Need to Know: August 15, 2019

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


You might have heard: Black adults, older Americans and Americans with less education are more interested in local news (and they prefer to get it on TV) (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: The Black News Channel is slated to launch Nov. 15 and is expected to reach at least 33 million homes (TV News Check)

Led by former cable lobbyist and regional cable network executive Bob Brillante and former Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts, the Black News Channel will serve an African-American audience that Brillante says is deeply interested in a news network of its own — particularly at a time when the nation is hyper-focused on race and the role it plays in politics and society. “You rarely hear CNN or Fox or MSNBC or any other network channel talking about HBCUs, talking about wellness in the African-American community,” says Watts. “You don’t ever hear them talking about sickle cell. You don’t hear them talking about African-American culture.” Watts and Brillante have brought on broadcast journalist Gary Wordlaw to head news and programming. Wordlaw has criticized the often negative tone of media coverage of black communities and promises a different approach: “We will tell news from the inside out, a sort of viewer-perspective journalism, and the perspective will be that of an African-American person.”

+ Noted: More than 50% of Google searches end without a click to other content, study finds (Search Engine Land); YouTube is testing a members-only videos feature (Digiday); Twitter is testing an option to let users follow “topics” as well as other users (The Interface); Take a short survey to help Resolve Philadelphia create a guide for newsrooms on using more accurate, inclusive language (Resolve Philadelphia); Your newsroom can participate in a project to develop a set of guidelines for responsible reporting on mass shooters and their motives (Columbia Journalism Review)


Trust Tip: Explain who writes an editorial (and who doesn’t) (Trusting News)

Most news consumers don’t understand the distinction between news and opinion content — and most news organizations don’t make it easy for them to. “There are plenty of examples of blurry lines between news and opinion that people consume on a daily basis,” writes Trusting News Director Joy Mayer, including describing reporters as “editorial staff” and frequently having news staff contribute to editorials. This week’s edition of Trust Tips offers a simple exercise for avoiding those common errors and clearly labeling all content types your newsroom produces. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 

+ Related: Our research found that people have the most difficulty distinguishing between news and opinion in online news and social media


What 6AM City learned from creating its own company playbook (Medium, 6AM City)

In three years the digital news org 6AM City has grown from a single newsletter produced by a team of four, to a 25-person company with newsletter products in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. As they’ve grown, they’ve carefully documented what they’ve learned in what has become a 200-plus page “playbook” that Mary Willson, manager of product, process and training, says has been vital for maintaining consistency and quality while scaling rapidly. The playbook covers everything from company culture and communication plans to the newsletter product guide and daily publishing workflow. “It allows for quick onboarding, seamless training, and sets up our team members to operate with less oversight; empowering their ability to confidently make decisions about running their respective markets,” writes Willson. “It also serves as a historical reference of our progression.”

+ Four ways to structure a longform story — and avoid the “saggy middle” (Online Journalism Blog)


Australian government tells police to lay off journalists in investigating leaks (The Conversation)

After recent high-profile raids of Australian journalists raised international concerns (and highlighted the country’s weak protections for press freedom), the government has issued a directive to the Australian Federal Police to consider national security implications and “exhaust alternative investigative actions” before involving the media in cases of leaked information. It also marks a shift in how government departments report leaks to police. “The upshot is that rather than departments routinely referring leaks to the police, disclosures that do not carry national security implications will not be sent,” writes Michelle Grattan. The move, however, has been criticized by political opponents as lacking teeth.


How does your brand come across to an outsider? (The Drum)

As news organizations use more and more platforms to distribute content, they often run into problems of inconsistency and conflicting messaging. Disconnects between “About” pages and Google meta content descriptions, inaccessible brand fonts and colors, and multiple social media accounts that use conflicting language and assets are all signs of a brand alignment problem, writes Jennifer Pyne. Pyne points to a free diagnostic tool that organizations can use to identify simple ways to improve consistency. “It doesn’t necessarily take a huge amount of effort to strengthen a brand,” she writes. But it’s important to have consistent messaging in place across all audience channels, especially before embarking on new ones.

+ Relative to the general population, U.S. Hispanics are more likely to use social networks to find out about products and services, as well as share their product and service experiences via social channels, Nielsen survey shows (Media Post)


The Twitter-fed disaster over Epstein’s death demands a solution: Slow news (Washington Post)

The rapid spread of unverified details surrounding Jeffrey Epstein’s death makes a convincing argument for “slow news,” writes Margaret Sullivan; an increasingly popular model that is built on intentionally producing less news and only reporting information that has been verified. And while breaking-news reporters may not have the luxury of slowing down the news cycle, Sullivan allows, they can avoid amplifying or legitimizing misinformation that shows up as a “trending topic” on Twitter. Meanwhile, she says, news consumers should make the “healthy decision” of turning away from the firehose of breaking news and “come back later when we might actually know something.”


America’s largest union of journalists is doing a rewrite of its leadership election (Nieman Lab)

In May, the NewsGuild held its first contested election for national president in more than a decade, with incumbent Bernie Lunzer defeating challenger Jon Schleuss 1,282 votes to 1,021. “It was a hard-fought battle with generational undertones,” writes Joshua Benton. “Lunzer is a St. Paul Pioneer Press alum who served on his first bargaining committee in 1981 and has been president since 2008. Schleuss, meanwhile, wasn’t alive in 1981. He graduated college in 2013 and moved shortly thereafter to the L.A. Times, where he is a data and graphics journalist.” Now, after the discovery that hundreds (and possibly thousands) of guild members never received their ballots, the close race is set to be repeated this fall, in what “has become for some a referendum on what a union organizing and representing journalists should look like in 2019.”

 + 10 college newspapers to watch (PR Newswire)