Need to Know: January 7, 2019

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


You might have heard2017 was the year of push alerts (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: In 2018, push alerts featured less yelling and more thinking (Nieman Lab)

An analysis of 30 publishers’ mobile notifications shows that the infrastructure of alerts has stayed the same but newsroom managers are thinking differently about how to use them. Columbia Journalism Review’s Pete Brown found that while the weekly average for push alerts overall increased by 16 percent from 2017 to 2018, the alerts are filled with more text, more conversational, using more adjectives, and pushing more analysis pieces instead of purely breaking news. Maybe “the overall thrashing of the news cycle caused alert managers to take another look at what they’re flowing to people’s phones,” writes Christine Schmidt. Brown’s interviewees described a “growing consensus that push should not be viewed solely as a platform for breaking news, but also as a means for promoting the newsroom’s strongest journalism and building brand loyalty around exclusive stories, resulting in a broader range of content being surfaced via the platform.”

+ Noted: Former Weekly Standard staffers find new home at The Bulwark, a conservative site unafraid to take on Trump (CNN); Remaining funds from the Media Consortium, which sunsetted on Dec. 31, will be used to launch the Center for Movement Journalism (Medium, Jo Ellen Green Kaiser); Hollywood Foreign Press Association awards $1 million grant to InsideClimate News (InsideClimate News); Longtime producer Susan Zirinsky will replace CBS News president David Rhodes (Los Angeles Times)


Want to have more impactful reporting? Be empathetic. (Poynter)

Here’s one piece of advice for journalists trying to build better relationships through their reporting: Don’t go into a story thinking you know how it ends. “Try to be surprised by something,” said Linda Lutton, an award-winning education reporter for WBEZ-Chicago. “People have really important stories to tell, and it may not be the story that you are trying to dig up.” Lutton, whose “Harper High School” podcast series chronicling students and gun violence won a Peabody Award in 2014, recently spoke at a Poynter workshop on “Uncovering the Untold Stories” in Chicago. “It’s not about being kind — it’s about getting an understanding of where someone is coming from,” she said. Although building trust with sources can be difficult for journalists facing tight deadlines, two questions stuck with workshop attendee Dana Kozlov, a veteran reporter for WBBM-TV. “Asking, ‘What else?’ and ‘How are you seeing this?’ These are great questions I never considered before,” she said.

+ Earlier: Empathy can help journalists cover communities long neglected or misrepresented by the news media


Backing up Brazil’s internet so Bolsonaro can’t censor it (Columbia Journalism Review)

The Internet Archive, an ambitious project started in 1996 by tech pioneer Brewster Kahle, is becoming more and more important as totalitarian governments and dictators around the world crack down on free speech. To take just one example, the Archive is backing up as many Brazilian websites as it can after requests from those worried about the impact the new government of Jair Bolsonaro could have on certain kinds of information. In an interview with CJR, Internet Archive curator Jason Scott said about a dozen people had reached out to him personally, asking the Archive to back up as much of the Brazilian internet as possible, because of concerns that Bolsonaro’s government might remove or censor news sites and other important resources.


How Millennials became the burnout generation (BuzzFeed News)

For many Millennials, a social media presence — on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — has become an integral part of obtaining and maintaining a job. Social media is the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. “‘Branding’ is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product,” writes Anne Helen Petersen. “The work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no ‘off the clock’ when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations.” All of this optimization culminates in the dominant Millennial condition, regardless of class or race or location: burnout.


Why the podcast revolution is here to stay (Los Angeles Times)

Media experiences can become profoundly therapeutic and habit-forming by showing up at the moment we need them most. Because podcasts are right there in your ear wherever you go, they are intertwined with our personal routines; unusually capable of compelling us to pay attention and feel deeply. The power of podcasts today is perhaps most tangible in the context of a traditionally impersonal form of information delivery: news. “While some journalists might quibble over the collapse of objectivity in a conventional sense,” writes Lexi Mainland, “there is no debating the growth in audience engagement podcasts bring for news organizations. Where readers spend an average of two to three minutes scanning an article online, data show that podcast listeners tend to stay to the end of episodes. They also subscribe, donate, proselytize on social media and attract lucrative advertisers.”

+ “We need to have Trump-free days,” says NBC news veteran William Arkin. “Part of our responsibility as journalists is to cover the government, not just the president.” (CNN)


‘A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue’ (Nieman Lab)

“2019 will be another terrible year for the business of news, and journalists will have to face the harsh reality that no one will come to their rescue — not benign billionaires, not platform companies, and not policymakers,” writes Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. At a time when it’s increasingly important to get more people to pay for journalism, most of the news currently published online not only isn’t worth paying for — it’s hardly worth our fleeting attention, he argues. “The shift thus has to be about better and more distinct journalism in an incredibly competitive battle for attention, about a greater focus on what readers actually value, about organizations and technologies built around serving them efficiently, and perhaps most importantly about a commitment to the long haul — to making the changes necessary to winning paying readers one at a time, keeping them, accumulating them.”

+ Related: “There is no magic — [journalism] was and always will be about serving your readers and now viewers, listeners, users.” (Nieman Lab)