Need to Know: Dec. 20, 2018

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


You might have heard: Civil’s initial token sale failed (Medium, Civil)

But did you know: The ‘next chapter’ for blockchain company Civil is renewing its focus on journalism (Medium, Civil)

“In the days following our failed token sale, I met with every member of the Civil team, our newsrooms, partners, community members and close advisors, to understand what we needed to learn, what we needed to change, and critically, what we needed to hold onto,” writes Civil founder Matthew Iles. “The takeaway was resounding: we need to renew our focus on journalism. Civil was never about ICOs and tokens, or even blockchain. We’re about community-ownership, transparency and trust. We believe journalism (and media at large) should compete on craft, but collaborate on infrastructure. Technology is a critical means to an end, but we let it overwhelm our message, complicate our experience, and distract from our core objectives. We won’t make that mistake again.”

+ Noted: District court judge rules in BuzzFeed’s favor in lawsuit from tech exec Aleksej Gubarev after publication of Steele dossier (Hollywood Reporter); Neil Chase will join CALmatters as chief executive officer (CALmatters); Ousted NPR news chief and ex-Fox News execs team up on new site that “will remedy the media’s trust problems,” but two top hires left their previous jobs after allegations of harassment and racism (Politico)

API Update

How journalists are using DocumentCloud to support facts in their stories

In an effort to increase transparency in their reporting, some newsrooms have begun using DocumentCloud, an online platform that allows journalists to embed source documents as PDFs in their articles. Israeli researchers Niv Mor and Zvi Reich recently took a closer look at how newsrooms use the tool, and found that by far the most common use was to present evidence of claims the reporter or a source made in the story. However, Mor and Reich noted that few journalists explained how they obtained or verified the documents, “leaving an important opportunity for even greater transparency on the table,” writes Gina Chen, who broke down the findings as part of API’s regular Research Review series.

+ Related: “Show your work…it doesn’t have to be a huge lift”: The New York Times explains in two sentences how it reported its most recent story about Facebook (Twitter, @jcstearns)


Traffic jam: SEO is driving clicks to these nonprofit newsrooms (Medium, Shorenstein Center)

“When people working in nonprofit news hear us say ‘SEO,’ either their eyes glaze over or they cringe,” writes Emily Roseman, research project manager for the Shorenstein Center’s Single Subject News Project. “We get it  —  SEO can feel retro and is often associated with dirty, clickbaity marketing techniques.” But last year, the Single Subject News Project identified SEO as as an under-utilized method for growing online audiences across its research cohort of nonprofit news sites. “We found that SEO work  —  when coupled with a targeted email acquisition and content strategy  —  can focus newsrooms’ efforts around building their segment of habitually reading and highly engaged audience.” While SEO (based on notoriously fickle keyword ratings) can be tricky for newsrooms operating with limited or nonexistent editorial flexibility, Roseman’s colleague Kelly DeLay outlines a handy process for getting around that, by matching keywords with content already published or queued up in editorial calendars.

+ “What is good for us may not be what is good for South Mississippi”: Why the Sun Herald is changing how it covers crime (Sun Herald)


Der Spiegel says top journalist faked stories for years (The Guardian)

The media world was stunned by the revelations that the award-winning journalist Claas Relotius had, according to the weekly, “made up stories and invented protagonists” in at least 14 out of 60 articles that appeared in its print and online editions over several years. Relotius resigned this week after admitting to the scam, which was uncovered by a colleague whose suspicions were at first disregarded by the company’s management. Der Spiegel has responded by publishing “The Relotious Case,” a Q&A that explained what happened, how other media outlets have been affected, and what it’s doing to address the issue.


Why you should completely change the way you view collaboration (Fast Company)

A competitive mindset locks you into feeling distrustful of others, secretive, and closed off, writes Lisa Evans. Fear that there isn’t enough success to go around, or fear that someone else’s success means we are doing worse, forces us into a place of competition rather than opening the doors to collaboration. Business coach Cait Scudder says this competitive mind-set can hold you back from achieving the success that you desire. If you struggle with being collaborative, try these four tips to get over your competitive fears: list all of the benefits, identify your strengths and weaknesses, initiate connections and remember your mission.


Can it be done? Making newsrooms work for working moms (RTDNA)

RTDNA director of communication Karen Hansen spoke to more than a dozen women working in one of the most demanding roles in local TV news: Multimedia journalists, the solo crews who act as reporter, photographer, writer and editor of their daily stories. Managers are the “biggest common denominator for whether TV news moms could face those challenges successfully,” Hansen writes. “Managers can make or break the job experience for working moms.” Empathy and mindfulness are the biggest keys to helping employees who are parents navigate work-life balance, says newsroom leadership expert Jill Geisler. Her advice: Eliminate the fear that parenthood is a disadvantage in your newsroom. Tell people to take their benefits. Don’t make employees guess what hours they’re working next week or when they can take vacation.


Despite some management upheaval, Politico has been able to avoid the financial panic that has seized many of its peers (Vanity Fair)

Politico took in $113 million globally in 2018, the highest revenue number in its history, and roughly double what the company received five years earlier. Politico, which investor Robert Allbritton says will turn a profit of around $2 million this year, has grown by decreasing its reliance on paid media. Advertising accounts for slightly less than half of Politico’s revenues. Politico Pro, a business-to-business model, which typically starts at around $10,000 and can run into the mid-six figures depending on how much policy-focused content subscribers want and how many users will be accessing it, now comprises more than 50 percent of revenues, and growing, which enables Politico to maintain a free site — as well as a 5-year-old glossy magazine — for general-interest politics junkies. If advertising “were to disappear over the next few years, it wouldn’t kill us by any stretch of the imagination,” Allbritton said.