Need to Know: Dec. 10, 2019


You might have heard: Last week the Pulitzer Prize Board announced a new audio reporting category (

But did you know: The new award category will draw more journalists to podcasting (Business Insider)

In the past couple of years, podcasts have boomed — ad revenue alone is projected to surpass $1 billion by the end of this year — and much of that growth has been driven by non-fiction podcasts. Americans’ appetite for news podcasts has been whetted by hits like “Serial” from This American Life and “The Daily” from the New York Times; local news orgs have seen success with daily news podcasts and true-crime podcasts. “The acknowledgment from Pulitzer could incentivize a greater number of publishers and journalists to shift resources toward journalism tailor-made for the medium,” writes Mariel Soto Reyes; driving a “higher volume of reporters to specifically produce journalism with the medium in mind rather than start a discussion-based podcast or repurpose written work for audio distribution.”

+ Earlier: Podcasts are hard. Here’s how to determine whether your newsroom should invest the resources — and if so, understand what you need to get started. (Better News)

+ Noted: Esports journalism gets its own Emmy award (Washington Post); 7,700 people lost their jobs in media so far this year (Business Insider)


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How news outlets can support civic change (Medium, Journalism That Matters)

In October 2018, several groups came together in Seattle to discuss the city’s ongoing challenges with homelessness. The event was hosted in part by Journalism That Matters, a nonprofit that promotes civic conversations around local issues. The report from the event offers a roadmap for newsrooms looking to host — or be part of — similar conversations in their communities. Journalistic skills like unpacking complex issues; uncovering relevant patterns, linkages or gaps; following up on ideas that emerge at events; and seeking out and telling stories around solutions mean that news outlets can and should play a valuable role in supporting civic change in their communities.


How auto-renew took Gazeta Wyborcza from 170,000 to 200,000 subscribers in less than a year (What’s New in Publishing)

Introducing auto-renewable subscriptions helped Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland’s leading newspapers, increase its subscriber base by 3,000 in nine months. The paper had been struggling to retain subscribers, losing nearly as many as it was gaining. When it introduced the auto-renew feature along with progressive payment plans (which allow subscribers to try out three- and five-month subscriptions), the number of subscribers who signed up was five times higher than expected, said Danuta Breguła, director of online strategy. “We make sure that they stay longer in the testing mode while they are already paying customers. This is why we don’t offer free trials as we did in the past — we observed high churn rate and decreasing [average revenue per user], and the solution didn’t attract that many new users.”

+ Are we seeing the last days of the BBC? (Jacobin)


How fiction can defeat fake news (Columbia Journalism Review)

“Unlike literary fiction, fake news offers nothing that is new,” writes Amitava Kumar. “Instead, it conforms to existing popular prejudices. It is formulaic, often sentimental, and has a quality of sickening repetitiveness.” Kumar argues that this key difference between fiction and fake news creates an opportunity. Fiction can play the important role of shaking us out of our complacent view of the world and challenge our preexisting beliefs. While fake news “exists to create die-hard believers in an incomplete and intolerant view of the world,” fiction does the opposite, says Kumar — introducing more complexity and tolerance into how we think about the world around us.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution protests depiction of one of its former journalists in Clint Eastwood film (Variety)

The film “Richard Jewell” tells the story of a security guard who was suspected of orchestrating the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996. It portrays journalist Kathy Scruggs as trading sex for tips from a FBI agent working on the case. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution said there is no evidence that Scruggs slept with anyone involved in the Jewell investigation, and demanded that Warner Bros. release a statement acknowledging it took dramatic license with Scruggs’ character. Kevin G. Riley, editor of the Journal-Constitution, said he felt that that the movie trades in harmful stereotypes about female journalists. “We have been clear about how disturbed we are in the film’s use of a Hollywood trope about reporters … and how it misrepresents how seriously journalists concern themselves with reporting accurately and ethically,” Riley said. “The film literally makes things up and adds to misunderstandings about how serious news organizations work.”


Want to start your own local online news outlet? With a new staff and a $1 million grant, LION Publishers wants to do more to help (Nieman Lab)

LION began in 2012 as a small band of indie publishers, many of them single-handedly running their organizations. Today LION has 250-ish members, a three-person staff, and $1 million grant from the Knight Foundation. Its annual conference features keynotes from blockbuster local news innovators, and it’s carved out a reputation for itself as an important voice in local news. Its goal is to keep doing what it’s been doing — helping small independent publishers become sustainable, and make itself sustainable at the same time, says Anika Anand, director of programming. “One thing we have been talking about is having LION really focus on the intersection of product, revenue and operations,” she said. “There are a ton of reporting and editing and writing resources out there for reporters, but it is much harder to find resources around revenue and operations.”

+ How The Washington Post unearthed The Afghanistan Papers (Washington Post)