Need to Know: February 7, 2019

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


You might have heardWith philanthropic gifts to media topping $50 million, Craig Newmark is working to save journalism (The New York Times)

But did you know: Poynter, with funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, will launch a new media ethics center (Poynter)

With a $5 million grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies — the largest single contribution ever made to Poynter — the journalism institute will create a new Center to expand teaching, research and coverage of media ethics. It will be led by Poynter Senior Vice President Kelly McBride, a nationally recognized journalism ethicist. McBride will also be the Newmark Ethics Chair, a position created with a Newmark grant two years ago. In addition to training and consultation, the Newmark Center at Poynter will serve as a clearinghouse for best practices. “In all, Poynter seeks to be something of an industry ombudsman,” writes President Neil Brown, “bringing together the many players who are waging battle against misinformation — be it created directly by nefarious sources, or indirectly through ineffective journalism.”

+ Newmark Philanthropies is also making a separate $10 million gift to Columbia Journalism School to endow the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security and the Craig Newmark Professorship (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Noted: The New York Times’ free student subscription plan reaches 3 million (Axios); Reddit is raising a huge round near a $3 billion valuation (TechCrunch); Bill Owens named executive producer of “60 Minutes” (Hollywood Reporter)


News Integrity Initiative gives $150k to API to expand mentorship initiative and improve newsroom-community relationships

The News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY has granted API $150,000 to deepen and expand its existing newsroom mentorship initiative and help newsrooms create organizational cultures built on community listening. With the funds, API will be able to provide hands-on guidance and mentoring to help news organizations improve their relationships with their communities and do more audience-centered reporting. Journalists and publishers who might want help with better understanding the communities they want to serve, especially those alienated, neglected or marginalized, can contact Amy Kovac-Ashley, API’s director of newsroom learning, at More information on the open application and cohort program will be coming in Need to Know soon.


Insights from networked reporting (Membership Puzzle Project)

MPP’s Melanie Sill looks at lessons learned from Join the Beat, a six-month experiment in “beat networking.” Beat networking requires a different flow of communication from the we-publish, you-comment approach, writes Sill; It’s journalists asking audience members or stakeholders for input as reporting germinates or proceeds, and managing their responses as part of the production process. Join the Beat’s participating newsrooms found that newsletters are a natural and effective way for beat reporters to connect with their most committed readers, and that simple callouts through newsletters, social media channels or their websites were effective ways to gather input from readers interested in engaging with reporters. However, several of the reporters hit bumps or dead-ends during the experiment, including changing assignments, competing production demands, or practical challenges in managing responses from audience members.

+ Earlier: Why your community members want to aid your reporting and 25 jobs you can ask them to do (Membership Puzzle Project)

+ Five ways to find public figures’ yearbooks (Journalist’s Resource)


In Japan, a content-sharing platform for publishers aims to even the playing field between big and small (Nieman Lab)

Nordot, a Tokyo-based joint venture launched in April 2015, operates on a common publishing and content-sharing platform that offers more than 50,000 articles from hundreds of publishers in Japan. The company — the first of its kind to get any real traction — brings together content providers and distributors so that both can minimize costs. Major outlets can source news at no cost; smaller publishers can reach a far larger audience; both sides earn ad revenue. “It can be difficult for smaller content providers or distributors to work with more powerful ones — for instance, a smaller regional newspaper might face major hurdles in selling its articles to Japan’s biggest news aggregator websites,” says Ryutaro Nakase, founder and CEO of Nordot. “Our platform can help correct this imbalance. In addition, users don’t have to negotiate about content sharing and ad revenue.”

+ Earlier: Is it finally time for media companies to adopt a common publishing platform? “If companies can set aside their (considerable) differences and use a single publishing platform, they could collectively mount a winning fight against Facebook.” (Nieman Lab)


‘This is why we’re funding these eight news organizations doing engaged journalism’ (European Journalism Center)

Have you ever asked yourself about what happens behind-the-scenes of a funding call? Maybe you’ve wondered how an organization decides who it funds? How it’s possible to differentiate a good application from a great one? The Engaged Journalism Accelerator program recently funded eight European news organizations, and, knowing the process can seem opaque and confusing, explained what went into its decision-making process. One of the Accelerator’s objectives, writes engagement lead Ben Whitelaw, is to “create a network of organizations doing valuable, participative journalism, that can learn together and build upon each other’s work.” Each of the grantees had projects in place or proposals that would further this goal, particularly in the area of community listening, a key focus of the Accelerator. “One of the biggest challenges for us was selecting a group of grantees who we felt were strong enough in their own right, but whose organizations and core activities complemented one another and fit into the wider journalism ecosystem.”


Ex-New York Times editor Jill Abramson is reviewing passages in her new book after plagiarism allegations (CNN)

Former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson said Wednesday night that she was reviewing passages in her new book after being accused of plagiarism. “I take seriously the issues raised and will review the passages in question,” she said on Twitter. Abramson, whose book “Merchants of Truth” was released Tuesday, had previously been defiant in the face of the plagiarism allegations, telling Fox News host Martha MacCallum just hours earlier, “I certainly didn’t plagiarize in my book.” The allegations against Abramson were made Wednesday by Michael Moynihan, a “Vice News Tonight” correspondent, who accused her on Twitter of plagiarizing multiple passages in the book.

+ “…It would seem the Times-Picayune forfeits the right to complain about the cost of newsprint when it wasted an entire front page like it did Monday” …This was Poynter’s Tom Jones’ take on the Times-Picayune’s front page on Monday, which was blank except for the words “Super Bowl? What Super Bowl?” Jones’ argument that the lack of front-page content did a disservice to readers was met with resounding disagreement on Twitter. “Completely disagree,” wrote one user. “Sports is a key way newspapers now bond with their community. That front page was a funny, provocative way to connect.”


The New York Times is getting close to becoming a majority-digital company (Nieman Lab)

The dream for any newspaper seeking to last longer than print itself is to transition its business model into digital. The New York Times is almost there. Yesterday, the Times announced that it generated $709 million in digital revenue in 2018 — 40 percent of its total revenue — putting it close to the ambitious goal it set in 2015 to hit $800 million in digital revenue by 2020. “A common goal in newspaper circles a few years ago was to someday be able to make enough money in digital to cover the cost of the newsroom,” writes Joshua Benton. “Well, at this point, the Times could pay for the newsroom two times over with just digital money. Which is probably why that newsroom keeps growing — the Times reported it now employs 1,600 journalists, an all-time high.”