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Need to Know: April 16, 2018

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


You might have heard: Michael Ferro announced he was “retiring” as chairman of Tronc last month after he was accused of sexual harassment (Los Angeles Times)

But did you know: Michael Ferro sold his entire stake in Tronc, selling his 9 million shares to McCormick Media (Chicago Tribune)
Tronc’s largest shareholder Michael Ferro, who owned more than 25 percent of the company, is selling his entire stake in Tronc to McCormick Media. The buyer, the Chicago Tribune reports, is a “a distant relation to the McCormick family that controlled the Chicago Tribune throughout much of its history,” though it’s unclear how involved McCormick Media will be as an owner. Ferro is selling his more than 9 million shares for $23 per share, or $208.6 million. In an email to staff, CEO Justin Dearborn emphasized that the company was not involved in the transaction, and it would not change “our business strategy or the pending sale of the California News Group.”

+ Apollo Global Management may be interested in buying Tronc: “Apollo has kindled talks with the management team at Tronc … along with a few other prospective acquirers that include at least one media company,” Josh Kosman and Keith J. Kelly report (New York Post)

+ Noted: The L.A. Times’ new owner Patrick Soon-Shiong plans to move the newspaper out of its downtown headquarters to El Segundo (New York Times); Veteran journalist Katherine Rowlands purchased regional wire service Bay City News for an undisclosed sum, and plans to establish a nonprofit arm to bring in philanthropic support (Marketwatch); Publishers are worried that a 28 percent newsprint tariff could cause smaller newspapers to close (AP); US Weekly dropped a story in 2013 on an alleged affair between Donald Trump Jr. and Aubrey O’Day after threats from lawyer Michael Cohen (Wall Street Journal); Snapchat Discover publishers are concerned about the future of the platform after seeing traffic “plummet” following Snapchat’s major update (Select All)


Why publishers’ membership programs often include access to editorial staffers (Digiday)
“Among publishers looking for the right consumer revenue recipe, access to editorial staffers is becoming a common ingredient,” Max Willens reports. New York magazine’s membership program, for example, is focusing on exclusive events hosted by editorial staffers, while The Information offers subscribers access to private Slack channels with its editorial staffers. These initiatives, Willens explains, often bring the editorial and advertising sides together in a way they might not be used to. “Member benefits should be designed to retain your members, not attract new ones,” News Revenue Hub’s COO Christina Shih explains. “Benefits that connect your members with your core product, your editorial content, deepen the relationship you have with them and will increase their propensity to give again.”


While the platforms do damage control in the US, a new crisis is brewing ahead of India’s elections in early 2019 (BuzzFeed News)
Facebook, Google and Twitter may be busy trying to handle the fallout from foreign interference, unauthorized data collection and fake news during the United States’ presidential election, but Pranav Dixit reports that a new set of problems are ahead in India. India will hold elections in early 2019, “and experts worry that US tech companies aren’t doing enough to ensure that their platforms aren’t used to influence or disrupt the democratic process.” Dixit reports: “A perfect storm of political polarization, digital naïveté, illiteracy, and a lack of meaningful steps from the platforms themselves has left India’s electorate uniquely vulnerable to being manipulated online. … Millions of people speaking dozens of different local Indian languages are going online for the first time in their lives, and they are even less equipped to process an onslaught of fake news and political propaganda on social networks than Americans are.”

+ Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook “will hire thousands of more people” before elections in India, Mexico, Brazil and Pakistan (Quartz)


Receiving notifications in batches throughout the day may help people be happier and more productive (Business Insider)
According to research from Duke University, the average person receives between 65 and 80 notifications on their phone each day — and those constant notifications break people’s attention, and make us less productive. The researchers from Duke found that one way to help may be giving people notifications in batches: They found that people who received notifications in three batches tended to be happier than people who receive notifications as usual, received notifications once every hour or didn’t receive them at all. “The ideal system might be location aware and give you your first batch of notifications as you arrive at work or hop on the subway, a second batch at the end of a lunch break, and a third batch as you head home for the evening,” explains Kevin Loria.


When news organizations change stories online without explanation, they confuse readers (iMediaEthics)
Last month, NYT quietly edited a story about Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos leaving the company, removing a sentence about Stamos’ stance on Russian interference on Facebook. That’s just one example, Sydney Smith writes, of news organizations changing stories online, but failing to be transparent about what changed and why. “It confuses readers who read the article, and may go back later to find an altogether different article: articles that significantly change, without transparent disclosure the article has been significantly updated to readers, throughout the course of a day or longer,” Smith writes.

+ Earlier: How to correct website and social media errors effectively


‘News deserts’ are both a supply and demand issue in communities (UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media)
UNC’s Penny Abernathy defines a news desert as “a community, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level.” Abernathy explains that news deserts are both a supply and demand issue: Metro papers cut back their rural coverage, and in turn, the demand for newspapers in rural areas declines as people choose not to subscribe to “significantly diminished local newspapers.”

+ “The crisis in journalism has turned into a crisis of democracy,” Report for America’s Steven Waldman and GroundTruth’s Charles Sennott write: This means community members don’t have the necessary information to make decisions or hold institutions accountable, and it means that people in communities aren’t understanding each other as well (Washington Post)

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