Need to Know: Feb. 18, 2020


You might have heard: Bloomberg says it will not do in-depth investigations of Mike Bloomberg or any other Democrats running for president (New York Times)

But did you know: What a President Bloomberg could mean for Bloomberg News (New York Times)

As Mike Bloomberg’s chances at becoming president appear to be growing, reporters at Bloomberg News are wondering what a President Bloomberg would mean for its long-term coverage. It’s already grappling with a perceived conflict of interest, unhelped by comments from Bloomberg himself. In December, after the policy on not investigating his campaign came out, he told CBS’s Gayle King, “You just have to learn to live with some things. They get a paycheck. But with your paycheck comes some restrictions and responsibilities.” If Bloomberg were to become president, he may sell his news operation — but some journalists worry that a new owner would only be interested in the company’s core product, the financial data terminals that command huge subscription sums from the investing class. If Bloomberg kept the company, questions loom large over how his reporters would cover a president ultimately responsible for their paychecks.

+ Noted: “Thanks for the re-write, @washingtonpost! Y’all know linkbacks are free, right?” A Florida Times-Union reporter calls out The Washington Post for failing to credit her original reporting. “National news becomes national because of the local reporting it spurs off of,” she continued in response to the reporter who wrote the Post story. “I’m confused how a story that took place in Jax would be ‘hard to trace’ to the city’s only daily paper.” (Twitter, @emdrums)


How the press and public can find common purpose

Journalism’s future depends on how Americans view its contribution to democracy and their communities. Our survey, conducted in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago, examined several data points around this issue, including how Americans feel about the accountability role of the press and their own ability to question political leaders and improve their communities.  


What the AP and Newsday learned from automating coverage of 124 school districts (Lenfest Institute)

Teaming up with the AP, which already uses auto-generated stories for some of its coverage areas, Newsday built a data inventory that would house local education data, as well as data entry templates that would be used to automatically generate stories. The two systems worked together to generate local education stories. The data also served as the basis for longer narrative stories reported by Newsday journalists, significantly cutting down the time it took to gather information. The technical side of the project went relatively smoothly, writes Maeve Hennessey, thanks to good collaboration between Newsday journalists and its engineers. “In the end, editorial challenges surpass engineering obstacles. Changing the workflow of a newsroom is a major task. Integrating the values and specific style of a publication into the system is more of a challenge than operating the technology itself.”


European publishers see modest gains from platform subscription services (Digiday)

“Facebook, Google and Apple now have more ways to drive subscriptions, but in Europe at least, the impact is still negligible,” writes Lucinda Southern. “In the U.S., publisher relationships with platforms are naturally more evolved compared with Europe as new features launch earlier and engineering teams are closer at hand.” Some European publishers, like Le Monde, report modest subscription growth from tools like Subscribe with Google, but many say that Facebook and Apple News still aren’t helping them drive subscriptions to a significant degree.


Wikipedia is the last best place on the internet (Wired)

Free from the “malign hand of platform monopolies,” Wikipedia has risen to become one of the more trustworthy sites on the internet, writes Richard Cooke. Although it’s not immune to problems that come with user-generated content, it’s managed to avoid the disasters that have come hand-in-hand with internet companies’ for-profit models. “It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling. Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good.”


McClatchy, Tribune, Buffett, and the need to think outside the box (Columbia Journalism Review)

With America’s major newspaper companies consolidating and coming under the ownership of hedge funds, which can have disastrous consequences for local news, the time has come to think outside the box when it comes to local news business models, writes Jon Allsop. Going nonprofit is one avenue that’s been getting more attention, as well as civic ownership models, whereby state governments would support local journalism via tax dollars, regulatory perks, or other mechanisms. But these models haven’t yet replaced what’s been lost, and the window of time they have to do so is getting smaller, says Allsop.

+ Earlier: 5 business models for local news to watch in 2020 (Medium, Knight Foundation)


Unloved by Trump, NPR carries on (New York Times)

From tweets questioning the need for public radio’s existence, to federal budget proposals that slash its funding to zero, to attacks from cabinet members on its journalists, NPR has weathered blow after blow from the Trump administration, writes Rachel Abrams. It’s unlikely that President Trump will be successful in his quest to significantly cut funding for public media, and as for his attacks on NPR, they’ve only served to push listeners to donate. However, some are still worried about the feasibility of smaller cuts and their impact on small, rural radio stations.