Need to Know: Jan. 21, 2020

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


You might have heard: Hedge fund Alden becomes Tribune’s largest shareholder (Associated Press)

But did you know: Chicago Tribune staffers seek new owners amid fears of hedge fund takeover (CNN)

Last year, hedge fund Alden Global Capital became the largest shareholder of Tribune Publishing, the company that includes esteemed newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel. Alden controls publications like the Denver Post, where reporters called for local ownership before some eventually left to start online news site the Colorado Sun. Now Chicago Tribune reporters also are informally seeking a new owner for their paper and sharing “the urgency of the matter” with potential buyers.

+ Earlier: Will The Chicago Tribune be the next newspaper picked to the bone? (The New York Times); Once again, Tribune wants veteran journalists to leave. Here’s why we haven’t … yet. (Orlando Sentinel)

+ Noted: Colorado Public Radio partners with college to operate KRCC (Current); The case for digital public infrastructure (Knight First Amendment Institute); Reporters challenge new restrictions in trying to cover Senate impeachment trial (NPR)


How can photojournalists build trust through their work? 7 good questions with T.J. Thomson (American Press Institute)

We are surrounded by visual information, but how much do we know about how and why these images are made? The American Press Institute asked Dr. T.J. Thomson, a visual communications and media scholar at Queensland University of Technology, how news organizations and visual journalists can build trust by increasing the context and transparency of images.


What I learned from making dozens of public records requests for police data (The Trace)

For their story last year on shootings in the United States, journalists Sarah Ryley, Sean Campbell and Jeremy Singer-Vine requested violent crime data from more than 50 police and sheriff’s departments. They also requested information on the databases the agencies used to track violent crime, yielding records from more than two dozen police and sheriff’s departments. Ryley shares tips for requesting data and dealing with common objections. For example, she recommends not requesting certain database fields, like narratives, which would require the agency to review for information that’s exempt under open records laws, making the request time-consuming and expensive to fulfill.


In Haiti’s uprising, journalists are caught in the middle (Columbia Journalism Review)

In response to higher fuel prices, public protests struck Haiti in 2018, eventually leading to the discovery of an embezzlement scheme connected to the government’s fuel-subsidy program. At the same time, protesters accuse Haitian media outlets of government support, while counter-protesters and police harass journalists, who also face physical attacks and death threats. An independent news site, Ted’Actu, stopped live-streaming demonstrations that became too risky for journalists to cover. Reporter Kenson Desir said that Haitians see journalists “either as participants of the government, or as opponents,” instead of neutral observers.

+ BBC’s director general will step down in the summer (BBC); Radio host Sarah Montague wins £400,000 from BBC over unequal pay (The Guardian)


What digital design can take from the print-reading experience (Medium, Damon Kiesow)

Damon Kiesow and researchers at the University of Missouri interviewed two dozen news consumers — half print, half digital — to understand what is different and the same about their reading experiences. They found print newspapers offer several “cues” to the reader, like date, section and geographic location, that are less prominent in digital formats. “And there are others more implicitly signaled like importance, authority and trust. How those affordances are presented and received may have a significant impact on how readers understand the news,” Kiesow writes. Continuing research and experiments will “better understand how print ‘works’ and if there are lessons we can abstract away from design and format and apply to make digital news better.”


The New York Times’ made-for-TV endorsement missed the mark (Variety)

For the first time, The New York Times filmed its process for political endorsements, airing the results and the final pick for the Democratic presidential race on the Times’ FX show, “The Weekly.” There was a catch, as the paper’s editorial board chose more than one candidate – Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Referring to an editorial board member who joked about considering joining the race, Daniel D’Addario writes: “As with most else in this episode, if this banal half-understanding of the state of the race even after having been granted the most extreme sort of access is the real tenor of conversation at the Times when cameras aren’t there, it’s dismaying.”

+ Related: Ashley Feinberg on the NYT board’s endorsement: A split decision is no decision at all (Slate)


‘Your story is in the textbooks. Ours isn’t.’ Buffalo schools adopt The 1619 Project (WBFO)

In February, Buffalo Public Schools will begin incorporating The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project into its curriculum for seventh through 12th graders. Juniors and seniors will receive print copies of the series, and other students will have digital access. The 1619 Project, first published last year, is a series that seeks to reframe U.S. history to focus on the consequences of slavery and contributions of black Americans. The series received criticism last year from a group of five historians, who alleged The 1619 Project contained errors, which Times Magazine disputes.