Need to Know: August 26, 2019

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


You might have heard: How Trump Jr.’s fixer Arthur Schwartz wages war against the media (The Daily Beast)

But did you know: Trump allies target journalists over coverage deemed hostile to White House (New York Times)

Trump allies are forming a campaign to attack and discredit journalists they consider “hostile” to the president, report Kenneth P. Vogel and Jeremy W. Peters. According to people familiar with the campaign, they are compiling dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s top news organizations. The material publicized so far — including anti-Semitic tweets from a New York Times journalist and a former CNN photo editor — has proved authentic, and much of it has been professionally harmful to its targets. While the Trump campaign denied involvement in or knowledge of the campaign, it is consistent with the administration’s long-running effort to delegitimize critical reporting and brand the news media as an “enemy of the people,” write Vogel and Peters.

+ “No organization is above scrutiny, including The Times,” wrote Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger in a memo to staff after the anti-media campaign came to light. “We have high standards, own our mistakes and always strive to do better. If anyone — even those acting in bad faith — brings legitimate problems to our attention, we’ll look into them and respond appropriately.” (New York Times) 

+ Noted: Here are the advertising casualties of the pivot to privacy (Digiday); 9 worldwide journalism fellowships, grants and competitions with deadlines in September (International Journalists’ Network)


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Complicating the Narratives: How we’re moving this work forward (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)

The Solutions Journalism Network has launched a new project to help journalists reporting on conflict and polarizing issues adopt the skills used by conflict mediators. Over the next year SJN plans to offer three journalist trainings; work with 20 newsrooms to shift their approaches when reporting on polarizing issues; and host two beacon community projects that will bring together local journalists, civic organizations, and residents to address an issue in their community. “We’ll share what we discover and create resources that allow others around the country and the world to learn from these emerging techniques, tools, and strategies that, let’s be honest, most of us [journalists] never learned in J-school,” writes Hélène Biandudi Hofer, manager of SJN’s Complicating the Narratives Project.

+ Earlier: This project is built on the conflict mediation research explored in Amanda Ripley’s 2018 essay, “Complicating the Narratives” (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)


How Civio’s energy subsidy checker helped readers and supported its membership drive (Engaged Journalism Accelerator)

Civio, a nonprofit news site based in Madrid, created a web app that allows readers to easily check whether they are entitled to a reduction of their energy bill. The team built the app after the Spanish government changed the process for applying for energy subsidies; worried that people would miss out on subsidies for which they were eligible. “Sometimes we need to go beyond journalism to serve our community and find solutions for people’s daily struggles,” said Olalla Tuñas, head of participation and community at Civio. “This experiment was really low-cost and moderately easy to implement. It opens future opportunities of replication with other issues, for example, other subsidies and policy changes.” More than 220,000 people used the web app, and in the months following its launch, Civio saw a 53% increase in the number of new regular donors, which they partially attribute to the subsidy checker.

+ Earlier: Is your journalism a luxury or necessity? (City Bureau)


What almost everyone misunderstands about product managers (Quartz)

Product managers have diverse backgrounds, murky responsibilities, and role definitions that vary widely across companies. But they are not, contrary to how many of their colleagues see them, decision makers or “mini CEOs,” writes Noah Weiss. “PMs are responsible for the pace and quality of decision-making … They should be the ultimate facilitators: pulling the best ideas from their teams, coordinating with cross-functional partners, and getting executive context.” Misunderstanding this about a PM’s role, says Weiss, could set them up for failure.

+ Earlier: Best practices for product management in news organizations


LinkedIn’s big journalism push is focused on all the wrong outlets (The Daily Dot)

LinkedIn has started offering journalists free upgrades to their Premium version, which would allow them to use more of the platform’s tools to find sources. But many local journalists who have applied for the free upgrade have been rejected by LinkedIn on the grounds that they don’t work for “top-tier” national, international, or “prominent regional” publications. “Because it’s limited to the ‘top-tier’ outlets that typically have an easier time getting a hold of sources anyway — whether it’s the New York Times or the local TV station that everyone watches — LinkedIn is favoring the prestigious for prestige’s sake, instead of the places that really need help,” writes Tyler Kingkade. 

+ “The tragedy of digital media isn’t that it’s run by ruthless, profiteering guys in ill-fitting suits; it’s that the people posing as the experts know less about how to make money than their employees, to whom they won’t listen”: Former Deadspin editor Megan Greenwell — who quit Deadspin last week and has already been hired as editor of — fires her parting shot (Deadspin)


Between immigration authorities and the people they target (Columbia Journalism Review)

Reporters covering immigrant communities walk a fine line as they seek to develop sources and build trust with two groups often at odds — their readers and their official sources. Mario Guevara, an immigration and crime reporter for Mundo Hispánico, a Spanish-language newspaper in Atlanta, has faced criticism from some immigration advocates and others who feel ethnic media should elevate the voices of marginalized communities over the voices of local authorities. Guevara’s work, they say, takes the opposite approach. Guevara says he takes actions to protect undocumented sources, which is paramount to his work; and as an immigrant himself, empathisizes with his subjects. But overall he maintains a carefully neutral approach: “Sometimes, the community sees me as a lawyer, or as Robin Hood, but that’s impossible,” he said. “I’m not in that position. I’m in the middle.”