Need to Know: April 9, 2018

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


You might have heard: Last month, The Denver Post announced that its newsroom would be cut by about one-third (Denver Post); A lawsuit filed by one of Digital First Media’s minority shareholders claims that owner Alden Global Capital siphoned millions of dollars from the newspapers it owns into risky investments (DFM Workers)

But did you know: The Denver Post’s editorial board calls for Alden Global Capital to sell the paper before the paper is destroyed (Denver Post)
“If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will,” The Denver Post’s editorial board wrote. “Here in Colorado, Alden has embarked on a cynical strategy of constantly reducing the amount and quality of its offerings, while steadily increasing its subscription rates. In doing so, the hedge fund managers — often tellingly referred to as ‘vulture capitalists’ — have hidden behind a narrative that adequately staffed newsrooms and newspapers can no longer survive in the digital marketplace. … When newsroom owners view profits as the only goal, quality, reliability and accountability suffer. Their very mission is compromised. The course correction that needs to come for the benefit of communities across the land depends on owners committed to serving their readers and viewers and users.”

+ The Denver Post published nine more editorials related to its decline under Alden: Gregory L. Moore asks who will save The Denver Post, Ricardo Baca argues that journalists need to fight back against hedge fund owners, Jenn Fields explains the importance of telling stories that might not otherwise get told, Jon Caldara says advocates for limited government should care about the decline of liberal newspapers, Mario Nicolais asks “who will be there” when journalists are gone, Diane Carman says even readers who “hate” the Post would miss if it were gone, Joanne Ostrow argues that cuts to local newspapers hurt all local news, Jeffrey A. Roberts writes about investigative journalism’s importance in communities, and Chunk Plunkett explains what will happen to letters to the editor with the Post’s cuts (Denver Post)

+ Denver mayor Michael B. Hannock made a statement in support of the Post: “Denver is so proud of our flagship newspaper for speaking out. The Denver Post said it best — they are necessary to this ‘grand democratic experiment,’ especially at a time when the press and facts are under constant attack by the White House. For a New York hedge fund to treat our paper like any old business and not a critical member of our community is offensive. We urge the owners to rethink their business strategy or get out of the news business.” (New York Times)

+ Noted: The Department of Homeland Security says it will compile a database of journalists, bloggers, foreign correspondents and editors to identify top “media influencers” and monitor the “sentiment” of their coverage (Big Law Business); The New York Times is starting to have some op-ed columnists respond to comments from readers (New York Times); Southern Methodist University’s independent student media company will dissolve in May due to lack of funds, and SMU will take control of the student newspaper (Dallas Morning News)


‘It’s time to be laser focused on identifying, serving, and generating value from key customer franchises’ (Local Media Association)
The shift to reader-focused revenue models means that news organizations have to consider some critical questions. Among those questions: Who are your most important, and most valuable customers, and how do you identify them? What “jobs” do you serve for your target customers, and why are you uniquely positioned to help them do them? How are you getting value from your relationships with readers? And, how do you efficiently build more relationships with potential readers?

+ API’s Metrics for News program uses content analysis, new journalism metrics and innovative audience surveys to help figure out what your franchises should be

+ What does Condé Nast’s “pivot to video” look like? More food videos, product placement in its studios, and distributing video outside of Facebook (New York Times)


Facebook says it’s offering users worldwide the same privacy controls required under GDPR. What does that mean, and can Facebook deliver? (New York Times)
When the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect next month, it will place greater restrictions on what companies like Facebook and Google can do with users’ data, as well as give users greater control over the collection and use of their data. Now, Facebook is promising to give users worldwide the same privacy controls that the EU will require under GDPR. To do so, Facebook will likely have to revamp its data policies and terms of service — and possibly limit how much Facebook tracks users on other websites. “If Facebook wants to offer European-level privacy protection to all, it would also need to provide its users with the data that Facebook itself collected or created about them, including any categories, descriptions or behavior scores Facebook assigned to them,” Natasha Singer writes. “And it should provide users who seek their own records with any data that Facebook has obtained from tracking them around the web as well as any data that Facebook obtained about them from third parties, like data brokers.”

+ “While Facebook has now confirmed its intention to roll out GDPR benchmarks globally, some existing laws around the world do conflict with the upcoming EU legislation,” Rachel England writes “How Facebook handles this remains to be seen. It’s more important than ever before that the company is completely transparent with its privacy and data policies. Muddying the waters with vague statements and ambiguous announcements only jeopardises what little faith its user base has left in it” (Engadget); Thomas Baekdal argues that many publishers have not realized how much GDPR will change their businesses, given that most are not “even close to compliant” (Baekdal Plus)


Is privacy a value or a strategy? (AVC)
In a talk at the Blockstack Berlin conference last month, Albert Wenger argues that in the information age, privacy is not a core value — but a strategy. He argues that new technology can make good things possible, but also things that are bad. Technology needs a set of values to guide itself, Wenger argues, but privacy is not one of those values. Privacy is in some ways incompatible with technology — and Wenger argues there’s cases where privacy isn’t the right strategy for technology companies.


Women at news organizations who have spoken out about sexual harassment say they’ve been blacklisted by other organizations and faced online harassment (CJR)
Since going public with her claims against a Fox News executive, former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder says, “I’ve spent half my time in bed, sad, afraid, feeling like my life is over. At times it’s been very dark.” Yardena Schwartz talks to nearly a dozen women who have spoken out about sexual harassment in the news industry — and these women told Schwartz that as a result, they’ve found themselves blacklisted by other news organizations, experienced harassment online, and even been offered money to stay quiet. “There is definitely blackballing in the news industry,” says labor attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson in her lawsuit against Roger Ailes. “Just as [Harvey] Weinstein was able to blackball any woman who complained about him … I can’t even remember how many producers and women complained about [Bill] O’Reilly.”


BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith reflects on the mistakes he made as a younger reporter in Belarus in 2001 (BuzzFeed News)
In 2001, BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith was a stringer for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, covering Belarus. In Eastern Europe, Smith says he expected to witness “the end of history,” assuming that democracy would win and U.S. officials wouldn’t lie. “The main lesson I should have learned was about making predictions, about trusting the confidence of my American culture and of official sources on both sides, of imagining I knew more than I did,” Smith says. “Even in the era of Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Post’ and of a kind of glorification of the work of journalists, good reporting doesn’t offer easy lessons. It’s an uncertain business, and a necessarily anarchic one.”