Need to Know: Dec. 3, 2019


You might have heard: Last week, the AP and Report for America announced a partnership to create 14 new statehouse jobs (Poynter)

But did you know: Report for America will place a record 250 journalists in 164 local newsrooms in 2020 (Report For America)

Launched in 2018, Report for America places journalists in under-resourced newsrooms across the U.S. for one to two years and covers part of their salary. Its announcement yesterday marks the single biggest hiring wave of journalists at the local level. With 250 journalist hires, Report for America’s 2020-21 class will be four times the size of its 2019 class. The dramatic expansion is owing to funding from the Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, the Joyce Foundation, and many more. The 2020-21 host newsrooms — nearly half of which are nonprofit — will deploy their reporters to cover beats that address civic information gaps, particularly in overlooked rural and urban communities.

+ Earlier: Can Report for America build trust in local news? A view from two communities (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Noted: The Texas Tribune is creating a local news revenue and training lab to identify sustainability strategies for the industry (Twitter, @evanasmith); Tribune Publishing adds two board seats for Alden; hedge fund’s stake capped at 33% until the end of June (Chicago Tribune); Curbed to shut down sites in New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. (The Wrap); The New York Times overhauls its presidential endorsement process to introduce more transparency (Twitter, @mlcalderone); At Tennessean staff meeting, Gannett CEO Mike Reed discusses revenue, expenses and layoffs (Poynter)


College students and recent grads: Apply for our summer internship in news analytics

We’re looking for a college student or recent graduate with an interest in news analytics to work with our Metrics for News team this summer. Our intern will help us share best practices around audience engagement and analytics with the wider journalism industry. If this interests you, or someone you know, learn more here.


It’s now how much but what you post to social media that matters for driving traffic back to your site (Digiday)

Since changing its social media strategy to drive readers back to its website where they can register and, hopefully, subscribe, The Economist has grown monthly referral traffic by 180%. Whereas before the publisher’s strategy was simply to increase output on social media, now it’s more selective when choosing which content to share, said Kevin Young, head of social at The Economist. Young’s team is working across the newsroom to identify content that has performed especially well and adapt it for various social platforms, particularly Instagram. “Such data can help to inform our decisions on which articles we reprise, or put into higher rotation when scheduling social output,” said Young.


Attracting new audiences doesn’t just mean writing about topics that interest them, but also talking to people who look like them (WAN-IFRA)

Norwegian publisher Amedia knew that its audience tended to skew older and male. In an effort to reach a younger, more female audience, it conducted an audit of its reporting and found that its sources and subjects were mostly men. “You tend to look at topic, but it is not necessarily a question about topic,” said Jostein Larsen Østring, Amedia’s vice president for development. “It’s a question about relevance.” Further analysis showed that stories that contained more women sources had higher female readership — and the same went for stories that featured younger sources and subjects. “Almost 13,000 subscribers read something, but not all read the same story,” Østring said. “There isn’t one story that is going to save you today, nor two or three. If you’re going to be interesting for those different subscribers you have to have different kinds of content every day.”

+ Two-thirds of Brits are worried about “fake news” but only 15% are prepared to pay for trusted journalism (Press Gazette); In South Korea, independent newsroom Newstapa has seen what happens when it investigates its donors’ favorite politicians (Nieman Lab)


Renewing philanthropy’s commitment to local journalism (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

Philanthropic organizations must step up to save local news, particularly for the interim in which news organizations search for sustainable revenue streams, writes Julie Sandorf. Sandorf, founder of The City, a nonprofit news outlet that covers New York, points to other outlets like the Texas Tribune, MinnPost and VTDigger that rely on diversified philanthropic funding while they experiment with building revenue from memberships, subscriptions and events. “For the foreseeable future, more of our local news will have to come from organizations like The City, whose model is nonprofit service journalism. The old business model of cross-subsidizing local news primarily through advertising is dead. New business models require a broad mix of revenue sources.”


The left’s plan to slip vote-swaying news into Facebook feeds (Bloomberg)

Democratic strategist Tara McGowan has a plan to combat what she calls conservative misinformation on social media: use hyper-targeted advertising to capture and persuade a small portion of strategically situated swing-state voters. Only instead of advertising, she’s calling it local news. McGowan is raising $25 million from a host of wealthy liberals to establish a for-profit media company, Courier Newsroom, that has already started rolling out digital “newspapers” with local reporters and editors in six key swing states — Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin — to fill news deserts, deliver the facts favorable to Democrats that she thinks voters are missing, and counter right-wing spin.

+ Earlier: Local news outlets have to ward off more politically-funded local competitors ahead of 2020 (Nieman Lab)


Baltimore Beat is rebuilding its community ties as an alt-weekly after corporate cut-downs (Nieman Lab)

After the original Baltimore Beat shuttered in 2017 due to lack of ad revenue, it’s now being reborn as a Patreon-backed alt-weekly that seeks to better reflect the audience it represents. “Baltimore is a majority black city,” said co-founder (and lone full-time staffer) Lisa Snowden-McCray. “When we first started out [with Baltimore Beat] in 2017, I wanted it to have that point of view, to have a newspaper that serves a black population.” The Beat’s first four months of coverage featured community-facing stories on city schools, homelessness, safer drug consumption, and the battle to raise the minimum wage. The Beat is still getting its footing to pitch itself to funders, but in the meantime, it has Patreon, as well as karaoke fundraisers that reflect its mission: to be an alternative source for marginalized people to be heard.