Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: August 28, 2018

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: As newspapers cut, grassroots solutions fuel a resurgence of local journalism (Poynter)

But did you know: In what could be a first for local newspapers, a Sonoma County weekly is turning readers into shareholders (The New York Times)

Last year Rollie Atkinson, the owner and publisher of The Healdsburg Tribune and three other weeklies in Sonoma County, Calif., was staring down a grim financial reality. The business model, he said, was “failing rapidly,” and he was tired of sinking his savings into the papers to keep them going. Then, he decided to try an approach that is believed to be a first for a local newspaper: sell stock to readers in a direct public offering. “The D.P.O. just hit all the right buttons,” Atkinson said. “It allowed for longer-range planning. It provides for community ownership, community buy-in.” However, Atkinson was quick to emphasize that he did not believe a stock offering would work for many other local newspapers, especially those that are not in wealthy areas like Sonoma County, or have the same kind of older readership with liberal, pro-media leanings. Many of Mr. Atkinson’s new investors have told him that they do not just want to save their local paper. They also want to “save democracy,” he said.

+ Earlier: Local nonprofit news site Berkeleyside raised $1 million in a direct public offering (Lenfest Institute)

+ Noted: Craigslist founder Craig Newmark makes $1 million gift to Mother Jones (Poynter); Google News Initiative partners with the Local Media Association on diversity scholarships and the Society for Professional Journalists on training for journalists covering elections (Google); Facebook creates tool that lets publishers test up to four versions of a piece of content, something publishers would otherwise have to pay for (Digiday); Pittsburgh becomes largest U.S. city without a daily print newspaper (The Hill); Flipboard reaches 145 million monthly users following February ad campaign (Digiday); CBS hit with shareholder class action lawsuit over Moonves sexual harassment allegations (Variety)  

TRY THIS AT HOME

For students, tips for balancing journalism with school (and the rest of your life) (Poynter)

Forget “work-life balance” — student journalists must balance school, student journalism, part-time or full-time work, internships, extracurriculars and social time. Poynter’s Taylor Blatchford rounds up tips from current and former student journalists to help you cope: Be up front with teachers and professors about your involvement, and block out time on your schedule to focus on academics. When Dana Branham was the editor-in-chief of the Oklahoma Daily, she scheduled half-days or whole days off for herself and the other editors. Take care of yourself (exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep), and learn to say no. “You’ll have to be flexible, but don’t get eaten alive,” said Ruth Serven, a reporter at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va. Finally, try not to compare yourself. “I judged myself harshly when some of my peers got internships with big-name papers while I stayed at the local newspaper, but I failed to account for my other life stuff: I was a double major with a minor,” said Portland Mercury reporter Kelly Kenoyer. “And hey, I got a job in the field just like my peers did, so it all worked out in the end.”

+ Kansas City Star explains how its partnership with the News Co/Lab helps build trust with readers (Kansas City Star)

OFFSHORE

Facebook bans Myanmar military chief and says it was ‘too slow’ to act (CNN)

Facebook has banned 20 organizations and individuals in Myanmar, including a senior military commander, from using its service and acknowledged that it was “too slow” to prevent the spread of “hate and misinformation” in the country, reports Hadas Gold. The social network said in a statement Monday that it had imposed the bans after the United Nations “found evidence that many of these individuals and organizations committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in the country.” This is the first time a military or state actor has been banned from its platform, a Facebook spokesperson said. “We want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” the company said in its statement.

OFFBEAT

Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound (The Guardian)

“In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit,” writes Maryanne Wolf. Wolf argues that as our brains adapt to digital-based modes of reading, they will be less and less suited to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age. “The possibility that … deep reading processes could become the unintended ‘collateral damage’ of our digital culture is not a simple binary issue about print vs digital reading,” she writes. “It is about how we all have begun to read on any medium and how that changes not only what we read, but also the purposes for why we read.”

UP FOR DEBATE

Trump keeps complaining about bias on Twitter — but what can he do about it? (Vox)

President Trump has frequently complained that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter suppress conservative viewpoints. Just over a week ago he fired off a series of tweets claiming that social media is discriminating against conservatives, writing “We won’t let that happen.” But as Emily Stewart points out, “The First Amendment bars the government from infringing on speech, not private companies, and Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media companies are free to enforce their content policies. But Trump seems to be asserting he can clamp down on Twitter and stop it from enforcing its terms of service. So I asked eight lawyers and experts if he can. The general response: Trump and Republican lawmakers could potentially try to do something to force Twitter to allow all speech, but it probably wouldn’t fly.”

+ Trump once wanted the National Enquirer to win a Pulitzer. Now it may prove his downfall. (The Washington Post)

SHAREABLE

This 140-year-old California weekly rents out its building on Airbnb (Poynter)

After a costly First Amendment fight with the local county fair association, Ferndale Enterprise publishers Caroline and Stuart Titus began supplementing their income by renting out the building that houses their newspaper offices on Airbnb. “We’ve had a lot of First Amendment driveway discussions [with customers],” says Caroline Titus, “and conversations about what is going on nationally.” The Enterprise was one of the more than 400 newspapers that published editorials on August 16 defending press freedom. “Our story resonates now because we’ve been the enemy of the people for far longer than Jim Acosta and Don Lemon,” says Titus. Her advice to other journalists: Toughen up. “All small newspaper editors have been doing this for a long time and have had to deal with all sorts of ‘enemy of the people,’ all in a fishbowl in very small markets.” You gotta keep at it, she said. And these days, you gotta get creative.

+ John McCain knew how to make journalists love him: “Most politicians, when the news is good, you have no trouble finding them. When it’s bad, you can’t find them with a bloodhound. McCain was always around and always willing to come on and talk. And he always had something to say.” (The Washington Post)

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