Need to Know: December 13, 2018

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


You might have heard: In the era of the “personal news cycle” — where abundant information and constant connectivity gives each individual control of her news consumption — publishers are increasingly treating news as a product

But did you know: Why product manager is the new pivotal role at publishers (Digiday)

Product managers have become the must-have new hire for publishers. As digital media grows faster-moving and more complex, publishers are being compelled to add people who can evaluate new opportunities, balance sales and editorial’s competing priorities, helping to develop new, unfamiliar lines of revenue. “There’s a huge demand,” said Eddie Koller III, a managing partner at the head-hunting firm Koller Search Partners. But product managers also pose thorny problems for publishers. They create organizational headaches and upset power dynamics; they can be difficult to find and keep; and they force publishers to reckon fully with just how committed they are to acting like the owners of digital products, rather than the producers of content.

+ Related: We put together best practices for product management in news organizations

+ Noted: ProPublica picks 14 newsrooms and investigative projects for year two of its local reporting network (ProPublica); Star Tribune film critic resigns after ethics breach (Star Tribune); Tribune Publishing made secret payments totaling more than $2.5 million to avert lawsuit, keeping anti-Semitic slur by ex-chairman Michael Ferro under wraps (NPR); A top cardinal’s sex-abuse conviction is huge news in Australia — but the media can’t report it there (The Washington Post)


How the Myrtle Beach Sun News uses Facebook to introduce itself to new audiences (Better News)

The Sun News in Myrtle Beach produced bio videos of every member of its newsroom and posted them weekly to its social media channels to introduce a fairly new, retooled staff and build closer relationships with its audiences. “The videos on social media have between 2,000 and 6,000 views and numerous shares. More importantly, it’s created real dialogue between reporters and readers, and we’ve seen an uptick in submitted news tips and phone calls to reporters,” says executive editor Stephanie Pedersen. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


Tips on covering local communities from a Report for America corps member (The GroundTruth Project)

Will Wright, a Report For America corps member, spent months working on a story for the Lexington Herald-Leader about the lack of water access for residents in parts of eastern Kentucky — a region where journalists are often regarded with suspicion and disdain. But in covering stories that have a deep personal impact on local residents — the water crisis, a military project to provide free eye exams, clean-up efforts at a popular lake — Wright found that overcoming distrust was much easier than anticipated. “I’ve found that most people are happy to talk to reporters about their own experiences … One way I like to break the ice here is to talk to people about hunting and fishing. It’s a good way to find common ground and make people feel comfortable.”

+ WordPress 5.0 and your news organization: Why you should wait until January to upgrade and how to make a smooth transition (INN Labs); “Podcasting isn’t the same as broadcasting. Understand the differences and adapt”: KSL-TV director of audience development Sheryl Worsley and executive digital producer Dave Cawley talk about what they learned creating the station’s first podcast, COLD, which recently debuted at the top of iTunes podcast chart (RTDNA)


Colombia journalism project aims to bring untold stories of war to light (The Guardian)

Reporters covering Colombia’s 52-year-long civil war, formally ended in 2016, would often only show the point of view of the military — the group who could regularly grant them access to the battlefield. Rural Colombians, who bore the brunt of conflict, were often ignored; coverage instead focused on urban incidents such as kidnappings of public figures and attacks against government buildings. Now, a project is seeking to change how the conflict is covered, taking reporters to far-flung corners of the country, and giving a voice to those caught in the crossfire. Colombia 2020, launched in early 2016 with funding from the European Union, aims not only to report on the transition from war to peace, but to educate a nation on what led its citizens to kill each other for generations. “It’s easy to think that Colombia is like a gringo movie with good guys and bad guys — that every guerrilla is a monster in the jungle,” says journalist Nicolás Sánchez. “But Colombia is a country where war is a way of life for children … we have to ask ourselves, why is that the case?”

+ It’s high time Canada recognized journalism as a public good (The Narwhal)


How to (still) get organic reach on social media (Buffer)

Average organic reach on social media has been falling over the years. Today, for every 100 fans of a Facebook page, an organic post will reach, on average, only five or fewer people. But if you keep a close eye on the changes social media companies are making, there are still ways to maximize organic reach. First, dig into the algorithms used by the major platforms to identify the factors that ratchet up organic reach — usually, it’s engagement, which means that pages or groups catering to niche audiences have an advantage, as more users will interact with that content. Doing fewer — but better — posts can also go a long way in increasing organic reach — Buffer used the less-is-more strategy to grow its Facebook reach more than three times in 2017. User-generated content has also been shown to significantly boost engagement (just don’t forget to ask for permission to reuse content, and credit the original creator).

+ How historians used the Twitter thread to add context and accuracy to the news cycle in 2018 (Slate)


Hey Google, what’s the point of Silicon Valley’s tech hearings? (BuzzFeed News)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s three and a half hour testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday only served to show “the disconnect, the frustrations, and the pointlessness of the past year’s parade of tech executive hearings,” writes Charlie Warzel. Similar to former hearings, the line of questioning on Tuesday exposed lawmakers’ deep ignorance of the many ways Google encroaches on individual privacy. Instead Congress members devoted the time to challenging Pichai on Google’s alleged political bias — creating a missed opportunity to probe Google’s business practices, argues Warzel. “If the goal was an earnest attempt at answers and accountability from the stewards of the most profitable and powerful businesses of the internet age, it’s difficult to see what was accomplished.”


Why PolitiFact doesn’t use the word ‘lie’ — except once a year (Poynter)

You might expect a website that fact-checks American politics to use the word “lie” a lot. But at PolitiFact, they only use the word lie once a year, when they consider a year’s worth of fact-checking and pick one falsehood that they consider the most egregious. This year’s Lie of the Year was the online smears against the Parkland students advocating for gun control. The rest of the time PolitiFact avoids the word lie. That’s because of the tricky issue of claiming to know a person’s intention. Fact-checking is about precision in language — reporting what we know to be true or false as best we can tell. That can be straightforward, but intention is grayer, less certain. How does one know that the person speaking knew it wasn’t true? Sometimes, right or wrong, the speaker really believes it to be accurate.

+ Nonprofit news outlets like Borderzine, Flint Beat and The Colorado Independent give local communities control of media narratives (Teen Vogue); ProPublica responds to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s criticism of its partnership with the Louisville Courier-Journal: “You asked who @ProPublica is. We thought we’d give you some answers. Like everything we do, they are, you know, actually accurate.” (Twitter, @ProPublica)