Need to Know: Jan. 24, 2020


You might have heard: Google wants to create “a search engine to unite the fragmented world of online datasets” (The Verge)

But did you know: Google’s Dataset Search is officially out of beta, which means 25 million datasets are now ready to search (The Keyword)

The results can be filtered by type of data and whether the dataset is free from the provider. Anyone who publishes data can make their datasets discoverable in Dataset Search by using an open standard ( to describe the properties of their dataset on their own web page. Originally designed for academic researchers, Dataset Search will be a critical tool for accountability journalism. Most of the world’s governments publish their data and describe it with, with the U.S. leading the number of open government datasets available, at more than 2 million.

+ Noted: PBS NewsHour co-founder Jim Lehrer passed away Thursday at the age of 85 (PBS); Comcast takes aim at CNN with NBC-Sky global news channel (Financial Times); On women in top jobs, the Financial Times continues to be an unexpected leader (Nieman Lab)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Whose responsibility is it to curb disinformation, how each social platform handles false or misleading claims in political ads, and misinformation about the coronavirus spreads in China. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


Want to work with another newsroom? Get a project manager (Poynter)

In any newsroom collaboration, a single person who manages the collaboration and serves as the point of contact (and is, in some cases, independently employed) is the “No. 1 key to success,” says Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media. That person’s job will be to set ground rules for the project, establish clear roles and responsibilities, and open up communication. According to the Center for Cooperative Media, there are currently around 30 people in the U.S. who have jobs that are centered on managing journalism collaboratives, either in a part-time or full-time capacity.

+ Dipping your toes into data visualization, or trying to find a substitute for on-the-ground visuals? Here are some easy-to-use animation tools and best practices for using them (Reynolds Journalism Institute)


New platform launches to support investigative journalists in southeastern Europe (

More press freedom violations happen in southeastern Europe than in other parts of the continent, and governments are behind half of them, according to research. The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has launched the BIRN Investigative Resource Desk to monitor such violations across the region, provide legal aid to journalists, and curate tools and resources around freedom of information, data access and protection, cyber-security and open-source data sets.


The death of the cookie signals a new golden age for publishers (What’s New in Publishing)

Publishers will likely take a significant hit in ad revenue when third-party cookies go away — Google has warned that the losses could amount to half their revenue. But the death of the cookie leaves publishers as the only holders of the first-party data on consumers that advertisers are clamoring for — a very valuable position to be in. “There is no doubt that publisher first-party data will become the dominant currency of the digital ad market,” writes Amit Kotecha. “Publishers need to use this data to increase their direct relationships with media buyers.”


Creating a ‘news-media cartel’ would hurt local news (Seattle Times)

Proposed legislation that would grant publishers an antitrust exemption, allowing them to better negotiate with Big Tech, “may jeopardize the very existence of local journalism,” write Gene Kimmelman and Charlotte Slaiman. The authors are attorneys at the nonprofit organization Public Knowledge, which advocates for freedom of information online. Large media outlets would likely dominate the negotiations with tech, they argue, grabbing the lion’s share of benefits and leaving out small local publishers. “Enabling a media cartel to operate free of antitrust law encourages large news corporations to do what’s in their best interest at the risk of harming others. It would lead to self-interested bargaining between two powerful parties, Big Media and Big Tech, at our expense.”

+ “Literally everything that is wrong with society and the media” — In a bid to gain members, Quartz really missteps (Twitter, @McCanntha)


The New York Times’ internal ‘Edition Builder’ proves why news orgs need product-focused people (Medium, Digital Times)

Say what you will about digital editions, a lot of readers still use them — and they may be a good gateway to digital for longtime print subscribers. The New York Times has invested a lot of resources into building a sleek, user-friendly digital edition, but for staff, producing it on a daily basis was a headache. So an internal team built a drag-and-drop interface that allows editors to quickly and easily publish stories in the digital edition. The Edition Builder will serve as a foundation for future newsroom tools, writes Matthew Taylor, and “wouldn’t have happened outside of our cross-functional editorial development team. These groups of product and engineering-focused, journalism-obsessed individuals that have sprung up at news orgs all around the world are, in my opinion, some of the most valuable people in the business.”


+ Michael Barbaro made the New York Times podcast “The Daily” a raging success. Or is it the other way around? (New York)

+ How The Washington Post “pulled off the hardest trick in journalism” — i.e., combining high-quality journalism with aggregated, clickbait-y stories grasping at virality (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ “When we open a book or click on an article, the first thing we want to know is which group the writer belongs to” — why today’s culture of belonging is damaging to free expression and independent thought (The Atlantic)