Need to Know: July 31, 2018

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


You might have heard: About a third of large U.S. newspapers have suffered layoffs since 2017 (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Newsroom employment dropped nearly a quarter in less than 10 years, with greatest decline at newspapers (Pew Research Center)

From 2008 to 2017, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23 percent, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. This decline was driven primarily by one sector: newspapers. Newspaper newsroom employees dropped by 45 percent over the period, from about 71,000 workers in 2008 to 39,000 in 2017. And even though digital-native news outlets have experienced recent growth in employment (increasing by 79 percent since 2008), too few newsroom positions were added to make up for recent losses in the broader industry. The dramatic decline in newspaper employment also means that the industry now accounts for a minority of overall newsroom employment.

+ “One for the scrapbook”: After layoffs at South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, one outgoing journalist posts a photo of her separation agreement next to her 1A story on politicians violating voting laws (Twitter, @emdrums)

+ Noted: Accused gunman in Capital Gazette newsroom shootings pleads not guilty (Reuters); Arizona governor enacts Medicaid reforms in wake of a joint Center for Public Integrity/NPR investigation (Center for Public Integrity); Journalists from NPR and Minnesota Public Radio earn SPJ Ethics in Journalism Award for reporting on sexual harassment in their own newsrooms (Society of Professional Journalists); Les Moonves to remain as CBS CEO amid sexual misconduct investigation (The Wrap); Despite net losses, McClatchy reports 34 percent growth in digital subscribers (Sacramento Bee)


Strategic posting schedule helps Milwaukee Journal Sentinel grow Facebook audience 6x in one year (It’s All Journalism)

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was in a position all too familiar for most newsrooms: It had great stories from a hardworking, dedicated staff, but it wasn’t making the biggest waves on social media. So Emily Ristow, the social media and mobile editor for the paper, decided to try something new: a social media posting schedule. “I think when we first started, it would be generous to say we had any sort of social media strategy at all,” Ristow said. “When stories got posted online, it was often tied to the print deadline.” Her team developed a schedule down to the half hour, based on when they knew readers would be online and looking for news, and coordinated with posting times on the Journal Sentinel’s website. They also now have a point person who is responsible for scheduling and writing Facebook and Twitter posts, which has helped establish a consistent voice. Suggestions from reporters on social media posts are provided through a dedicated Slack channel.

+ More about the Journal Sentinel’s social media strategy, including what’s worked and what hasn’t (Better News)


One man’s mission to spread data journalism across Southeast Asia (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Despite increasing state-control, violence against journalists and other threats to press freedom, Southeast Asian journalists are increasingly delving into data journalism, writes Siran Liang. Among those making a key contribution is a Malaysian journalist named Kuang Keng Kuek Ser. Kuang Keng has spent the last several years designing data journalism programs for journalists. In 2015, he launched Data-N, which has trained hundreds of journalists in Southeast Asia, a region where data journalism was nearly non-existent. Slowly, Kuang Keng has gotten entire newsrooms interested in data journalism. His workshops now reach into countries like Nepal, India, Indonesia and Singapore, with some initiatives developing into ongoing projects.


Netflix thrives by programming to ‘taste communities,’ not demographics (AdWeek)

With 130 million subscribers in 190 countries, and an original programming budget stretching to $8 million, Netflix says it has thrived by programming not to demographics but what it calls “taste communities.” “We found that demographics are not a good indicator of what people like to watch,” said Cindy Holland, VP of original series at Netflix. Netflix’s scientists have found that there are several connections among content types and what people like to watch, which goes “several layers deeper” than genres. So far, they have identified 2,000 taste communities, and when deciding whether or not to order a new series, they determine whether they can aggregate enough of those taste communities to justify the cost of a show.

+ Twitter turns to academics to improve conversational health on the platform (TechCrunch)


Could digital media startups fill the vacuum left by community newspapers? (NBC News)

Small-town newspapers with circulations of less than 20,000 are the markets taking the biggest hits in recent years, according to a UNC study. A growing number of digital media startups are taking their place, but questions remain whether they can fill the news vacuum growing across the U.S. “For now it seems that the new digital startups are attempting to prove they are financially viable before they move further into small communities,” writes Phil McCausland. In February, the Local Media Association surveyed nearly 200 media leaders in charge of small digital operations, including new startups. Most agreed that the future is digital, but also found that there was not a coherent financial strategy to make them solvent. Fewer than a quarter are adequately staffed.


Low-income people aren’t getting quality news. What can the industry do about it? (Nieman Lab)

More journalists are coming together to figure out ways to improve access to high-quality news and information for low-income individuals. “People talk about a digital divide in terms of technology, but it’s also there in terms of the content,” said Jay Hamilton, co-author of a recent study on information economics. Hamilton says he’s hopeful about three things that could bring about a solution: bundling, behavioral economics, and big data. “All of those things…basically take people’s circumstances as a given and try to get them the information that will help them make better decisions, from the perspective of their own lives.” Many of the groups working to solve the content divide have modeled their approach around these three concepts.

+ My short life as (the face of) a Russian disinformation troll (Columbia Journalism Review); How Ronan Farrow keeps landing bombshells (CNN); American journalist held captive by pirates tells his story (NPR)