Need to Know: July 2, 2019

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: 2008-2018 may have been the hardest decade in journalism (Poynter)

But did you know: Journalism job cuts haven’t been this bad since the recession (Bloomberg) 

The news business is on pace for its worst job losses in a decade as about 3,000 people have been laid off or been offered buyouts in the first five months of this year, reports Gerry Smith. In 2009, the industry saw 7,914 job cuts in the first five months of that year due to the financial crisis. The journalism job market is one of the rare weak spots in the U.S. economic landscape, where the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 1969, said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Pew Research Center. “In most industries, employers can’t find enough people to fill the jobs they have open. In news, it has been the opposite story. And it seems to have been accelerating.” The journalism job hunt can also be particularly challenging between the coasts, with most opportunities concentrated in New York, Washington or Los Angeles. Yet even with the dark headlines about the news industry, journalism schools report that enrollment is up, and they are adjusting their curriculum to prepare students for in-demand jobs.

+ Noted: Northeastern University teams up with two local TV news stations and Stanton Foundation for a video news research project (Storybench); University of Virginia Law School relaunches First Amendment Clinic, where law students will learn how to provide legal assistance to journalists (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press); Facebook will ban ads that tell people in U.S. not to vote (Reuters); The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine now shows when a page was updated and what changed (Search Engine Journal)

TRY THIS AT HOME

Listening and co-creation: insights to strengthen your engaged journalism (Medium, European Journalism Centre)

In June, 140 engaged journalism practitioners met in Berlin to share their experiences with community-driven journalism and take away new ideas for their work. One of the common themes that arose from the conversations was the sustained effort involved in successfully doing engaged journalism. “Don’t underestimate the effort it takes to make engaged journalism an integral part of your work,” writes Stella Volkenand. “Facilitating conversations with your community is about planning, logistics and ongoing dialogue as much as it is about the editorial work.” They also talked about adjusting expectations around a community’s desire to be involved in the journalistic process. Not at all communities want to be listened to by journalists, said Cole Goins, an engaged journalism consultant for Journalism+Design at The New School. That doesn’t mean you can’t work with them, but that you need to earn their trust first — and like any human relationship, earning trust takes time.

+ Earlier: How to find or create spaces for listening

OFFSHORE

During the Indian election, news audiences consumed a wide and diverse range of sources (Nieman Lab)

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism examined news audience behavior during the Indian elections, where 900 million voters in the world’s largest democracy were called to the polls and turnout was pegged at an all-time high of 67%. The study can be used as a benchmark for future comparative research on news consumption across platforms and across countries. Examining Facebook posts, Twitter activity and web traffic for 101 news sites, the researchers found that online news consumption patterns in India do not polarize along predicted ideological divides. The evidence suggests that the online Indian audience widely navigates the news environment without showing signs of specialization and selectivity, ideological or otherwise. The finding “serves as a reminder that online political debates are often coordinated and mobilized by politically invested, agenda-driven minorities, and amplified by attention-seeking media outlets,” write Subhayan Mukerjee and Sílvia Majó-Vázquez. “We find that such an impression of an ideologically fragmented political environment may not accurately reflect the ground reality in the country.”

OFFBEAT

What startups can do to reach a more diverse audience (Business Insider)

The social and cultural success of the LGBTQ movement hasn’t necessarily carried over to our work lives, writes Rebekah Monson. LGBTQ people still face discrimination, are underrepresented in many companies and industries, and often lack employment protections. But research has shown that diversity and inclusion efforts can make businesses more innovative and productive — and can even boost the bottom line. D&I is especially important in industries like media and tech, which aim to rapidly grow very large audiences of very different people, all while facing radical disruption and a crisis of mistrust with their users. Monson, who founded the digital media startup WhereBy.Us, says active outreach is key to cultivating a diverse audience and staff. “We ask a lot of direct questions to our users: What are you curious about? What should we know about your work, your neighborhood, your community, your passions? What can we do better? These questions regularly turn into stories or sales leads, but they’re also sending a strong, steady signal of inclusion. We are listening to you. We want to learn from you. We work for you and with you.”

UP FOR DEBATE

Legislation aimed at stopping deepfakes is a bad idea (Columbia Journalism Review)

U.S. legislators, riding a wave of concern about the deepfake phenomenon, say they want to stop manipulated videos at the source. So they have introduced something called the DEEPFAKES Accountability Act, which would make it a crime for anyone to create and distribute a piece of media that makes it look as though someone said or did something they didn’t say or do without including a digital watermark and text description that states it has been modified. The act also gives victims of “synthetic media” the right to sue the creators and “vindicate their reputations.” But some experts are saying that the legislation attacks a symptom, not the cause, and that larger efforts are needed to address all elements of the disinformation ecosystem. “Without that, the tech will continue to grow and evolve and it will be a never-ending game of legislative catch-up,” Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes.com, told CJR’s Mathew Ingram. 

+ Earlier: About three-quarters of Americans favor steps to restrict altered videos and images (Pew Research Center); The Wall Street Journal has 21 people detecting deepfakes and how Reuters is training reporters to spot deepfakes (Digiday)

SHAREABLE

Dear New Orleans’ newly merged newspaper — please just pick a name (Poynter)

On Monday, the Times-Picayune officially got absorbed into The New Orleans Advocate, and the tradition of newspapers having many names carried on. Now, it’s The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate — and the online property for the merged papers is NOLA.com. But having to keep track of three names for one organization can be a turn-off for readers and dilutes the brand, writes Kristen Hare. “I’ve visited local newsrooms that have multiple identities and found that while the newsroom itself might be able to keep them straight, the communities they serve can’t (and shouldn’t.)” While it’s understandable that newspapers would want to hang onto the historic identity they’ve acquired, readers have enough information to sort through and choose from, Hares points out. “When the merger dust has settled, they’ll need strong local news in New Orleans to continue from a clear source. So please, pick a name.”

+ Baltimore’s WTMD hosts a Saturday morning concert series for new parents missing out on live music. “It’s brought a whole new revenue stream to the station,” says WTMD music coordinator Sam Sessa. On the first Saturday, “To hear the size of the crowd, I got choked up.” (Current)