … The Cambodian government has destroyed The Cambodia Daily, a special and singular part of Cambodia’s free press.” The Daily’s editor in chief Jodie DeJonge told NYT: “It’s our livelihood, our mission and our passion to put out the news, but it’s a small part of what’s going on in Cambodia today. They are trying to shut down all independent voices.”

OFFBEAT

The rise of the Twitter thread: Rather than reporting or fact-finding, Twitter threads are about raising questions (Politico Magazine)
“Some days, it seems as if the [Twitter] thread has even replaced the Atlantic-style treatise among much of the commentariat,” Virginia Heffernan writes. “A thread is quicker off the blocks and can be read in a fraction of the time, but also offers readers the intellectual satisfaction that magazine essays do, that snap of having your mind opened by an expert or a provocateur. … It’s a virtue that good threads, even while citing gold-standard reporting, are shot through with imagination and irony, not just fact-finding. They aim to raise questions. Dot-connecting and hypothesis — more than bromides — are their strong suits. ‘I am neither saying I *know* this is true or even that I necessarily *believe* this is true’ is how [lawyer and professor Seth] Abramson framed a recent thread. Since a refrain of our political climate is that truth has become stranger than fiction, this kind of theory-testing is urgently important.”

UP FOR DEBATE

New York Daily News selling for $1 isn’t the first time a storied publication has sold for next-to-nothing (Recode)
With the news that Tronc would buy the New York Daily News for $1 (and assumption of its liabilities), one of the biggest newspapers in the country is essentially worth nothing, Peter Kafka writes. But it’s not the first time a publication with a long history has sold for next-to-nothing in exchange for the buyer picking up the debt: TV Guide sold for $1 in 2008; a year later Bloomberg bought Businessweek for $5 million, far less than the publication was expected to go for in exchange for taking on its liabilities.

+ “Newspapers were once so profitable that they sold for billions as recently as a decade or so ago. These days, they’re largely valued not on their journalistic enterprise and community connections but on the real estate their owners acquired decades or even a century earlier,” Paul Farhi writes on the sale price (Washington Post)

+ “What [Tronc chairman Michael Ferro] can do with the Daily News that [Mort] Zuckerman couldn’t isn’t clear,” Jim Warren writes. “The challenge is on the digital side, where he’ll see the Daily News as somehow fitting a strategy he’s previously heralded but done little to execute, namely making money off covering the entertainment world” (Poynter)

SHAREABLE

‘If you want to argue for a digital future, you better understand the argument for why it’s been a disaster so far’ (MediaShift)
“I would argue that blind allegiance to a school of thought, without having grappled with and argued for its opposite is weak,” David Cohn writes on the two “schools of thought” within journalism. “If you want to argue for a digital future, you better understand the argument for why it’s been a disaster so far and why journalism might intrinsically be doomed as a sharecropper profession from hence forth. And once you’ve accepted that, you can build out the argument for why this is the greatest time to be in our industry and opportunities abound everywhere.” Cohn breaks down the arguments in two recent articles representing those opposing viewpoints, from Cory Haik on a more long-term view of the “pivot to video” and Franklin Foer’s article for The Atlantic on “When Silicon Valley Took Over Journalism.

+ How a canvas New Yorker tote that comes free with a subscription became “a bigger status symbol than a $10,000 Hermès bag” (MarketWatch)

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