Need to Know: April 29, 2019

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


You might have heard: Rounds of layoffs hit Gannett and USA Today Network in January (Poynter)

But did you know: How USA Today and its network of local papers prioritize investigative journalism (Poynter)

Despite cutting newsroom staffs at its more than 100 local properties across the country, Gannett says it’s taking a deliberate approach to protecting and prioritizing investigative reporting. In the last year, USA Today’s national investigative team has grown from eight to 24 members. While smaller papers in the network might not all have dedicated investigative editors or reporters, their staffs are now part of the larger network. And that network has figured out a few ways to make investigative work the focus with more training (including 30 scholarships to IRE’s annual conference), the opportunity for local newsrooms to work with the national team and a more collaborative approach to working with each other. “We can’t be all things to all people,” said Beryl Love, executive editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “But we need to have impact in our community, and that’s a deliberate move by the company.”

+ Noted: President Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims, averaging nearly 23 per day in the last seven months, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker (Washington Post); Financial Times enters syndication deal with Los Angeles Times, making up to four FT articles available to LA Times readers every week (Financial Times)


How the Detroit Free Press created a unique social media voice (Lenfest Institute)

In 2011, The Detroit Free Press decided to experiment with its voice on Twitter by using a sassier persona on its sports account. It has since expanded the strategy to its main account, and it uses the approach to both make jokes and tackle more serious issues. In recent years, the Free Press’ social team has grown its Twitter audience by 138 percent, and not only has the “snarky, fun” tone increased conversation and engagement on the platform, it’s also helped to disarm readers after a couple editorial goofs in the past. Brian Manzullo, the Free Press’ social, search, and audience editor, said that the Freep’s social media personality tries to reflect that of Detroit and Michigan at large. “I’d encourage all news organizations to try this, to establish and develop a voice by putting yourself in the shoes of your audience,” he said. “Especially if you’re a local news organization, the audience is right in the room.”

+ Earlier: The Washington Post and ProPublica have also mastered the art of fun Twitter (Washingtonian; ProPublica)

+ Having just launched a new commenting system from the Coral Project, the Seattle Times has begun doing weekly roundups of the most interesting and insightful reader comments from (Seattle Times)


Collaboration jackpot: How three local journalism projects in Europe are getting more bang for their buck (Nieman Lab)

As resources have shrunk, collaboration between and within newsrooms has skyrocketed. But while in the U.S. there are whole organizations and resources dedicated to examining and improving media collaborations, the subject is relatively understudied in Europe. A recent report from the Reuters Institute looked at three different examples of collaboration between European news outlets; including The Bureau Local in the U.K., an ongoing network of journalists and non-journalists working on topic-driven projects; L’Italia Delle Slot in Italy, a short-term investigation into gambling in Italy by startup and legacy publications; and Lännen Media in Finland, a regional content-sharing setup.


The secret silos of #ChemTwitter (Chemical & Engineering News)

Scientists often use Twitter to get advice, share research, collaborate and network. To help its audience better navigate the chemistry community on Twitter, Chemical & Engineerings News examined 2,000 relevant accounts to see who the community’s main influencers are and how it is broken down into subdisciplines, like chemical and environmental engineering, as well as geographic areas. The analysis showed that 84 percent of the users interacted in 11 key silos, for which C&EN identified popular hashtags (noting regional differences), influencer accounts, and even best times to tweet. C&EN also offered a basic description of each group based on the insights gleaned. The analysis is not only invaluable for C&EN readers who are on Twitter, it also helped the publication get a much better understanding of this facet of its audience and how information and trending topics flow among key groups and individuals.


How the new movements, not the old media, are driving politics (BuzzFeed News)

Traditional presidential campaigns — in which the media had an unignorable role in building (and snatching away) candidates’ momentum — are giving way to new-age politics, where figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pete Buttigieg have garnered (and will maintain) support on their own through social media. Unlike establishment politics, these leaders’ popularity doesn’t ebb and flow based on media coverage, writes Ben Smith. “Politics is the media business, and increasingly the media-criticism business. But spare a thought for the possibility that, as you judge the media’s coverage of the Democratic Primary, that we have a lot less to do with the outcome than we used to. The power that we used to wield has been handed over to the [social media] fandoms.”

+ Related: Inside the shrinking newsroom of the paper that shapes the primaries (Politico)

+ “I felt like it was a betrayal, and we had raised funds on false pretense”: The Correspondent’s first U.S. employee speaks out (Nieman Lab)


Exploring machine learning in your newsroom (Columbia Journalism Review)

Machine learning has already infiltrated some of the most prosaic tasks in journalism, including transcription, translation and tagging digital content. But in some respects, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what machine learning can do — particularly when it comes to editorial work. “Part of the challenge for journalism is figuring out which techniques are appropriate (and useful) for particular journalistic tasks,” writes Nicholas Diakopoulos. “One way to tackle this challenge would be to invite experts in machine learning to take up residence in newsrooms where they could determine which strains of machine learning could be most useful to the journalists there. Another possibility might be to invite editorial thinkers to do fellowships in computing environments. With more collaboration over time, we can flesh out where and when machine learning is most useful in journalism.”

+ How data journalism has evolved over the last decade (Medium, European Journalism Centre)