Need to Know: January 18, 2019

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


You might have heard“Delay, deny and deflect”: How Facebook’s leaders have fought through crisis (The New York Times)

But did you know: How Facebook should embrace meaningful interac— er, accountability (Nieman Lab)

Researchers from Stanford and Oxford Universities examined Facebook’s attempts to improve itself as a “forum for free speech and democracy,” such as broader transparency with academics and policymakers and introducing content appeal processes. They noted the efficiency of self-regulatory actions versus external policies — “A single small change to the News Feed algorithm, or to content policy, can have an impact that is both faster and wider than that of any single piece of national (or even EU-wide) legislation.” They also recommended that those be extended to Facebook subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram, which so far have escaped the same scrutiny that Facebook is under. The biggest takeaway, the authors argue, is that Facebook could make immense progress by being less power hungry: “Ideally, the user interface and experience on Facebook should be designed to promote active, informed citizenship, and not merely clickbait addiction for the commercial benefit of Facebook, the corporation,” they write. “That would be change indeed.”

+ Noted: Sinclair debuts streaming service for its local TV stations (AP News); Storied Jewish publication The Forward ending 121-year print run (New York Post); Tribune Publishing recently tried to rekindle merger talks with Gannett (Wall Street Journal); Tribune Publishing names new CEO as three executives depart (Chicago Tribune)


The week in fact-checking

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of “The Week in Fact-Checking” newsletter, why fact-checking immigration could be a new vertical; yes, older Americans share more fake news than young people, but they also share more facts; and conspiracy theories about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health dominated on YouTube last week.


How New York Magazine thinks about having one paywall across multiple verticals (Nieman Lab)

New York Media is made up of six different verticals: New York Magazine (the most famous), Intelligencer (its politics, technology, and business vertical), Vulture (entertainment and pop culture), The Cut (women’s issues), Grub Street (food), and The Strategist, an e-commerce affiliate marketing service. Discussions about building a paywall centered on what the product team discerned as three indicators of a reader’s propensity to subscribe, says chief product officer Daniel Hallac: quality of content (a long feature scored higher than a blog post); depth (an obsessive reader of Vulture scored higher than a passive reader); and breadth (someone who reads across multiple verticals). “As we looked to design this product, we wanted to take these three different segments and treat them differently and be flexible enough to really target the people who are most likely to convert, rather than have a blanket rule across every site, every user, and treat them all equally.”

+ Take these email templates and go build a beautiful (monetized, useful, tested, efficient) newsletter (Nieman Lab); How The New York Times kept growing ad revenue in Europe after GDPR (Digiday)


Newspapers are stockpiling ink and newsprint against Brexit (Bloomberg)

With the political chaos of Brexit filling their column inches, British newspapers are now having to ensure the country’s drive to leave the European Union doesn’t leave them without enough paper and ink. Publishers and paper manufacturers are stockpiling newsprint, ink and other supplies in case the U.K. crashes out of the EU in March without a deal. They want to avoid potential supply disruptions and to hedge against the risk that imported goods become more expensive if the pound weakens further. “There are warehouses that are full to the gunwales” with paper, said Andrew Large, head of the Confederation of Paper Industries. Some of the trade group’s members are accumulating at least a month’s worth of supply, he said.


What makes good employees leave (Quartz)

It’s tough to hold on to good employees, but it shouldn’t be. Most of the mistakes that companies make are easily avoided. “When you do make mistakes, your best employees are the first to go, because they have the most options,” writes Travis Bradberry. The following practices are some of the worst offenders, and they must be abolished if you’re going to hang on to good employees: making stupid rules (more common than you’d think); treating the high performers the same as those who take no pride in their work or make little effort; tolerating poor performance; not recognizing accomplishments; and not showing everyone the big picture. “It may seem efficient to simply send employees assignments and move on, but leaving out the big picture is a deal breaker for star performers,” writes Bradberry. “Star performers shoulder heavier loads because they genuinely care about their work, so their work must have a purpose.”


‘Journalism is now the second draft of history’ (Columbia Journalism Review)

In an industry whose economic fortunes are in wholesale retreat, fact-checking has emerged as one of the few growth areas. But the big (nonprofit) business of fact-checking won’t get to the root of wantonly-spread misinformation or the widespread distrust in media, writes James Harkin. “Taking aim at disinformation is like firing a machine-gun at an unruly flock of birds … our worry as journalists should not so much be about people believing everything they read on the internet but that they might end up believing none of it.” Good journalism could help with that, Harkin says, but leaving fact checks to external authorities won’t — it will only make the loss of confidence in journalism worse. “In its impoverished state and leaning heavily on the output of others, what we publish often comes peppered with partisan half-truths which lack perspective or any broader factual architecture.” In the face of this reality, Harkin suggests, “Why not try restoring our authority by doing less, but with greater depth and context?”


Did we just experience the hardest decade in journalism? (Poynter)

“Between the bookends of 2008 and 2018 sit a recession, a presidency that questions the legitimacy of journalism and the continuing plunge of the very thing that once maintained the media — ad revenue,” writes Kristen Hare. “While the basics of newsgathering haven’t changed in that time, nearly everything else has.” The starkest difference: From 2008 to 2017, newsrooms shrank by 23 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Newspaper newsrooms shrank by 45 percent. In speaking with a number of journalists to see how changes over the last decade affected them, Hare found that a few have moved from print to digital mediums, a few have remained in the same newsroom (though the newsrooms have changed drastically), and all have seen or experienced layoffs. “I would not have anticipated that my career focus would become making the case that journalism is important,” said Joy Mayer, who is now director of the Trusting News Project. Ten years ago, Mayer was teaching print design at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

+ A Pew Research Center study found that about half of Facebook users say they are not comfortable when they see how the platform categorizes them, and 27 percent maintain the site’s classifications do not accurately represent them (Pew Research Center)

For the Weekend

+ “The first test case”: Amid the Bezos divorce, The Washington Post tries to sift between the tawdry gossip and the real news: “The Post journalists I spoke with, perhaps high-mindedly, acknowledged that tabloid-style extramarital affairs aren’t typically in their wheelhouse,” writes Joe Pompeo. “At the same time, they don’t want to appear to be ignoring the story. One Post journalist told me that some reporters and editors are indeed having conversations about how to handle it and what angle would be appropriate.” (Vanity Fair)

+ “My basic hope is that I can find creative projects where I don’t have to run anything”: A profile of Adam Moss, editor in chief of New York Magazine for 15 years, who announced he’ll be stepping down this week. Moss’s “visual savvy and ear for the zeitgeist made him one of the leading magazine editors of his generation,” writes Michael M. Grynbaum. “Moss is less of a household name than gregarious counterparts like Graydon Carter, formerly of Vanity Fair, and Anna Wintour of Vogue. But his editorial ethos — curious, skeptical, attuned to the pleasures of consumerism and the anxieties of urban life — permanently reshaped several of the country’s most prominent publications.” (The New York Times)

+ What becoming a mother taught me about the education beat: “Viewing the education beat from a more maternal lens has been an important reminder to remain humble, and to remember that even after I’ve reported long and hard, and listened well, I know so little of what I don’t know — and quite possibly never will.” (Columbia Journalism Review)