Need to Know: Dec. 9, 2019

You might have heard: At the start of 2019, Alden Global Capital was threatening to swallow Gannett and McClatchy had just been rejected by Tribune (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: This is how the 5 biggest newspaper chains could become 2 — and it all comes down to one day, June 30, 2020 (Nieman Lab)

What as recently as three weeks ago were five newspaper companies — Gannett, GateHouse, McClatchy, Tribune, and Alden’s MNG Enterprises — could come down to two next year, writes Ken Doctor. GateHouse and Gannett have already merged, Alden (“the newspaper industry’s comic-book villain”) is now pursuing Tribune, and McClatchy teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, which makes it likely to eventually join up with either the new Tribune/MNG or New Gannett. June 30 marks the date when Alden could gain control of the majority of Tribune shares — although Tribune could strike a deal with a merger partner before then. The last newspapers standing will likely be run by one of two hedge funds [Alden and Fortess Investment Group, which owns Gannett] “with little real affection for or attachment to the newspaper business,” writes Doctor. “Both companies’ interest in the bottom line crowds out most thoughts of journalism’s role in serving its communities.”

+ Related: Gannett Media’s CEO: Sorry for the layoffs, and get ready for some more (Dan Kennedy); McClatchy goes digital to ward off “ghost papers” (Bloomberg)

+ Noted: UNC Journalism School receives $25 million gift from Walter Hussman Jr. (Editor & Publisher)


How to win the loyalty of new subscribers through great onboarding

The latest addition to API’s Reader Revenue Toolkit looks at ways news organizations can provide a good experience for new subscribers, and nudge them toward the habit of engaging with their content regularly.


More news outlets are disputing Trump on Twitter rather than merely repeating his false or misleading claims (Nieman Lab)

According to a new study from Media Matters, a progressive nonprofit, news outlets are getting better at using Twitter to dispute President Trump’s false or misleading statements. The study found that when news outlets report on such statements via Twitter, 50% of the time they dispute them or provide additional context. That’s a marked improvement from earlier this year when another Media Matters study found that most news outlets were simply repeating — and thereby amplifying — the president’s misinformation without disputing it.


Be aware! Politicians are now trying to fool voters by behaving like ‘fact-checkers’ (Poynter)

During a Nov. 19 debate between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and challenger Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson’s Conservative Party rebranded itself on Twitter as a fact-checking platform. As the event got underway, the Tories’ press office (@CCHQPress) changed its design to look like a verification platform, renamed itself to “FactCheckUK” and showed a white checkmark as its logo — an image usually seen on fact-checkers’ websites and social media channels. Although the deceptive move was quickly decried by legitimate fact-checking orgs — and reprimanded by Twitter — it’s the latest in a series of attempts designed to pass off political campaign content in the U.K. as news reporting and fact-checking, writes Cristina Tardáguila.


If manager training isn’t a possibility, this Twitter thread can help new managers (Twitter, @brosandprose)

Freelance writer Ella Dawson distilled some of the best advice from management literature and her own personal experience in this thread. It contains many “don’t ever’s” — “Do not ever give challenging feedback in front of an audience. Do not ever reprimand an employee in front of an audience” — and captures the essence of being a great manager as well as its difficult realities. (“There will be days when your direct reports don’t like you. That’s just part of being a manager.”) The one tweet to remember, if nothing else: “As a manager, your job is not just to track the work and success of your reports. You’re also responsible for helping them reach their professional goals. They will have jobs after they work for you, and helping them prepare for those goals isn’t a threat to you! It builds trust.”


Did Devin Nunes just file a halfway-decent defamation suit? (Washington Post)

The California congressman last week filed a lawsuit against CNN over a Nov. 22 story that suggested Nunes was involved in an alleged Trump campaign investigation into political rival Joe Biden. Nunes is known — and feared — in the news industry for filing preposterous defamation lawsuits against news outlets that are designed to chill negative coverage of him. However, with CNN, it’s possible that he could build a case that will meet the high standards set by the landmark Supreme Court ruling Times v. Sullivan, writes Erik Wemple; which requires that plaintiffs show that the news outlet either knew that it was publishing false information or that it proceeded with “reckless disregard” for the truth.


Are journalists the new influencers? (MediaVillage)

As trust in social media influencers declines, more users are beginning to turn to journalists on such platforms. A new survey from PRWeek and Cision found that 60% of respondents listed mainstream journalists among their top three most powerful influencers in terms of impacting consumer behavior — and 27% identified a journalist as the most powerful such influencer. “People are increasingly seeking engagement with those who are providing meaning in their lives,” writes Philip McKenzie. “Journalists are making meaning out of increasingly chaotic times and their influence is growing as a result.”

+ Earlier: The journalist as influencer: how we sell ourselves on social media (The Guardian)

+ The Arizona Republic’s podcast series on journalist Don Bolles tells the story of his murder using his own voice (