Need to Know: April 4, 2019

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


You might have heard: The debate on whether journalism is — or should be — a form of activism breaks down along generational lines, with younger journalists typically considering it as a channel for advocacy (Nieman Reports)

But did you know: How today’s journalism students want to blend journalism and advocacy (

Interest in studying journalism hasn’t waned since Donald Trump’s election, and in some ways, criticism of the press may actually be energizing student journalists. What’s different now is that an increasing number want to do more than report on problems — they want to solve them. David Boardman, dean of Temple’s Klein College of Media and Communication, said applications to the school’s journalism major are up this year after several years of decline and cited “a rebirth of awareness and commitment” to the idea of a healthy Fourth Estate, as young people witness the power of the press not only in politics but also in the #MeToo movement, which was largely driven by investigative reporting. Boardman, who is also chair of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, has observed that journalism students have taken more of an activist role. Marie Hardin, dean of Penn State’s College of Communications, added that while the majority of students still want to do traditional reporting, an increasing number are coming to learn the skills without archetypal journalism jobs as the goal. “Their goal is not to work for the New York Times,” Hardin said. “Their goal is to work for Greenpeace or Doctors Without Borders.”

+ Earlier: A Trump effect at journalism schools? Colleges see a surge in admissions. (The Washington Post)

+ Noted:’s Newspack project chooses 12 newsrooms to guide development of platform focused on small and medium-sized publishers (PR Newswire); Georgia House Republicans file bill to create state Journalism Ethics Board that is intended to combat perceived bias (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Using newsletter series to highlight evergreen content (Digital Content Next)

Noting the popularity of “pop-up” newsletters, the Harvard Business Review decided to use this format to feature its reporting on an evergreen topic: managing data science teams. The eight-article series amounted to a mini-course on managing data science, with short summaries that link to the full articles but also capture the main idea. “In our experience, the evergreen-series approach to email has significant advantages in terms of product development, user acquisition, and editorial resourcing,” write Nicole Torres and Walter Frick. “Unlike an event-based pop-up newsletter, we didn’t face pressure to drive signups immediately at launch. We were able to stagger promotion over several months, testing and gathering feedback.” HBR’s success with this series suggests that evergreen newsletters can become a critical part of publishers’ strategies. While news briefings will continue to be most news publishers’ core email product, “Email [newsletters] don’t always need to emphasize what’s new,” Torres and Frick concluded. “They can help users learn about new topics or acquire new skills, too.”

+ Related: The Pew Research Center created a two-week newsletter course on U.S. immigration (Lenfest Institute); Vox launched a five-day newsletter guide on charitable giving (Vox); and The Washington Post has a 12-week series on weeknight cooking (The Washington Post)


Why did Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund offer up to €50,000 to a mouthpiece of Hungary’s authoritarian government? (Nieman Lab)

Google’s gift of €50,000 to Origo, a Hungarian news site featured in the recent New York Times article “The Website That Shows How a Free Press Can Die,” has many asking whether Google takes press freedom into account when deciding where to distribute its grant money. Over the past three years, Google has doled out around €150 million (USD $168 million) to more than 600 news organizations in 30 European countries through its Digital News Innovation Fund. Generally, these grants, intended to “help stimulate innovation in digital journalism,” go to products focused on fact-checking, local news, digital revenue, or AI and technologies. But “How Origo, a website staffed by pro-government flunkies, will help Hungarian journalism ‘thrive’ is hard to imagine,” wrote MediaPowerMonitor, a watchdog group that first noticed the grant March 28. When asked for comment by Nieman Lab reporter Christine Schmidt, Google stated that it had “decided not to go ahead” with the grant to New Wave Media, Origo’s parent company.


Old, online, and fed on lies: how an aging population will reshape the internet (BuzzFeed News)

A growing body of research shows that older Americans have disproportionately fallen prey to the dangers of internet misinformation and risk being further polarized by their online habits, reports Craig Silverman. While that matters much to them, it’s also a massive challenge for society given the outsize role older generations play in civic life, and demographic changes that are increasing their power and influence. People 65 and older will soon make up the largest single age group in the United States, and will remain that way for decades to come, according to the US Census. This massive demographic shift is occurring when this age group is moving online and onto Facebook in droves, deeply struggling with digital literacy, and being targeted by bad actors who try to feed them fake news, infect their devices with malware, and steal their money in scams. Yet older people are largely being left out of what has become something of a golden age for digital literacy efforts, which tend to focus largely on younger age groups.


Using the tax code to help save the news media (The Atlantic)

“Policy makers could do more, much more, to help the collapsing news industry, which is pulling down America’s civic culture with it,” writes John Wihbey. The lack of quality local news has become an issue even for social media platforms, “which serve up other available stories instead — including whatever crazy, amusing, or outrageous pieces of content start trending online. But no business solution is in sight; most local news outlets cannot seem to make a profit.” The federal government could help address this market failure by offering tax-free status to media start-ups and smaller existing news outlets that demonstrate a commitment to public service, Wihbey proposes. The trick, he acknowledges, is defining “news” and “public service.”

+ “The suggestion that The Post’s decision-making … was influenced by anything other than established journalistic standards is baseless and reprehensible”: A Washington Post spokesperson responds to freelancer Irin Carmon’s story examining why The Post killed what would have been a blockbuster story on former “60 Minutes” producer Jeff Fager (Poynter)


Why women are primed to pioneer zero-waste journalism (Poynter)

The concept of zero-waste journalism, which means considering how journalistic content can be “refused” (either abandoned or automated), reused, remixed or recycled in service to your readers, is one that women may be uniquely suited to. Research has shown that women are typically assigned more tasks at work, and they get more work done too. Women also manage 80 percent of household budgets and make major decisions about where families put their resources. “With that kind of workload, women have a unique incentive to be efficient and reduce wastes of time, of resources, of opportunities,” write Melody Kramer and Betsy O’Donovan. That skill could be transferred to the newsroom, where “Adding a zero-waste philosophy … means thinking not only about ways to use the content of the piece in different ways, but through ways the material you collect could help your newsroom’s bottom line.”