Need to Know: August 13, 2018

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


You might have heard: The New York Times published a statement from A.G. Sulzberger urging President Trump to consider the dangerous consequences of his anti-press rhetoric (The New York Times)

But did you know: Boston Globe calls for war of words against Trump media attacks (The Associated Press)

The Boston Globe is reaching out to editorial boards across the country to propose a coordinated response to President Trump’s attacks on the media. The Globe proposes that newspapers join it in publishing editorials on Thursday, Aug. 16, that raise awareness of the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press. About 70 outlets had committed as of Friday, said Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor for the editorial page of The Boston Globe. They include large metropolitan dailies, such as the Houston Chronicle, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Miami Herald and Denver Post, and also small weekly papers with circulations as low as 4,000.

+ Noted: Inside Twitter’s Friday meeting where executives discussed Infowars, “dehumanizing” speech and possible tech solutions (The New York Times); Viacom and Fox look to stimulate TV ad targeting with a new licensing deal (AdAge); Austin American-Statesman to end weekly Spanish-language newspaper Ahora Sí (Austin American-Statesman)


Denverite readers understand why it’s important to help local startup newsrooms pay the bills (Digital Content Next)

“Our partners at the News Revenue Hub coached us to make our messaging really clear,” writes editor Dave Burdick. “If you’d miss Denverite if it was gone, you might want to help us pay the bills, because reporting costs money, and if the money runs out, the reporting stops.” In preparation for launching its membership program, Denverite staff conducted an email campaign that explained why it needs reader support and what that support pays for. “Our first membership program email was pretty honest about our financial situation,” writes Burdick. “We’d just laid off three reporters a few months before, and we needed to make some changes to the way we were doing things. Most urgently, we needed support from the readers, starting right away.” Since then, the campaign emails have highlighted the different types of journalism Denverite does, helping readers understand what it takes to produce news they can apply in their day-to-day lives.

+ An editor’s guide to creating an online portfolio (Poynter); 7 techniques to write more concisely on social media (AdWeek)


Students aim to shape storytelling in Africa through mobile journalism (

Two Kenyan students organized a mobile journalism conference in July that aimed to inspire fellow students to not only tell stories with their phones, but to teach them about digital safety and how their smartphones will change the way they work in the future. “Some of the students may not be in a position to own professional cameras or the sophisticated equipment,” said Emmanuel Yegon, one of the organizers. “But in our presentation, we discussed the practical tools, apps and equipment you can use.” A mobile journalism approach can help students produce journalism in underreported areas of Africa, said Yegon. “Now we have ‘pocket studios’ — the smartphones — to tell our stories.”

+ “We’re a wealthy, English-speaking nation that is just sitting there ripe for the eyeball harvest”: Why The New York Times is so interested in Australia (The Outline)


A lesson for journalists from today’s TV (The New York Times)

TV script writers understand that viewers can deal with nuance and contradictions, writes Tina Rosenberg. Many journalists, however, seem to believe that audiences can’t handle complexity, presenting what Rosenberg calls a “cartoonish and reductive” picture of the world; which ultimately increases polarization. So here’s what journalists can learn from TV writers: Don’t oversimplify narratives; communicate complex perspectives; look for stories beyond stereotypes; acknowledge agency; and report on people facing challenges, showing what is and isn’t working in their quests for solutions. “Bringing out complexity is possible even in the shortest pieces,” writes Rosenberg, “and it would make our journalism more compelling, more impactful and more true.”

+ Earlier: Complicating the Narratives: How complexity leads to a more accurate story and depolarizes issues (Medium, Amanda Ripley)


The power of social media activism to shape online discourse — for better or worse (The Washington Post)

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the grassroots group Sleeping Giants began publicly notifying companies when their ads appeared on the far-right news site Breitbart, asking them if they really wanted to support the content there. The tactic worked — hundreds of them pulled their ads from Breitbart, and the group repeated the process with high-profile conservative figures, including former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, talk show host Laura Ingraham, and now, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The sudden desertion of advertisers, of course, hit where it hurts — in the wallet. But “the whole process of applying concerted social-media pressure raises profound questions,” writes Margaret Sullivan. “What happens when these same techniques are used not to point out bigotry but to go after legitimate comment or personalities by twisting the facts?”


The local TV consolidation race is here (Axios)

Tribune Media announced Thursday that it has terminated its $3.9 billion merger agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting, which would have created the largest local broadcaster in America. But the deal’s collapse doesn’t mean the industry will stop consolidating. Local broadcasters cite one key reason for consolidation — The FCC’s landmark decision last year to roll back old regulations that limited the ability of TV companies to own properties in the same market. Many in the industry also argue that consolidation is the only way to compete with big tech. “Of all TV news products, local television still has the largest audience by far compared to national and cable,” writes Sara Fischer. “But it’s also been hit with the greatest decline among the three types of traditional TV.”

+ Help wanted: West Virginia is looking for the next generation of local newspaper owners (Nieman Reports); An interview with Steven Thrasher, inaugural holder of the Daniel H. Renberg Chair at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, on his new professorship that will focus on social justice in reporting, with a specific emphasis on LGBTQ issues (Columbia Journalism Review)