Need to Know: January 8, 2019

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


You might have heardCable news networks no longer air every Trump rally live, instead choosing to monitor events and bring viewers information deemed newsworthy (CNN)

But did you know: After initial debate, networks agree to air Trump’s prime time address tonight (CNN)

The major television networks said that they will provide wall-to-wall coverage of President Trump’s prime time address on border security, report Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy. On Monday the White House requested air time for the speech, as is customary in the relationship between a president and the press. But for a few hours, it was unclear what the networks would do. The broadcasters have been known to resist presidential requests for air time for a variety of reasons, including the perceived urgency of the subject and the popularity of the shows that would be interrupted. In 2014, ABC, NBC, and CBS declined to carry an address delivered by President Barack Obama on immigration. Trump’s request for networks to air his speech touched on a number of debates that have been raging in journalism since his ascension to the Oval Office. Among them: Should his fact-free speeches be aired live? What kind of fact-checking methods should networks employ?

+ Earlier: Live fact-checking on television could have “tremendous appeal” for viewers, but can also lead to confusion, study shows (Nieman Lab)

+ Noted: Dallas Morning News lays off 43 as company struggles with revenue declines (Dallas Morning News); Twitter extends BuzzFeed’s live morning news show “AM to DM” for another year (Digiday); WikiLeaks advises journalists not to report 140 different “false and defamatory” statements about its founder Julian Assange (Reuters); Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and family to testify in federal lawsuit against Iran (Washington Post); Facebook is investigating the political pages and ads of News for Democracy, a left-leaning group backed by LinkedIn co-founder and Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman (Washington Post)


American Press Institute announces affiliation with Trusting News and Reynolds Journalism Institute, to provide new funding and growth in 2019

The new affiliation makes API a partner and the fiscal host for Trusting News, a project that has helped more than 50 newsrooms in the U.S. build trust with their audiences. API will contribute funding, oversee operations, and integrate Trusting News’ practical newsroom solutions with API’s other resources, such as Metrics for News analytics, consulting on newsroom culture change, best practices for reader revenue growth, and support for trusted and effective watchdog journalism. “We see a variety of important and exciting synergies between API and Trusting News,” API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel said. “We believe our deep relationships with newsrooms can extend Trusting News’ reach, our analytics program can measure their impact, and their leadership on trust and transparency will strengthen our efforts to help news publishers with reader revenue and culture change.”


How Bloomberg Media’s innovation hub designs news services focused on audience needs (

In 2017 Bloomberg launched a cross-functional team to build and test digital solutions that give readers a better news experience. Karen Johnson, head of design research at Bloomberg Media, explained that the team focuses on asking specific questions to hone in on their audience’s needs and behaviors. “There’s so much quantitative data on where people are going, how they are using our site and how long they are staying on the site, but we love to practice qualitative research,” she said. Based on interviews and user testing, the team has identified three types of news consumers: “news chasers,” who want to be the first to know breaking news, “news connectors,” who share stories to connect with others, or “opinion seekers,” who want to get perspectives that allow them to understand what is happening in the world. These user types have helped Bloomberg design more audience-centered digital experiences, such as The Bulletin, a mobile feature that allows “news chasers” to see the most important stories of the moment without having to click away from the home feed.

+ Tips for journalists negotiating personal boundaries online: Be cautious about sharing personal information, use journalistic best practices when interacting with sources on social media, and never tolerate abuse (International Journalists’ Network)


With 800k members, The Sun’s loyalty program is driving other revenue streams (Digiday)

British tabloid The Sun overhauled its loyalty program 18 months ago. Since then, it has grown to 800,000 members, enough for it to use the data on its most loyal audience to inform other parts of its business, like driving more branded content deals, affiliate and in-app ad revenue. The loyalty program was originally built to reward readers through discount vouchers when the publication still had a paywall, but only ever amassed around 30,000 members, according to the company. The publisher learned giving away easily accessible discounts doesn’t lead to long-term loyalty. In July 2017, the program was upgraded to offer members daily digital voucher codes, which can be spent with The Sun’s partners like travel operator Haven and hotel and attraction company Merlin Entertainments. The Sun Hols, a promotion the publication runs three times a year where members pay £9.50 for a holiday, is the biggest driver in getting people to buy copies of The Sun and sign up to the loyalty program.


The 5-15 is an easy technique to improve communication at your company (Quartz)

The “5-15” works like this: Each week, everyone on a team spends 15 minutes writing feedback in a templated report sent to the team’s manager. The manager takes five minutes to read and respond to each report, and 15 minutes to collate their own feedback for their manager. This continues up the chain. The beauty of the process is its simplicity and swiftness, but also the format, which allows those who might find it hard to bring up an issue in a one-on-one meeting to air it in a “safe space.” Sarah Marshall, head of audience growth for Vogue International, says the 5-15 has helped her manage her team of 10 effectively. She enjoys reading the achievements of her team and will try to solve challenges then and there, if she can. If not she includes them in her own “challenge” section. “As a manager I find it absolutely invaluable, because it highlights things I might have missed.”


Must writers be moral? Their contracts may require it (The New York Times)

Since the #MeToo revelations began unfolding in 2017, more publishers have been putting “morality clauses” in contracts, which allow them to back out of their obligations should authors bring down scandal and public condemnation upon themselves. While agents hate morality clauses because terms like “public condemnation” are vague and open to abuse, few writers are even aware that such a clause exists in their contracts’ fine print. “No person who is engaged in creative expressive activity should be signing one of these,” said Jeannie Suk Gersen, a Harvard Law School professor who writes regularly for The New Yorker. When the trigger for termination could be a Twitter storm or a letter-writing campaign, she said, “I think it would have a very significant chilling effect.”

+ Should journalists quote Facebook posts without permission? (RTDNA)


Campaign journalism needs an overhaul. Here’s one radical idea. (The Washington Post)

“As the presidential election season kicked off in earnest this month, it was obvious the media would do what it always has done: focus on personalities and electability; get distracted by gaffes and blow them way out of proportion,” writes Margaret Sullivan. Instead of the horse-race journalism that dominates election coverage, she suggests a “radical alternative”: News organizations should focus on what voters want and need to know — what the candidates stand for and how their policies might affect voters’ lives (and pocketbooks). “A very weird thing about horse race or ‘game’ coverage is it doesn’t answer to any identifiable need of the voter,” press critic Jay Rosen pointed out on his blog. “Predicting the winner? Is that success? Even if journalists could do that (and they can’t) it would not be much of a public service, would it?”   

+ For Chicago readers: ONA Chicago will host a session on “how to plan election coverage your audience actually wants” (MeetUp)