Need to Know: Dec. 19, 2019


You might have heard: Political conversation on Twitter is driven by a very small group of prolific users, most of whom identify as either very liberal or very conservative (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: A rising class of ‘engagement specialists’ are looking to bring moderation back to the polarized discourse on Twitter (Knight Foundation)

A new study from the Knight Foundation that analyzed the political dynamics of 86 million tweets showed that the political spectrum on Twitter skews heavily center left, particularly for trending issues. Meanwhile, center-right voices are dwarfed by the extreme right. Unsurprisingly, the extreme segments — both right and left — have an information diet influenced by pundits, but the center segments on each side are digesting more mainstream news. The study also examined what journalists feel their role is in political discussions on Twitter. It found that while many journalists are pulling back from the platform in favor of more private audience interactions, those who specialize in audience engagement see Twitter as an opportunity to foster improved, less polarized civic discourse.

+ Noted: New documentary aims to show the impact of hedge-fund ownership on local news (Twitter, @ckrewson); Independence Media announces new round of grants totaling $4.3 million, which will aim to make Philadelphia a “hotbed for creative media makers” (Twitter, @MollydeAguiar)


How to build a metrics-savvy newsroom

In one of API’s strategy studies, Melody Kramer and Betsy O’Donovan examine the best ways for newsrooms to think about and act on their metrics. Speaking to two dozen journalists and data analysts across 20 organizations, they uncovered a core approach that is broad enough to apply to most newsrooms, but specific enough to serve as a basic blueprint. The underlying principle? Be able to translate the larger organizational goals to each individual’s work.


News publishers adopt ‘show don’t tell’ for marketing subscriptions (Digiday)

Marketing teams at news organizations are increasingly focusing on ways to showcase the best of their journalism, developing strategies for getting reporting in front of the audiences for whom it would be most valuable, writes Max Willens. In many cases, marketing staff are getting better at coordinating with editorial to get ahead of large reporting projects before they are published, giving them a chance to develop messaging and scheduling promotions that can go out at the right time. Their ultimate objective is to “tell the story of our work,” said Amanda Michel, global director of contributions at The Guardian.


When it comes to protecting journalists, Mexico’s safety mechanism comes up short (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. One of its government agencies is designed to protect Mexican journalists who have been attacked or threatened for their work, by coordinating security measures such as bodyguards, panic buttons, camera systems, bulletproof vehicles and safehouses. Yet many say that the agency is understaffed, underfunded, and unable to respond quickly with appropriate measures. At least four journalists enrolled in the protection scheme have been killed since its inception, including two in 2019. “I feel disappointed, depressed, desperate, and alone,” said journalist Gildo Garza, who was moved to a Mexico City safehouse under the program in 2017. “I no longer have any hope in a system that was supposed to help me build up a new life or get my old life back.”


Why news orgs should be collaborating with student journalists (Editor & Publisher)

Student journalists at the high school and college level, in many cases, are producing high-quality journalism and even scooping professional news orgs, writes Matt DeRienzo. So why wouldn’t under-resourced newsrooms take advantage of that rising talent? News orgs could work out a relationship with student media outlets in which they have permission to reprint the best of their work, he suggests; or they could enlist the best student journalists as paid freelancers. They could also enlist students as a “shoe-leather army,” deploying them to take notes at local government meetings, file FOIA requests or assist in investigative research.

+ As impeachment vote makes history, how right-wing media pundits and social media networks turned an “unusually clear” story into a murky stew of disinformation (Columbia Journalism Review)


‘This cannot continue’: NPR on-air source diversity data show much work ahead (NPR)

New research into the diversity of NPR’s on-air sources shows that in 2018 the voices heard on NPR weekday newsmagazines were 83% white and 33% female, with a noticeable increase in white voices for All Things Considered and Morning Edition. One of the reasons for the decrease in diverse sources could be a larger percentage of stories that cover the Trump administration, which tends to have a whiter and more male makeup. Another reason could be more coverage of “white stories” like the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. “That’s a very white story and we did it for two weeks straight. We are at the whim of what the news stories are,” said Kenya Young, executive producer of Morning Edition. It’s “not an excuse,” she added, and NPR is considering additional measures to increase its source diversity.