Need to Know: July 25, 2018

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


You might have heard: Tronc slashes New York Daily News staff in half on Monday (The New York Times)

But did you know: Fears are growing that New York City is becoming a local news desert (The Washington Post)

“New York City and its environs are home to 20 million people, Wall Street, Broadway, the fashion and media industries, and a mix of cultures unlike few cities on the planet,” writes Paul Farhi. “And yet news organizations operating in this singular metropolis barely have enough reporters to cover the Bronx or Queens.” The Daily News, once home to 400 journalists, must now operate with a staff of 45. At The New York Times, the number of reporters covering metropolitan news is estimated to have shrunk from about 90 to 40. The Wall Street Journal severely cut back its once-ambitious Greater New York section; The New York Post has been continually losing money; and local news website DNAinfo was shut down in November. “It’s astonishing that this is happening in the media capital of America,” said Tom Robbins, an investigative reporter who once worked at the Daily News. “The community doesn’t have the watchdogs it once had.”

+ Governor Cuomo urges Tronc to “reconsider” cuts to the Daily News (Twitter, @NYGovCuomo); New York Daily News’ new editor asks remaining staff for 30 days to chart new course (CNN)

+ Noted: Doctored video of Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attracts over 1 million views on Facebook, blurring the line between satire and fake news (The Verge); Snapchat starts to syndicate video shows on Discover (Digiday)


How The Economist is engaging with young people on Instagram (

The Economist has been cultivating its Instagram presence to engage younger readers. “It is essentially a visual representation of our brand, with graphs, images, and videos, and we use the platform to drive deeper engagement with our audience and have more of a conversation,” said Ria Jones, digital and social media picture editor at The Economist. Jones said that posting at the correct time is a key factor in driving conversation around The Economist’s coverage. To improve the quality of engagements, her team looks not only at the amount of likes on a post, but other in-app metrics like interactions, discovery, and audience demographics. They also dedicate time to lightly moderating the conversation around posts, which Jones said is an important part of building a community on the platform.


In South Africa, community radio stations get a lifeline to mainstream media (Nieman Lab)

Community radio serves the information needs of many South Africans without phones, Internet access, or ways to connect beyond a basic radio — frequently in rural areas where the stations themselves don’t have more than the basic necessities. A new software called Volume now connects these local radio stations with mainstream outlets, allowing them to share their clips and opening up a revenue stream in the process.

+ Aided by online contributions from readers, Guardian Media Group digital revenues outstrip print for first time (The Guardian)


Facebook takes a back seat to Instagram, where ad spending grew 177 percent (Marketing Land)

“Advertisers are continuing to shift ad dollars from Facebook to Instagram — resulting in an astounding amount of growth for the Facebook-owned app compared to its parent company,” writes Amy Gesenhues. Facebook ad spend (excluding Instagram revenue) grew 40 percent year over year in Q2 2018, while ad spend on Instagram jumped a whopping 177 percent during the same time period, according to a new report. Instagram impressions also jumped 209 percent. On Facebook, ad impressions fell by 17 percent, offset by prices that rose by 70 percent. Despite Instagram’s surge, however, it remains significantly smaller than Facebook in overall advertising spending.


The local news crisis isn’t about journalists (Columbia Journalism Review)

What had been a crisis of shrinking local news has become an emergency, akin to a health epidemic, and time is not on our side, writes Kyle Pope. “For those of us in journalism, that means a couple of things: First, let’s stop framing this as our problem, as if anybody outside of our ranks should offer special condolences for our plight. Broad swaths of Americans are suffering economically; we are no better or different … Second, it’s pointless to spend our energy vilifying the corporate cost-cutters.” For journalists and anyone who cares about the importance of the press to democracy, he argues, the message should be about how the country suffers when local reporting disappears.

+ The corporate media era is ending. Do we care enough about our country to figure out what is next? (Medium, Don Day)


Beyond PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter (Columbia Journalism Review)

PolitiFact was among the first news sites dedicated to fact-checking, and today, about 70 percent of the world’s fact-checking operations use rating systems like the one first implemented by Truth-O-Meter, which ranks politicians’ statements on a scale of true to false. But in today’s polarized environment, the meter is not reaching everyone, and not reaching conservatives in particular, writes Bill Adair, who invented the Truth-O-Meter 11 years ago. “Fact-checkers can’t afford to alienate conservatives — our nation can’t have a healthy political discourse if the two sides can’t agree on facts.” Adair and his colleagues at Duke University are now experimenting with new ways to present corrective information, which won’t make users feel attacked, dismissed, or that their values are being disrespected.

+ Earlier: An experiment commissioned by API showed that fact-checking is equally persuasive whether or not it uses a “rating scale” to summarize its findings, but adding ratings can increase readership; For more see our full collection of research on effectiveness and best practices for fact-checking