Need to Know: June 11, 2019

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


You might have heard: The New York Times published a cartoon featuring President Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu that many decried as anti-Semitic (Washington Post)

But did you know: The New York Times will stop running editorial cartoons (CNN)

A month and a half after The New York Times published what was widely condemned as an anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition, the newspaper has decided to do away with editorial cartoons altogether, reports Brian Stelter. James Bennett, the editorial page editor, says The Times will focus on other forms of opinion journalism that “express nuance, complexity and strong voice from a diversity of viewpoints across all of our platforms.” He cited the Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning comic-strip-style series “Welcome to New World,” about a family of Syrian refugees, as an example of visual opinion journalism that The Times will continue to explore. But many journalists and commentators have criticized the Times’ decision. Ann Telnaes, editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post, called The Times “feeble” and tweeted that she canceled her subscription. Times cartoonist Patrick Chappatte wrote on his blog, “I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow.” He urged news outlets to “stop being afraid of the angry mob.”

+ Noted: Facebook quietly changes search tool used by investigators, abused by companies (Vice); HBO cancels “Vice News Tonight” (Hollywood Reporter); Bleacher Report is on track to grow 50% this year, hit $200m in revenue (Digiday)


How Axios drives engagement with its email newsletters through user-level data (Nieman Lab)

When it comes to newsletters, most publishers remain mired at the campaign level, ending their analytics exploration with list-level open rates and click rates. But in the words of Rameez Tase, vice president of growth at Axios, “You don’t get a 50 percent open rate by having a 100 percent opener and a 0 percent opener. You get two distinct cohorts that you act upon in different ways.” With user-level data, he and his team are able to hone in on distinct groups with social retargeting, surveys, ambassador reward plans for signups, and other efforts to bring more highly engaged readers to Axios.

+ Related: Six email metrics that matter (that aren’t open rate) (Medium, Revue)

+ Earlier: Curated guides to a smart newsletter strategy (Better News)


For China’s leading investigative reporter, enough is enough (New York Times)

When long-time Chinese journalist Liu Wanyong left his 21-year career at the China Youth Daily, a newspaper run by the Communist Party but sometimes known for its hard-hitting investigations, fellow journalists mourned his departure as the end of investigative journalism in China. Today the profession has been “left in tatters” by the pressure of Communist Party orthodoxy under President Xi Jinping, writes Jane Perlez. When Xi became president in 2012, it became impossible to chase criminal and corruption cases that were independent from prosecutors, Liu said. “Now, you just record the process. The government’s policy is that the government decides anticorruption cases, not the journalist.”

+ U.K. officials claim local radio cuts will “add to serious decline in local news for U.K.” (Press Gazette)


In the race to 2020, no podcast is too small for Dem candidates (Politico)

Podcasts, late-night programs and web shows are increasingly serving as off-ramps from the daily news churn, offering presidential candidates opportunities for more freewheeling conversations and showing off their personalities or pop culture bonafides to a variety of audiences. And in a packed Democratic field, candidates are seizing every opportunity to reach a fragmented voting public that doesn’t always watch the evening news. “Smart campaigns are looking for forums that allow their candidates to connect with engaged audiences, break out of the 30-second soundbite culture of cable, and talk about more than Trump’s latest tweet,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior Obama adviser and co-host of “Pod Save America.”


News publishers go to war with the internet  —  and we all lose (Medium, Whither News)

Legislation that would give news publishers more negotiating power against tech giants like Facebook and Google does a disservice to journalism by allowing publishers to ignore problems of their own making, argues Jeff Jarvis. Google accounts for the majority (approximately 75 percent) of readers landing on news websites, according to one study. That’s great for the news industry, Jarvis points out. But one of the problems “has long been that publishers aren’t competent at exploiting the full value of these clicks by creating meaningful and valuable ongoing relationships with the people sent their way.” If publishers continue to insist that Google pay for quoting snippets of news content to which they link, he adds, “I worry that platforms will link to news less and less resulting in self-inflicted harm for the news industry and journalists, but more important hurting the public conversation at exactly the wrong moment.”

+ Earlier: Google made $4.7 billion from the news industry in 2018, study says (New York Times)


Not naming mass shooters (much) is now the norm (Poynter)

The development is remarkable for an industry that is often criticized as being slow to change, writes Kelly McBride. But although newsrooms have largely adopted the new best practice, journalists are still clearly looking for the balance of relevant accountability reporting about the backgrounds of individual shooters that informs citizens without glorifying a criminal or inspiring future mass murders. “Because mass shootings themselves seem to be inevitable for the foreseeable future, accountability reporting about where the guns come from, how the survivors survive and how the authorities protect the public are the critical work of public service journalism,” writes McBride.

+ A new podcast amplifies Asian American stories (Columbia Journalism Review); An Iranian activist wrote dozens of articles for right-wing outlet — but is he a real person? (The Intercept)