Need to Know: August 30, 2019

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


You might have heard: There’s been a unionization wave in digital media (New York Times)

But did you know: How union contracts are changing so they don’t stand in the way of innovation (Digiday)

Leaders typically resist unionization on the basis that it makes it difficult to operate nimbly (cost, it turns out, is a lesser consideration, since the difference between a unionized newsroom and a non-unionized newsroom is often a low single-digit percentage). But as more union contracts are ratified across the industry, innovation and efficiency obstacles are being ironed out, writes Max Willens. It helps that the contracts are publicly available online, which gives “the industry’s bargaining units frames of reference that they say have helped improve working conditions across titles.”

+ Noted: Spotlight PA, a collaborative media effort to cover the Pennsylvania state capitol, launches next week (Philadelphia Inquirer) — and here’s their transparency statement (Spotlight PA); Up and down the masthead, male magazine editors still significantly out-earn females (Folio); People are lining up on the street to get free copies of The New York Times’ 1619 Project (Nieman Lab)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: Amazon forest fires provide a case study for fact-checking breaking news; Facebook tightens political advertising rules; and no, for the last time, nuclear bombs cannot destroy hurricanes.  

+ News organizations can now apply for subsidized access to the Metrics for News software and services provided by API. Join us Wednesday, Sept. 4 from 1-2 pm EST for an overview of our analytics dashboards and customization options. There will be time for Q&A and a recording of this meeting will be made available for those unable to attend live.


Yes, it’s still possible to use social media as a trust-building tool (Medium, JAMLAB)

Mandy Jenkins has several quick-and-dirty tips for making better use of social media, but her suggestions for using it to show behind-the-scenes aspects of journalism are especially helpful. Simple things like live-tweeting a city council meeting, sharing that “today I’m out reporting on this” or “I’m chatting with this person,” can help show the work that goes into covering a story, Jenkins said. While these types of posts might be mundane to journalists, they’re not to the public; and they can be a valuable way to build connections and demonstrate transparency at the local level.

+ Related: Something journalists “should never include in a news tweet: ‘If true…’” (Twitter, @dkiesow)


How The Sun’s fantasy football newsletter increased retention to 68% (Digiday)

Dream Team, the fantasy football offshoot from U.K. tabloid The Sun, built a new content vertical including a YouTube series and a Thursday newsletter that offers tips and hints on which players are likely to play well that weekend; helping subscribers make adjustments to their fantasy football teams. The YouTube show also focuses on football news viewers can use. The newsletter now has over 1 million subscribers and an open rate of between 15% and 20% (and helped Dream Team retain 68% of customers from the previous year); while the YouTube videos typically get up to 20,000 viewers each, with more than 500,000 unique viewers last season.


The downstream damage of the leadership skills gap (MIT Sloan Management Review)

Management skills represent one of the biggest skills gaps in the job market, according to one study. The downstream effects of poor leadership are profound: higher turnover, lower employee engagement, lower productivity and revenue loss. If leaders fail to take their own development seriously, writes Marc Zao-Sanders, the people reporting to them won’t either. Zao-Sanders recommends setting a clear, tangible goal for people at all levels to develop themselves (for example, asking everyone to identify three learning opportunities to take part in over the course of a year). “Managers need to hear the message that they will be judged, in part, by how well they and their teams develop new skills,” he wrote.


Bias is good. It just needs a label. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Not only is bias impossible to eradicate, we wouldn’t want to, writes Bill Adair. Opinion journalism and other journalistic genres, like news analysis, serve a valuable purpose — and they require some bias. The problem is that most media organizations don’t clearly label and explain journalism genres, so audiences don’t know what to expect. “Media executives want to believe that readers and viewers understand the nuances of journalism and can navigate the space between ‘objective’ news and obvious opinion,” writes Adair. “But they don’t.”    

+ Earlier: Our research found that only 43% of people said they could easily sort news from opinion in online news or social media; plus, we looked at some examples of news orgs that are doing a good job of clearly labeling online content


Why teens are creating their own news outlets (Teen Vogue)

Traditional news outlets typically write for an older demographic — and it doesn’t help that their news isn’t always optimized for mobile or social media. A handful of enterprising teen journalists are creating text-message newsletters and using Instagram and Twitter to provide news updates to their young followers, and speaking to them in a voice they’ll find engaging. “I don’t think other news sources or a lot of people are aware that young people don’t really use email addresses,” said 17-year-old Olivia Seltzer, who runs an email and text-based newsletter called theCramm. She added that theCramm is “actually written by a young person, geared toward young people, and I think that’s really important.”


+ Pennsylvania’s smallest daily newspaper finds success with happy news, sports rivalries, and hordes of feral cats (Philadelphia Inquirer)

+ Taking the “citizens’ agenda” approach to election coverage means asking your audience what they want to see covered before you start down the campaign trail. Here’s a step-by-step process to developing a citizens’ agenda — and some advice on what to do in the case of unexpected events that may impact elections (a natural disaster, surprise allegations against a candidate, etc.). (OpenNews)

+ A round-up of the latest ideas for making money in local news (Twitter, @NewsbySchmidt)