Need to Know: April 30, 2019

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


You might have heard: “There’s a huge demand” for product managers among news publishers (Digiday)

But did you know: Product teams have taken national news organizations by storm, but in local news, product management is still mostly done by people in other roles (Nieman Lab)

While the deep integration of a distinct product role — something that shares characteristics of both editorial and business-side — is a years-old story at many national news organizations, at local news outlets, product often gets short-changed in the face of editorial responsibilities. Distinct teams have emerged in some of the local newspaper chains and digital nonprofits, often driven by reporters who’ve transitioned to product roles and leadership that’s prioritized hiring for it. But “anyone in a newsroom can do product thinking,” says Becca Aaronson, director of product at Chalkbeat. “A lot of local newsrooms think doing this work is beyond their capability because they don’t have the resources to hire a product manager or build out a team. I’m of the belief that this job of product thinking needs to take many shapes and forms in newsrooms, whether it’s a managing editor or reporter who approaches their work in a way where they’re thinking about it in a way that provides value.”

+ Related: How The Post and Courier used a “mini-publisher” approach, forming cross-departmental teams around new products, to successfully create new revenue streams (Better News); Earlier: Best practices for product management in news organizations

+ Noted: Facebook is giving 60 academics access to internal data so they can analyze its role in elections (Nieman Lab); Twitter expands live-streaming video lineup, setting content deals with Wall Street Journal, Time, Univision and more (Variety); Paid email newsletters are proving themselves as a meaningful revenue generator for writers (BuzzFeed News); Public relations jobs exceeded those of reporters by more than six-to-one last year, up from less than two-to-one 20 years ago, according to data from the U.S. Census (Bloomberg)


How to be an ally in the newsroom (Source)

There’s plenty of talk about improving diversity and inclusion in American newsrooms, but much of that conversation revolves around what leaders should be doing, writes Emma Carew Grovum. Carew Grovum created a useful resource for people at all levels of the newsroom on how to be an ally for colleagues from historically underrepresented backgrounds. Her guide suggests small actions that can be embedded into everyday work, from sharing salary information with colleagues or analyzing your social sharing patterns for unconscious bias or exclusivity, to larger efforts like becoming a mentor or coach to colleagues from different backgrounds. “If you happen to be in a position of privilege, use it to make change in your workplace. It’s sad but true: in many companies, the same idea about how to boost diversity coming from a white man will be better received than if it came from a woman of color.”


El País owner Prisa Media built a brand-safety tool to reassure news-wary advertisers (Digiday)

To reassure advertisers leery of having their ads appear next to negative news stories, Prisa Media, a Spanish and Portuguese-language media group, has built a tool that uses machine learning to place ads based on probable human reactions to specific news content. To determine how people respond emotionally to its articles, the team worked with a market research firm to monitor the responses to articles supplied by 2,000 participants. That data is then fed into the algorithm to be used for the next year. “Having that human element is important in order to train the algorithm,” said Pedro Ventura, director of technology on data and monetization at Prisa. So far the publisher has created 32 audience emotions and created “happiness” segments, among others, to put advertisers at ease. It will charge a higher fee for those that want this option on top of regular targeting.

+ Earlier: The New York Times sells premium ads based on how an article makes you feel (Poynter)


A bitter turf war is raging on the Brexit Wikipedia page (Wired)

While the British Parliament remains mired in endless Brexit deadlock, over on the Brexit Wikipedia page things are even less amicable, writes Matt Reynolds. Page editors tell tales of turf wars, sock puppet accounts, doxxing and death threats as anonymous figures seek to mold the 11,757-word article in a way that supports their point of view. “The big problem with the page is that vandals and good-faith editors with strong points of view regularly seek to remove the content sourced to peer-reviewed studies and expert assessments, in particular from the [opening paragraphs],” said one editor. “They do so either because they personally reject the findings of those studies or due to a sense of ‘false balance’.”


Journalists can’t ignore hacked data meant to disrupt elections. But here’s what they can do. (Washington Post)

Journalists and editors are preparing to act more intentionally in the event of another mass leak of documents that could affect the outcome of the 2020 elections. “One takeaway for me is that we should put as much investigative muscle into finding out the source and motivation as we do into the information itself,” said New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet. BuzzFeed News has revised its standards guidelines to address hacked material, mandating that reporters “treat the intention of the hacker as a major part of the story,” said Editor in Chief Ben Smith. Newsrooms need to do everything in their power to be prepared to handle hacked information responsibly and thoughtfully — even in the heat of a breaking news story, writes Margaret Sullivan. “In short: Don’t publish weaponized gossip. Verify relentlessly. Nail down, and emphasize, the source of the hack and its motivation. And be transparent with news consumers.”


His father installed printing presses. He dismantles them. (Columbia Journalism Review)

When Joel Birket was a child, his family moved to new cities for a year at a time so his father, William, could install printing presses at the major daily newspapers in Seattle and Minneapolis. “I saw all the different trades and effort that was put into making these presses work,” Birket says. “It was just fascinating.” Birket entered the same line of work in 1994, and now oversees his own shop specializing in machinery moving and press installations. But today, Birket spends more of his time dismantling presses rather than installing them, for newspapers who are outsourcing their printing to a central location used by multiple publishers. “I hate to see these presses go because I knew the people who ran the presses and maintained the presses, and they had families they supported based on this industry,” Joel says. “You could come into a newspaper and get a job and have it be a career. I hate to see careers go away, but it’s just evolution and change.”