Need to Know: December 10, 2018

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


You might have heard: The number of temporary workers among local radio stations has declined steadily over the past 10 years as the recession has eased, with many reporting an average of one temporary or part-time worker (RTDNA)

But did you know: At NPR, an army of temps faces a workplace of anxiety and insecurity (The Washington Post)

Temps do almost every important job in NPR’s newsroom, Paul Farhi reports. They pitch ideas, assign stories, edit them, report and produce them. They book the guests heard in interviews and often write the questions the hosts ask the guests. According to union representatives, between 20 and 22 percent of NPR’s 483 union-covered newsroom workforce are temp workers. But a recent series of “listening sessions,” conducted among 40 current and former temporary journalists, unearthed a number of grievances and allegedly abusive practices toward temps. Among them: Temps were often left in the dark about how long their assignments would last, how much they’d be paid, who they were reporting to, or what their title was. They also said they received little feedback from supervisors after completing an assignment, and were “routinely” overlooked in NPR’s recruiting efforts. Several of the temps interviewed used the same word to describe NPR’s temp system: “Exploitative.”

+ Noted: McClatchy’s Julie Moos named executive director of the National Press Club Journalism Institute (The National Press Club); As CEO Bob Dickey departs, Gannett is at a crossroads (Poynter)


This journalist created a system to make sure more female experts got on air (Poynter)

BBC anchor Ros Atkins was tired of the media’s “constant state of trying” to achieve gender diversity. By tracking a simple, daily metric — the gender breakdown of contributors to his show — Atkins sparked an effort that has since spread to more than 80 BBC programs and has increased the number of women experts on his own show from 39 to 51 percent. Atkins anticipated pushback from his colleagues over a mandate that might limit whom hosts interviewed. “We established one clear rule: the best guest always go on air. This would not be journalism by quota, it would be an effort to improve our contacts and to identify subjects where we almost always talked to men and find some brilliant women as alternatives.” He also made participation in the effort completely voluntary. “If management, diversity leaders or HR people go and speak to journalists, the journalists start pushing back saying ‘You don’t understand our experience, you don’t understand the pressures we are under day to day.’ … We made it voluntary.”

+ This database documenting collaborative journalism efforts around the world now includes translations in Spanish and Portuguese (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)


Digital-native publishers settle in to face legacy constraints, with a side of reader revenue (Nieman Lab)

Interviews with leaders of 13 digital native media outlets in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom showed a heavy reliance still on advertising; but also a focus on quality over quantity, prompted by their attempts to be worthy of paying audiences. “It’s like we’re farmers. We have to produce stuff every day, go to the marketplace every day, and attract people with good stories. So that’s not a scalable start-up business, but it’s a very steady, very sustainable, and very honest business based on relationships. And that’s a lot of fun,” said Sebastian Esser, publisher of Krautreporter. The transition of asking readers for money was a particular pain point for these publishers. In a similar 2016 report, very few digital native news outlets in Europe were using reader revenue via subscription or membership, but six of the 13 organizations studied here are relying quite heavily on it.


Connecting with audiences via snail mail (Medium, GroundSource)

The United States Postal Service’s direct mail marketing is a great way for newsrooms to target a geographic community for engagement. Its Every Door Direct Mail portal lets users send mail to every household on a particular postal route — and provides additional demographic information about that route, including how many properties are residences or businesses, the average income of people living on the route, and their age range. Michelle Ferrier, dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University, used the service to survey the needs of residents in a community in southeastern Ohio. She received a 5-7 percent response rate, which is typical for direct mail, but there are ways to increase that.


Few people are actually trapped in filter bubbles. Why do they like to say that they are? (Nieman Lab)

A recent Knight Foundation study found that people tend to overreport their consumption of news and underreport its variety, leading to the seemingly comforting conclusion that we may not be as trapped in filter bubbles/echo chambers as we’ve been told. “Media choice has become more of a vehicle of political self-expression than it once was,” writes Matt Grossman. “Partisans therefore tend to overestimate their use of partisan outlets, while most citizens tune out political news as best they can.” In other words, we use our consumption of certain media outlets as a way of signaling who we are, even if we A) actually read across fairly broad number of sources and/or B) actually don’t read all that much political news at all.  

+ Earlier: Our study of trust in preferred media outlets shows some crossover — 18 percent of Republicans prefer CNN and 7 percent of Democrats rely on Fox News. Also, for people of either party traditional broadcast television is the second-most commonly cited news source, and both sides are equally likely to rely on local news sources (newspaper, radio, and television).


Teens support the First Amendment but largely don’t trust traditional media (Nieman Lab)

Half of high school students say they don’t trust the media to accurately and fairly report news, according to a Knight Foundation survey out last week. Another 40 percent said they trust content posted by individuals on social media more than content posted by traditional news organizations. “High school students continue to show strong support for First Amendment freedoms, but they don’t trust all of the expression it protects,” said Sam Gill, Knight’s vice president for communities and impact. “They are increasingly skeptical of the ability of news media to report fairly and accurately. This is a wake-up call from an emerging generation.”

+ 42 on-air journalists talk about working in the age of fake news (Paper); A young reporter takes his turn as “Petey the newspaper,” the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s much-loved mascot, and finds that Petey is an apt metaphor for local journalism: “After hours behind the mask, I finally understood who Petey is. An ever-evolving creature, he exists as a silent protagonist tasked with uniting the community through whatever means necessary.” (Press-Telegram)