Need to Know: June 11, 2018

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


You might have heard: The news coverage last week of high-profile suicides sparked a debate about journalism ethics (NBC News) and suicides sometimes happen in clusters, and epidemiologists and suicide prevention experts have often claimed that media coverage is partially to blame for this (Poynter)

But did you know: There are some best practices journalists, celebrities and anyone who might make a post on social media can take to minimize suicide contagion (Poynter)

Dan Reidenberg, executive director of SAVE, a suicide awareness organization, offers some best practices from Reporting on Suicide: Include information about warning signs of suicide. Include messaging that suicide is not a natural or logical outcome of adversity. Instead, include a message of hope: Recovery is possible. In fact, most people who think about suicide do recover. Avoid stating the means of death. Use neutral photos of the individual. Describe suicide trends accurately, and without alarm. Choose the passive voice or indirect actors. And use neutral headlines.

+ NPR’s policy on suicide reporting is to “be judicious” with details (NPR); The AP Stylebook adds further guidance on covering suicides (Associated Press)

+ Noted: BuzzFeed is laying off about 20 people — and hiring 45 more — in another reorganization (Recode); Veteran media executive Vivian Schiller named CEO of the Civil Foundation (Medium, Civil); Florida Times-Union named Newspaper of the Year by GateHouse Media (Florida Times-Union)

+ Noted: Public Radio News Directors Incorporated hires staff to improve member services (PRNDI); NBC News has begun hiring for an online streaming network and will be testing some programs this summer with all original video content (Variety); Chicago Sun-Times has a “60 percent” chance of surviving two years from now, CEO Eisendrath says (Robert Feder); Defy Media has left some publishers unpaid, with amounts up to $40k, since shutting down its programmatic ads division (AdAge); Craigslist founder Craig Newmark gives $20 million to CUNY journalism school, which will be renamed in his honor (The New York Times)

API Update

Americans and the News Media: What they do — and don’t — understand about each other

A key factor in the erosion of Americans’ trust of their news media is a failure to communicate — we have a public that doesn’t fully understand how journalists work, and journalism that doesn’t make itself understandable to much of the public. This fundamental pattern emerges from a new study by the Media Insight Project. We conducted twin surveys of both the public and journalists, asking each group parallel questions about the public’s understanding of journalistic concepts, the public’s interactions with journalists, and how all of that affects people’s assessment of the news media.


The Sacramento Bee’s plan for sustainable local news (The Sacramento Bee)

“We still have work to do in finding a sustainable way forward,” writes Sacramento Bee editor Lauren Gustus. “Our future depends on it … We have a plan. We could fully fund our newsrooms — from salaries and benefits to notepads and pens — if we had 60,000 people supporting us through digital subscriptions. Roughly 15,000 do so today, so we’d need to earn the support of about 45,000 more. So we are now asking them — and you if you don’t already — to support local news with a digital subscription. That’s the best way to help ensure that our journalists can continue to tell the stories that matter to you and to our community.”

+ NPR is developing editorial diversity guides — and wants your input (NPR); To grow its events business, NPR is taking a franchise approach to its shows (Digiday)


Public news media are widely used and trusted sources of news across Western Europe (Pew Research Center)

Public news media play a prominent role in Western Europe. The top source for news is a public news organization — such as the BBC in the UK, Sveriges Television/Radio (SVT/Radio) in Sweden or ARD in Germany — rather than a private one. This is in strong contrast with the United States, where the largest public news outlets, NPR and PBS, rank far lower than many of the country’s private news outlets. About half of British adults (48%) name the BBC as their main source for news, 39% of Swedes name SVT/Radio and 37% of Dutch adults name Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO).

+ Colombia’s El Spectador is connecting with millennial audiences via a weekly YouTube series with 500k subscribers that examines complex subjects (Nieman Lab); UK journalist Isabel Oakeshott held back emails showing links between Brexit’s top donor and Russian officials, even as she mocked claims of Russian influence (The Daily Beast)


A counterintuitive change to your daily schedule can make you feel happier and less busy (Business Insider)

One of the most effective ways to feel less busy is to add socializing with family, friends and coworkers to your calendar. In her new book, “Off the Clock,” time-management expert Laura Vanderkam explains why this is an effective strategy. Vanderkam realized this after reviewing her own research on more than 900 people who kept time logs and answered questions about how they felt about their schedules. Results showed that respondents who had made time the day before for the important people in their lives were 15% more likely than average to say they had time for the things they wanted to do.


BuzzFeed editor: DOJ wants focus on reporter’s ‘personal life’ in leak case, rather than seizing records (The Washington Examiner)

Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, said the Justice Department is hoping the public will focus on the personal life of a reporter rather than on the FBI secretly seizing her communication records in order to identify one of her sources. The New York Times reported last week that Ali Watkins was implicated in the investigation of a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, James Wolfe, who was charged with lying to the FBI about sharing confidential committee information. The indictment against Wolfe revealed that he and Watkins were romantically involved. Smith said the focus should instead be on how the Justice Department took extreme measures in obtaining Watkins’ records without giving her prior notice.

+ Related: Press advocates bash US government’s seizure of years of email and phone data from NYT reporter Ali Watkins, covering time she worked at multiple outlets (The New York Times)

+ Shocked by Trump aggression against reporters and sources? The blueprint was drawn by Obama (The Washington Post)


The pain and joy of the side hustle — the job that helps you stay on the job (Columbia Journalism Review)

Journalists maintain side hustles for a number of reasons, like utilizing another skill or seeking out more satisfying work than their day job offers. But most say the primary motivation is money — 12 percent of respondents in a 2015 survey by the American Press Institute said they had suffered pay cuts and layoffs, 8 percent were furloughed, and one-third did not expect to be working in journalism in five years’ time. A quarter of respondents said they’d taken freelance PR or marketing gigs outside their primary jobs, another 12 percent taught at a school or university, and one-fifth took on additional work in the news business as freelancers.

+ Read our full study: “Facing Change: The needs, attitudes and experiences of people in media,” including the chapter about journalists taking on side jobs

+ How can we restore trust in news? Here are 9 takeaways from Knight-supported research (Nieman Lab)