Need to Know: August 7, 2019

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


You might have heard: Journalism job cuts haven’t been this bad since the recession (Bloomberg)

But did you know: NPR announces newsroom job cuts amid restructuring (National Public Radio)

On Tuesday, NPR announced a restructuring plan that involves cutting less than 10 positions, while increasing resources in other areas “where they will have the most impact.” The plan includes adding positions to “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” as well as areas including investigations, the opioid epidemic and climate change. The realignment was announced in a staff memo from Senior Vice President of News and Editorial Director Nancy Barnes, who has been with NPR since last year. She wrote that “the changes are not about saving money,” which was echoed by a corporate spokeswoman who said that savings from the cuts would return to the newsroom.

+ Noted: The Markup, a tech news site, reinstalls its fired editor as part of a fresh start (The New York Times); The Boston Globe staged a walkout yesterday as the NewsGuild charges Boston Globe management with unfair labor practices (Boston Business Journal and Dan Kennedy); Court revives Sarah Palin defamation case against The New York Times over editorial on shootings (Reuters)


API is hiring a Program Associate

The Program Associate will primarily be responsible for ensuring that events and activities are planned well, run smoothly, and any follow-up tasks are handled. There will be about 12 to 20 events per year of varying sizes and types, from small one-day meetings to large multi-day training programs. The person will manage event registration, reservations and reimbursements for travel and lodging, venue arrangements and other administrative needs for programs managed by API. 


How NBC News’ vertical sites became audience engagement laboratories (Digiday)

After launching three verticals in 2017, NBC News has used the subsections of its site to test new techniques and determine the best content for different audience segments. Called Mach, Better and Think, the verticals publish about 200 posts and yield 15 million unique users per month. One goal of the verticals is to recognize content that’s likely to be successful with NBC News’ audience more broadly. For instance, NBC News began covering more arts and entertainment news after the verticals demonstrated music and TV reviews performed well with its audience. NBC News also used Better for a dry run of a website design that aimed to increase users’ time on the site. That model was later incorporated into the sites for NBC News, MSNBC and Today.

+ How Piano built a propensity paywall for publishers — and what it’s learned so far (Nieman Lab)


How The Financial Times improved storytelling with templates that you can use, too (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

During the last six months, The Financial Times developed and tested digital templates for its content management system with the goal of improving digital and visual storytelling, as well as prodding a culture change based on new vocabulary to describe online stories. The five templates, which staff refer to as FT’s Story Playbook, evolved from layout components developed by a product team interested in flexible page designs. The templates, which The Financial Times posted on its GitHub account for other publications to use or adapt, are alternatives to 600 to 800 word articles that readers have difficulty scanning quickly for information.

+ Twitter and the rest of social media are a rising threat to media freedom — and I am part of their roadkill (Daily Maverick)


Give your customers an emotional experience — not just features and value (MIT Sloan Management Review)

As some companies focus on minimizing complaints, Stefan Thomke argues that the “missing ingredient” in customer experience is emotion. Research shows that memorable experiences tied to emotions influence consumers’ decisions and lead to positive word of mouth. For instance, a Gallup report found that organizations that focus on emotional connections have 85 percent higher sales growth than their competitors. Thomke writes that “customers want their choices to align as much with their feelings and senses as with their values and ethics,” and connecting with customers through emotion is more effective than an approach that offers value and efficiency without that connection.


‘I’ve seen the limits of journalism’ (The Atlantic)

During the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, John Temple was editor of the Rocky Mountain News, which earned a Pulitzer Prize and other awards for its coverage of the shooting. Temple, now director of the University of California-Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program, acknowledges that “despite our dedication to the work, despite the countless investigations, projects, and special reports, it feels like nothing has changed. Columbine, if anything, opened a door that we can’t close.” Temple writes that coverage of mass shootings “follows the same arc and ends the same way” — that is, without any concrete change.


Fact-checkers have lost important digital tools — and will lose one more in September (Poynter)

CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned platform geared to study how content spreads on social media, will stop running Twitter data on its platform in September in a move criticized by fact-checkers around the world. Bal Krishna, the editor of India Today’s fact-checking team, pointed out that search engines don’t have the same abilities as CrowdTangle, adding that “One after another door is closing.” This change follows Facebook’s decision to alter another tool, Graph Search, which helped fact-checkers pin down where misinformation originated by mapping networks of information. Facebook also made changes that caused the shutdown of applications used to scrape data from the social media giant.