Need to Know: July 13, 2020

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


You might have heard: In February, McClatchy filed for bankruptcy (Axios)

But did you know: Hedge fund Chatham Asset Management wins auction to buy McClatchy (McClatchy)

The New Jersey-based hedge fund and the second-largest local news company in the country must now reach an agreement on their deal, which has to be approved by McClatchy’s board and then a bankruptcy court. This follows a Friday auction, during which Alden Capital Group made a failed last-ditch effort to challenge Chatham’s opening bid. Although McClatchy hasn’t named the “multiple bidders” interested in the company, Chatham previously offered about $300 million for the company in its initial bid, according to court records.

+ A feature on Pottstown, Pa.’s last reporter, whose newspaper was severely diminished under the ownership of Alden Global Capital hedge fund (The New York Times)

+ Noted: A group of Wall Street Journal staffers is pushing for coverage changes (The New York Times); Black ESPN employees are speaking out about racism at the sports outlet (The New York Times); ESPN suspended Adrian Wojnarowski for an offensive email to a Missouri senator (New York Post); Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s top writer was fired for racist and sexist comments made in an online forum (CNN)


Make the transition from advertising to reader revenue

In our report “What it takes to shift a news organization to reader revenue,” we examine the critical elements that must be in place to build and maintain a successful subscription program. Find out what you’re doing — or not doing — that could be hindering reader revenue. 


How to make the most of ‘deep engagement’ metrics on Instagram (Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Aside from the usual suspects — likes and comments — some outlets are finding success by focusing on other moments of engagement, including saves and shares. Easily digestible information appeals to younger, Gen Z readers, and adding calls to action that encourage shares has expanded the Instagram reach for KQED in San Francisco. This example, which had about 11,000 shares and more than 2,500 saves, asks readers to share the post and uses tags that people can explore further when they use the “save” feature.

+ How The Atlantic uses audience research (Building The Atlantic); Why Austin NPR affiliate KUT tracks the diversity of its sources (Arizona State University News Co/Lab)


Danish publisher Zetland is driving more new members since quitting Facebook (Digiday)

Facebook is the subject of a growing ad boycott against hate speech on the platform, but publishers with a longstanding reliance on the company for traffic have been reluctant to cut off their own spending on the site. Since last year, Danish news outlet Zetland wanted to become less dependent on Facebook. This month, Zetland took the money from its Facebook and Instagram advertising budget and shifted the funds to sponsor podcasts. Some of the former marketing dollars will be invested in hiring journalists. Stuff, a news publisher in New Zealand, also stalled its Facebook ad buys, but in that case, the newspaper group said the decision was part of the hate speech boycott.

+ The Philippine Congress officially shut down the country’s leading broadcaster, which found itself in the crosshairs of President Rodrigo Duterte (The New York Times)


Facebook considering political-ad blackout ahead of U.S. election (Bloomberg)

The potential blackout would last several days before the November election. A possible ban could allow Facebook to evade criticism that misinformation is thriving on the platform, which has refused calls to fact-check campaign advertisements. Facebook also has the baggage of the 2016 election, during which Russia spread incorrect and divisive posts on the platform to disrupt voters. Other countries, like the United Kingdom, practice brief political ad blackouts, also called election silence.

+ Related: Why our brains want to spread misinformation (OneZero)

+ Don’t let micro-stresses burn you out (Harvard Business Review)


Dozens of journalists signed piece in opposition to Harper’s open letter (The Objective) 

The dueling letter pegs the original as a reaction to an industry that’s becoming more diverse and critical of everyday practices that support bigotry. The piece points out that several signatories of the Harper’s letter have criticized trans and Black writers. The authors argue that Harper’s gave a platform to people who already have huge followings, rather than marginalized people who have fewer opportunities for their perspectives to be amplified. “Ironically, these influential people then use that platform to complain that they’re being silenced,” the piece in The Objective said.


These media startups chose to launch while many other outlets are going under (CNN)

This handful of publications, including Oaklandside, The 19th and Discourse Blog, aim to fill coverage gaps with under-reported stories. Oaklandside and The 19th have both produced stories and newsletters before their scheduled launches, while Rest of World, which focuses on international technology stories, delayed its launch until May to afford its team some time to rethink its strategy. Former staffers for Splinter, which shut down last year, started Discourse Blog as a way to continue working in the journalism industry. “Even if we wanted to get another media job anywhere, there aren’t any, so we decided maybe the best bet is to invest in ourselves and create our own jobs,” Discourse Blog co-owner Aleksander Chan said.

+ Illustrated vignettes on what it’s like to cover this most unusual election season (Columbia Journalism Review)