Need to Know: June 27, 2018

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


You might have heard: Earlier this year BH Media Group eliminated 148 jobs and left 101 positions vacant, reducing its workforce by 6 percent (Bloomberg)

But did you know: Lee Enterprises will take over management of Berkshire Hathaway newspapers (Chicago Tribune)

In an effort to reduce costs, Warren Buffett’s company has hired Lee Enterprises to manage the mostly smaller newspapers it has acquired since 2011 in 30 different markets. Berkshire has largely let the papers run themselves, as it does with its other subsidiaries, but that meant there weren’t significant changes at a time when the industry is struggling to replace ad and subscription revenue lost to online competitors. If the deal is successful in reducing costs, other media companies might consider similar arrangements, says newspaper analyst Ken Doctor.

+ BH Media CEO and World-Herald Publisher Terry Kroeger will leave in the reorganization (Omaha World-Herald); Lee Enterprises expects to collect $50 million in fees from the five-year agreement (Associated Press / STL Today); Lee Enterprises shares rose 33 percent the morning of the announcement and ended the day up 21 percent (MarketWatch)


NPR’s guide to building immersive storytelling projects (NPR)

More than ever, news organizations want to build immersive storytelling experiences for audiences, where users can interact with visuals, audio and data — sometimes all at once. Yet complications often arise when taking a new storytelling approach to a complex project, from bumping up against the limitations of your existing technology, to implementing a smooth workflow within a professionally diverse team. In this playbook, NPR walks us through an editorial development process that they’ve used successfully for format-breaking stories. Called Hypothesis-Driven Design, it is inspired by similar processes in product development, like Lean UX, that emphasize lightweight testing and prototyping to validate ideas.

+ Related: More resources we’ve curated on how to invent new forms of digital storytelling (Better News)

+ How Vogue diversified away from Facebook (Digiday)


Inside Facebook’s efforts to stamp out fake news in Mexico (The Washington Post)

The lead-up to the Mexican presidential election this Sunday reflects the constantly mutating ways social media can be weaponized against democracy — and the immensity of Facebook’s global challenge. The brunt of Facebook’s news vetting in Mexico falls to a small group of third-party fact-checkers, whose job is to play whack-a-mole — debunking one story at a time, with each taking several days to disprove. Facebook’s limited forensics around false news in Mexico show how its aspiration to keep elections honest globally is still out of reach for the social network, despite the prominent role its service has come to play in many societies.

+ Related: Rapidly expanding fact-checking movement faces growing pains around the world (The Washington Post)


Leaders focus too much on changing policies, and not enough on changing minds (Harvard Business Review)

Most organizations pay far more attention to strategy and execution than to what their people are feeling and thinking when they’re asked to embrace a transformation, writes Tony Schwartz. Organizations must take more into consideration than the structural elements accompanying a change, such as new policies, processes, facilities, and technology, and address what employees are thinking and feeling. “This is where resistance tends to arise — cognitively in the form of fixed beliefs, deeply held assumptions and blind spots; and emotionally, in the form of the fear and insecurity that change engenders.”


Charlotte Agenda has a mighty business model. How’s the journalism? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Digital media startup Charlotte Agenda has been called “one of the brightest lights in local journalism,” and a potential way forward for local news. But much of the praise for Charlotte Agenda focuses on its business model rather than the quality of its content, points out CJR’s Allison Braden. If others adopted Agenda’s model, which leans heavily on informational entertainment content (its key beats are “food and drink” and “things to do”), it could lead to a “devastating decimation of public-service investigation and watchdog reporting,” particularly in the void left by shrinking local newspapers.


Instead of abandoning print, the 119-year-old MIT Technology Review is doubling down on it (Nieman Lab)

MIT Tech Review recently rebranded its print edition from just a collection of articles, into a product that has its own attitude and way of telling stories. “When you publish six times a year, you really can’t pretend you’re doing your audience any favors putting all this stuff into a print format,” said Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, CEO and publisher of MIT Tech Review. The resulting rebrand is designed to entice readers to subscribe to the publication’s print package, and takes a design approach that marries art and data to offer a “whole different experience.”

+ Russell Crowe to star as Roger Ailes in limited series greenlighted by Showtime (Deadline); National Enquirer boss is building a gossip empire to do Trump’s bidding (The Daily Beast); All tech platforms are now pawns in the information war (BuzzFeed)