Need to Know: Feb. 13, 2020


You might have heard: McClatchy stock crashed in November after company warned of pension funding crisis (Poynter)

But did you know: McClatchy files bankruptcy after failing to free itself from its pension obligations (McClatchy DC)

This morning McClatchy announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, “a move that will end family control of America’s second largest local news company and hand it to creditors who have expressed support for independent journalism,” writes Kevin G. Hall. The move will allow the company to eliminate up to 60% of its debts, as well as free it from its pension obligations. If the federal bankruptcy court accepts the plan, McClatchy’s new owners will be the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management LLC. The filing has no immediate impact on McClatchy’s 30 newspapers and its employees, reports Hall. The company said it has secured $50 million in new financing from Encina Business Credit to ensure it can continue to operate while in bankruptcy.

+ Noted: Man charged with murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland (Press Gazette); Adults who get their news from social media are less confident that the public will accept election results, study finds (Pew Research Center)


How UNC-TV transformed itself from a public TV network into a digital media company (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: As a statewide public media TV network, University of North Carolina TV, or UNC-TV, is building a new and larger audience by producing digital content while staying committed to its traditional broadcast audience. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


How do you measure which content to cut? (Baekdal)

Several publishers have been finding that cutting content has boosted subscriptions. Media analyst Thomas Baekdal estimates that most publishers could cut up to 90% of their content — but how do you decide which types to cut? While many large publishers use sophisticated analytics software to identify their most valuable content, smaller publishers can start with a simple framework, and a few key metrics. That means figuring out which kinds of articles tend to bring in ad revenue (the topics they fall under, length, etc.), and which bring in subscriber revenue (dwell time/time on page is a key metric here, because it indicates whether subscribers are actually reading most of or all of an article). The articles that don’t bring in subscription or advertising revenue can theoretically be cut — although it’s a good idea to do a gut-check first to make sure what remains lines up with your overall editorial focus, says Bakedal.

+ Related: API’s Metrics for News software and consulting can help your newsroom understand which content is and isn’t valuable


Britain to create regulator for internet content (New York Times)

The U.K. on Wednesday introduced a plan that would give Ofcom, its media regulatory body, more power to police Facebook, Google and other major tech platforms. Ofcom will impose stricter penalties on those companies, although it’s not clear yet what those penalties might be — a proposal circulated last year suggested Ofcom could issue fines, block access to websites and make individual executives legally liable for harmful content spread on their platforms. “The push for tougher regulation shows a divergence from the American-led vision of the internet that is largely market driven and free of government oversight,” writes Adam Satariano. “In Europe, where free speech is more regulated than in the United States, there has been a growing willingness to impose new rules on the web.”


Could a ‘transformation office’ help your newsroom succeed at digital change? (McKinsey)

Most organizations that attempt a major change involving technology ultimately fail. That’s because workers aren’t adequately supported in the effort to incorporate new technology (along with new skills) into their usual workflows. Creating a transformation project team could help with that. It should be staffed with people who understand the ins and outs of the new technology (and can communicate it to the rest of the organization), and people who make sure the technology helps achieve business priorities. Communication between the business and technical sides during a major technological change is key, writes Matt Banholzer — but few organizations think to set up a formal, focused collaboration between the two.


The New York Times scoops its own collaboration effort, then apologizes for the ‘oversight’ (Washington Post)

It’s a lesson in how not to do a journalism collaboration. The New York Times had been part of a collaboration, organized by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and involving 17 news outlets from around the world, that sought to expose China’s treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China. When The Times published its own investigation on the very same topic a week before the consortium was due to publish, it prompted enough displeasure among the ICIJ partners that top NYT editors were forced to explain themselves. They chalked it up to a communication error, but Erik Wemple has doubts: “Journalists are greedy monsters. They want this investigative bombshell, that collaboration; this embargoed press release, that exclusive interview. Too bad the Times didn’t properly assess its own appetites — and its own pipeline — when it forged the ICIJ collaboration on Xinjiang.”


A look at Chalkbeat’s community engagement strategy (Chalkbeat)

The term “engagement” is now widely used in journalism circles, although it can mean different things in different newsrooms. “At Chalkbeat, engagement means involving our communities throughout the journalism process, from story ideation and reporting to sharing and reflection, which (hopefully) leads back to more ideas and future reporting,” writes Caroline Bauman. That could happen through holding office hours in local neighborhoods, collaborating with other news organizations, and doing annual “listening tours” or other community events — there are any number of creative ways engaged journalists can involve their community in their reporting at an earlier stage.

+ Earlier: Our study looks at ways newsrooms can build engagement strategies and techniques into their workflows

+ How City Bureau measures its community impact (Twitter, @d_holli)