Need to Know: June 1, 2018

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


You might have heard: BuzzFeed has built a sizable audience on YouTube and Facebook with its entertainment and lifestyle content (Digiday)

But did you know: BuzzFeed’s news unit drove its first two deals with Netflix and Hulu as it works to find revenue beyond ads (Digiday)

In Hollywood, BuzzFeed’s news division has helped the publisher land its first deals with big-name buyers such as Netflix and Hulu. Last week, Hulu announced it had commissioned a documentary from BuzzFeed News based on its extensive reporting of sexual abuse allegations against singer R. Kelly. A few weeks earlier, Netflix ordered a documentary series from BuzzFeed called “Follow This,” which will follow BuzzFeed News reporters on the job. These two streaming shows join a growing slate of longer-form programming for BuzzFeed News.

+ Noted: Streaming service Cheddar targets college students after acquiring MTV campus distribution network (Wall Street Journal); Once Tronc closes on LA Times sale, sources say clean balance sheet could make Tronc a takeover target (Ken Doctor); 95 percent of U.S. teens have access to a smartphone — and 45 percent say they’re online “almost constantly” (Pew Research Center); New York Media, Pop Sugar, and Rolling Stone join Concert, a digital ad marketplace founded by Vox Media and NBCU (AdWeek)


The week in fact-checking

As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes how fact-checkers are covering politics in authoritarian countries, the “terrible consequences” of research that is really, really wrong, and tips for newsrooms to prepare for the next onslaught of breaking news hoaxes.


The New York Times’ iOS app will now let you be nicer to your data plan (Times Open)

Véronique Brossier, a senior software engineer at the New York Times, developed a low-bandwidth mode for the Times’ native iOS app. Brossier was inspired after a trip to Cuba where she was not able to retrieve fresh news using the Times app because her hotel network logged her out every time she attempted to update content, seemingly because the amount of data was too taxing. “My experience in Cuba inspired me to assess the feasibility of our app for the many people who only have a limited data plan and reduced access to broadband, not just on a small Caribbean island, but in the United States, and around the world.”

+ Subscription publishers wrestle with delivering exclusive audio (Digiday)


By faking Babchenko’s murder, Ukraine has smeared itself (The Guardian)

On Tuesday, the news spread quickly: Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko had been shot in Kiev and died in the ambulance on his way to the hospital. No one had trouble believing this story. It was gruesomely familiar, similar to the many horrifying stories from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries where journalists are killed for their reporting. “In its endless one-upmanship against Russia, Ukraine has once again cut off its nose to spite its face, severely undermining its own credibility and that of journalists,” writes Sophie Pinkham. “Next time a journalist is killed in Ukraine … [we] will likely wonder whether they should believe in a tragic death until they’ve inspected the corpse themselves. Conspiracy theories thrive on this kind of corrosive scepticism.”

+ The staged murder of Babchenko did serious damage to journalism when it’s already under attack by rulers who increasingly call investigations “fake news” (The Daily Beast)


Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix on building diverse teams (The New York Times)

“One of the biggest challenges standing in the way of diversity and equal opportunity for people is the way that people build founding teams,” says Katrina Lake, CEO of Stitch Fix. “People tend to bring on my buddy from this thing and then my buddy from that thing, and it’s like, ‘You’re just kind of bringing the same people that you’ve worked with back together, getting the gang together again to found another company.’ That just creates this circle of capital raising that I think is not healthy, and I don’t think people are looking at the whole world and saying, ‘Who are the best people for these jobs?’”


Do we need J-schools? (Columbia Journalism Review)

The role of a reporter is shifting, as are the economics of education. With this new calculus, does journalism school still have a place in our profession? CJR presents three competing arguments. Bill Grueskin says yes, we need journalism schools more than ever. Felix Salmon says no, they should not exist. And Alexandria Neason says maybe, but not when it requires students to take on huge debts.


Confessions of a serial networker (Columbia Journalism Review)

“Before I got sober, I often joked that I became a journalist because it’s one of the few professions where drinking on the job isn’t just allowed, but practically required. Now I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a joke,” writes Ana Marie Cox. “Reading my coverage now, I can’t tell if I was genuinely excited about the [events I covered] or parodying others’ excitement or just playing along with the conceit that there was any reason to be there at all. During the years I covered Washington as a quasi-pundit media gadfly … I believed going to parties was part of my job. It would be more accurate to say I made going to them my job; I turned them into content, at least.”

+ “It borders on a regulatory fraud”: How Sinclair will still control some programming and operations of four TV stations it plans to sell after Tribune deal (Politico); Here’s your guide to the next year of journalism conferences (Poynter)


+ So you wanna be a journalist? The journalism jobs picture is worse — and better — than you realize (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ More secure jobs, bigger paychecks: The reasons for unionizing in newsrooms haven’t changed much in the last 80 years (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ A study of 1,266 US counties from 1996-2015 finds that government costs in cities increase when local newspapers close and can no longer act as watchdogs (CityLab)

+ “Elon Musk should know better:” In 1996 Musk, with his younger brother, was one of the founders of the website Zip2, a hybrid business directory and mapping service, which was sold to newspaper publishers as a software package to bring print classifieds, real-estate listings, and auto deals online at the turn of the century. Its slogan was, “We Power the Press.” (The Atlantic)