Need to Know: Jan. 30, 2020


You might have heard: A 2018 survey found that two out of three female journalists have been threatened or harassed online at least once, and 40% said they avoided reporting certain stories as a result (International Women’s Media Foundation)

But did you know: Defamation laws have provided some journalists protection against cyber harassment (Columbia Journalism Review)

When it comes to defamation lawsuits, journalists are typically playing defense. But in some parts of the world, as they face increasing harassment and misinformation online, some journalists have begun using these laws to fight back. “I don’t think a lawsuit should be the answer of first resort,” said Peruvian investigative journalist Gustavo Gorriti, who currently has several cases underway. “But when you have a determined criminal organization of trolls and a mob attacking you, then of course you should be able to ask for legal protection. Journalists should take a much more determined approach to fighting back.”

+ Noted: JSafe app empowers female journalists to take action in threatening situations (Reynolds Journalism Institute); Journalists covering the 2020 election can access special legal guides, trainings and other resources from RCFP and NPPA (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press); NPR stations see bump in donations following State Department controversy (Washington Post)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Fact-checkers band together on coronavirus, TikTok’s getting political, and quashing the rumors about Kobe Bryant’s death. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


Knowing which stories ‘convert’ is well and good — but do you know what your subscribers are reading? (Editor & Publisher)

Subscriber churn plagues the news industry. Remember last summer, when the Los Angeles Times reported adding 52,000 new digital subscriptions in the first half of 2019 — but netted an increase of only 13,000, due to churn? News organizations do a lot of work analyzing which types of stories drive subscriptions, but they need to take a closer look at the “diet of a satisfied subscriber,” notes Matt DeRienzo. Which stories are being read by logged-in subscribers? What are the habits of subscribers who cancel?

+ Earlier: News organizations need a CRM to keep track of subscribers — which newsletters they’re signed up for, when was the last time they were contacted, whether they’re opening emails, etc. (Editor & Publisher)

+ The news publisher’s guide to TikTok (Twipe)


Seeing a gap in Southeast Asia, India’s The Ken plots a regional expansion with local teams (Splice)

The Ken, a one-story-a-day publication that covers technology, business and healthcare, was an unlikely success in India, where it launched in 2016. But now that it’s found a firm footing, it’s expanding into Southeast Asia, home to an increasingly interesting start-up scene, says co-founder Rohin Dharmakumar. Along with that comes the necessity of hiring local reporters — “We don’t believe it’s easy to do quality stories remotely,” says Dharmakumar — and convincing readers in that region to shell out for subscriptions. “The shift toward subscriptions is sometimes a belief-driven plunge, and we may fail, but it requires belief. Nobody thought it work in India, but it did.”


How middle managers can manage up, down, and still get things done (Fortune)

Middle managers often have the challenging task of trying to protect their priorities and their direct reports from what they see as unwise leadership decisions. But instead of trying to exert more control to do so, writes Jennifer Mizgata, try more communication. Make sure direct reports know what they are expected to do, so that they’re not confused by conflicting messages from higher-ups. Have a clear agenda for every meeting that involves both parties. And be honest with senior management about what you want your direct reports to focus on, and how you’re managing their workload. In other words, “Work with both your boss and your direct report instead of working around them,” writes Mizgata.


‘The reputation of The Post must prevail over any one individual’s desire for expression’ (CNN)

In a memo sent to staff yesterday afternoon, Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Marty Baron invited feedback on the newsroom’s social media policy, which is in the process of being updated. The memo follows a controversial incident in which Post reporter Felicia Sonmez was temporarily suspended after she tweeted out a Daily Beast story covering the sexual assault allegations against Kobe Bryant, just hours after his death Sunday. “We count on staffers to be attuned to how their social media activity will be perceived,” Baron wrote. “We do not want social media activity to be a distraction, and we do not want it to give a false impression of the tenor of our coverage.”

+ “I think the industry is divided on this point, also generational,” writes Vivian Schiller, on the idea that a news institution’s reputation trumps employees’ right to free expression (Twitter, @vivian)


‘Behind the story’ cards are a good idea — as long as readers actually see them (Center for Media Engagement)

In an experiment with the Center for Media Engagement and Trusting News, a team at McClatchy designed “Behind the Story” cards, graphic elements that give brief contextual information about how and why a story was written. Researchers then tested whether embedding the cards in digital stories made a difference in reader trust. Although participants in the study said the cards would theoretically improve their trust in a news outlet, the majority didn’t even notice them when embedded in the articles — so no significant boost in trust was gained. The cards are promising, write Caroline Murray and Natalie Jomini Stroud, but news outlets need to continue testing designs that will draw readers’ attention.


+ Why laid-off journalists should launch their own media companies (Simon Owens)

+ How TV’s A.M. news shows are grappling with Trump and technology (Variety)

+ Publishers are broadening their climate change coverage with new products (Digiday)