Need to Know: August 5, 2019

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


You might have heard: The GateHouse-Gannett merger could be announced as soon as today (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: As the GateHouse-Gannett deal goes down, what’s known and what’s not (Poynter) 

GateHouse will likely take on Gannett’s name for the merged company, says Rick Edmonds, as Gannett and its flagship brand USA Today have a long history and credibility with audiences. There aren’t many details yet around cuts to staff, although there’s been talk of $200 to $300 million in “synergies,” which could mean cost-cutting or could involve projections of higher ad revenue. GateHouse executives will get the top jobs; sources say severance deals for Gannett’s senior leadership team have already been put in place. And while antitrust approval may be needed, it’s unlikely that the Justice Department would block the merger, says Edmonds.

+ Reactions: “The challenge for the ‘new’ Gannett is how to regionalize, centralize and consolidate for cost savings … with the least impact to local autonomy and community trust.” (Twitter, @dkiesow); “It’s likely that this deal is the starter’s pistol in a new wave of consolidation in the industry … So expect more mergers.” (Twitter, @jbenton); “No one knows exactly the right model for local news in the next decade … Every merger means the one less model to test. Watch the independents.” (Twitter, @mikeorren)

+ Noted: In an effort to curb viral misinformation, WhatsApp is now letting users know when a message has been forwarded too many times (BuzzFeed News); News discovery app SmartNews valued at $1.1 billion (TechCrunch)


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How to go on hiatus (Twitter, @JoshStearns)

Last week the Calgary-based “pop-up” newsroom The Sprawl announced that it was going into “quiet mode” and taking a few weeks off. “Periods of silence are built into The Sprawl’s design — and that’s a good thing,” they wrote. “No one needs another incessant torrent of fragmented information flying at them. We go quiet so we can return with journalism that’s worth your time.” On Twitter, Democracy Fund’s Josh Stearns collected a few examples of other newsrooms that go dark a couple times a year and report positive experiences — as well as positive reactions from readers. “Generally the feedback we have received is along the lines of ‘rest up! Y’all do great work,’” wrote Nation Hahn of Education NC. 


Investigative journalism startup uses mobile gaming to finance its future — and to teach players about its journalism (

Searching for a way to finance its journalism (that wouldn’t compromise its investigative work), YouTube media channel Point has launched a KickStarter campaign to create a mobile gaming app. The game will be based loosely on Point’s investigative reporting, and players will use journalistic tools and methods to chase down a (mostly fictionalized) story. “It’s the basics and 101 of journalism — teaching people to be sceptical and what tools to use to crack the conspiracy, like searching court records or sting operations on a more extreme level,” said Editor-in-Chief Jay McGregor. “There’s a good opportunity to teach people how we do journalism. There is a real misunderstanding of how journalism works.”


There’s a business opportunity in the way information is scattered across the internet, and this company found it (TechCrunch)

“Learning on the internet is a long and winding scavenger hunt,” says Holloway’s website. The online publisher may have found a lucrative solution to that problem: It just announced $4.6 million in seed funding from top tech investors and The New York Times to launch a set of book-length online guides about various business challenges, written and regularly updated by teams of industry experts. The flagship title, called Raising Venture Capital, “could become a go-to resource for the startup world,” writes Eric Eldon. “[Holloway’s] goal is to democratize access to how the best are doing business today (and take on traditional publishing).”

+ Related: Did you know API does something similar for the journalism world? Better News is a repository of the best journalism advice on the web, regularly updated by our team of curators. (Better News)


Can journalists bring back civics — and in the process restore trust in democracy? (Current)

Multiple surveys have shown that public trust in American government has eroded to such a degree that many Americans no longer have a favorable view of democracy. Journalists may be able to reverse that trend by educating audiences on civics and “telling the democracy story,” writes Bob Garfield. Garfield is one of the organizers of the Purple Project for Democracy, a campaign planned for November that calls on media outlets across the country to create civics content for their audiences. “It is time for the media — most crucially, public media — to devote time and resources to telling the democracy story,” he writes. “Public broadcasters must join in the effort — not to spout propaganda or proffer feel-good history, but to fulfill our core mission of education and serving the citizens of our community.” 

+ The media’s by-the-numbers coverage of gun massacres must change (Washington Post)


How America’s top newsrooms recruit interns from a small circle of colleges (AAJA)

A recent AAJA survey found that 65% of summer interns from a group of seven publications including The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, NPR and Los Angeles Times, came from the most selective universities in the nation. The New York Times, The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal especially recruited from the top 1% of schools ranked by selectivity. Elite newsrooms too often recruit journalists from the same schools and social milieu, said Gustavo Arellano, a features writer at the Los Angeles Times. It’s “basically creating a caste system for young reporters,” he said. “It discourages you.”