Need to Know: July 18, 2019

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


You might have heard: Facebook’s efforts to boost local news hampered by lack of local news (Facebook Journalism Project)

But did you know: Facebook wants to fund community-building efforts by local news orgs (Nieman Lab)

Through a new initiative called the Facebook Journalism Project Community Network, Facebook has selected 23 local news orgs to receive grants between $5,000 and $25,000 to fund community-building proposals over the next six months, reports Christine Schmidt. Many of those proposals center around events, in particular live storytelling, which not only serve as a way to bring people in a community together face-to-face, but also represent a potential revenue driver. “Each of these projects looks at ways in which local news can better engage with its local community and be more deserving of financial support either from users themselves or from others who are interested in those communities,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director of the Lenfest Institute, which helped orchestrate the grantmaking. “Listening is good business.” 

+ The next round of applications for FJP’s Community Network grant opens July 22 (Facebook Journalism Project)

+ Noted: RIP SnappyTV: Twitter releases publisher tool for live video clipping (Digiday); The Washington Post is preparing for post-cookie ad targeting (Digiday); Why the Philadelphia Inquirer slashed nearly 40 jobs — but is still optimistic about its future (Billy Penn)


Today’s the last day to take our reader survey

Quick, tell us how to make Need to Know better for you. (We’re open to positive, glowing feedback too.)

+ Mid-level managers have more power than they might realize to ramp up diversity and inclusion efforts. This five-part email series, produced by our Summer Fellow Marlee Baldridge, offers practical tips for managers on creating more inclusive newsroom cultures. Sign up here.


How to avoid burnout in comment moderators (Center for Media Engagement)

While comment sections can represent an important opportunity to engage with readers, a new study from the Center for Media Engagement shows that those who spend too much time moderating uncivil comments are susceptible to emotional exhaustion, and, over time, decreased trust in the news outlet. “Breaking up the task can make moderation less harmful for workers,” the authors wrote. “We also suggest that comment moderators be given other tasks, along with comment moderation, to improve the experience.” Because many newsrooms use their own journalists to moderate comments, it’s worth thinking about dividing up the task, as well as having a comment policy that makes it clear that uncivil comments aren’t welcome. If anyone violates the policy, moderators shouldn’t hesitate to ban them.

+ Earlier: How The Wall Street Journal is refocusing the comments to incentivize better behavior (Nieman Lab)


‘It has set off a bomb’: The Athletic goes on a hiring (poaching?) spree in the U.K. (BuzzFeed News)

The sports journalism site that said it wanted to “suck [U.S. newspapers] dry of their best talent” and “let them continuously bleed” now appears ready to do the same kind of feasting on news outlets in the U.K. The Athletic has recently made a series of high-profile hires there, including an award-winning Guardian football writer and a BBC reporter with a massive following among London football fans, reports Mark Di Stefano. And it has “gutted” The Times’s football department, according to one senior sports editor. “Not just that there’s now 50 new jobs, but newsroom managers are trying to protect their teams,” he told Di Stefano, describing the scene at multiple news outlets across the U.K. “Reporters and editors are going to management to ask for more resources … and they’re giving them. It’s a journalist transfer window.”

+ Canadian journalists and journalism scholars will receive a $2.5 million government grant to build a Global Journalism Innovation Lab (University of British Columbia)


‘Why I’m stopping the fan-supported podcast experiment’ (The Tim Ferriss Show)

When author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss decided to switch from ad revenue to a fan-supported model for his popular podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show,” he had a hunch about how the experiment would go. He knew his fans liked getting vetted product and service recommendations from him (they often tell him so), and he also knew from a pre-launch poll that the majority of listeners (72%) said they wouldn’t donate to his show. Those who did donate during the short experiment gave the lowest amount possible. “The answer to my question was clear from the outset: 99% of my listeners are totally OK with ads, and many of them look forward to finding new products and services through my sponsor reads,” Ferriss wrote. “It’s industry standard for high-download podcasts to have ads, anyone who wants to skip over ads can skip ahead, and people generally do not want to support multiple podcasters by paying for them à la carte.”


When ‘good stories’ happen for bad reasons (New York Times)

It’s hard to resist the allure of a feel-good news story, especially in an age when people say they are fed up with overwhelmingly negative news. But lately some critics have started to push back on the feel-good genre, writes Jacey Fortin. They say stories about individual acts of kindness ignore underlying systemic problems and public policy deficiencies — causing readers to overlook them as well. “For every feel-good story, it’s sort of like, well, what about everyone else?” said writer John Paul Brammer, who once mocked the trope of a viral good deed in a tweet. “I think both parties, the people doing the good and the people commenting on it, have a responsibility to look at the bigger picture and see what’s the greater context that led this thing to happen in the first place.”

+ “Report on racism, but ditch the labels” — it’s not journalists’ job to make moral judgments, says NPR’s Keith Woods (NPR); plus, here’s how a range of journalism experts in ethics and diversity felt about Trump’s “go back” tweet (Poynter); Tell this survey your struggles in using more inclusive and representative language in your reporting — we all know the language is out there, but in many cases it hasn’t really caught on (Nieman Lab)


Context is key: How journalists and historians can work together to help audiences understand the news (Medium, Lenfest Institute)

A new initiative from the Lenfest Institute and Villanova University aims to forge connections between journalists and historians, with the ultimate goal of helping audiences understand the historical context of what’s going on in the daily news cycle. “There’s always news to report, but all sorts of readers want to know ‘Why should I care?’ and ‘Where does this fit?’ That contextualizing is the core thing that both historians and journalists share, and I think it is in acute, intense demand in these times,” said journalist Ron Suskind, who is helping lead the pilot program. The pilot brought together Philadelphia-area historians and reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer to brainstorm potential touchpoints for collaborating on breaking news stories. Both groups acknowledged the difficulty of working together under the tight timelines journalists typically face; the program will explore practical solutions and address issues that have been thorns in historians’ sides when working with journalists, like seeing their work improperly cited (or not cited at all).