Need to Know: June 28, 2019

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


You might have heard: How a lack of newsroom diversity contributes to the “crisis of trust” in American democracy (Aspen Institute)

But did you know: As newsrooms seek new audiences, their perceptions of readers are slow to change (Columbia Journalism Review) 

A Tow Center study found that despite the increased focus on audience metrics and analytics, the ways journalists today form perceptions of their readers has remained largely unchanged since the 1970s. While journalists indicate a willingness to use new metrics tools, those participating in the Tow Center study still largely construct audience personas based on their peers, social circles and sources, a method that goes back to the print era. “Given how deeply one’s peers and sources inform one’s perceived readership, increased newsroom diversity might be the most effective way to ensure that journalists’ perceptions of readers accurately reflect the audiences for their work,” writes James G. Robinson. However, he added, “It may well be that promoting diversity in the newsroom is as much about encouraging greater self-awareness as it is about counting sources, compiling lists of experts, or enforcing quotas. Those efforts will have limited effect until they shift one’s intuitive, subconscious sense of their readers.”

+ Noted: The Associated Press and Google are building a tool for sharing more local news — more quickly (Nieman Lab); Twitter will now hide — but not remove — harmful tweets from public figures (The Verge); FCC investigates whether Sinclair showed “lack of candor” when trying to buy Tribune (Wall Street Journal); Peer Learning + Collaboration Fund awards $15K in grants during first half of 2019 (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: how much is misinformation to blame for news avoidance; “calling BS” course coming to a college near you; and imagining a world where social media is regulated by the government.


Inside the Texas Tribune’s formula for small-team social media success (RTDNA)

The Texas Tribune has just one full-time staffer dedicated to social media, but that didn’t stop the digital nonprofit from winning a 2019 National Murrow Award for Excellence in Social Media. The Tribune uses social media as a platform for highlighting evergreen content that adds context to breaking news stories, as well as a way to round up previous reporting to, again, add context to conversations happening around breaking news. The tight focus helps speed up collaborations between editors, the audience team and social media editor Bobby Blanchard. A consistent approach to shaping content for various platforms is also helpful. “Stories with strong images are featured on Instagram and powerful quotes are turned into quote cards,” explained Blanchard. “Other stories that are about wonky policy or are big talkers get explanatory tweetstorms and are turned into Twitter moments. When our stories are being discussed on Reddit, I jump in as u/TexasTribune to add context or other details.”


How a Lithuanian media collective created an audiovisual exhibit to promote its podcast (Engaged Journalism Accelerator) 

Nanook, a collective of Lithuanian photojournalists who focus on underreported stories, wanted to pursue a wider audience for its weekly podcast, NYLA. So it reached out to the National Library in Vilnius to ask for gallery space in which they could feature their photography and related audio clips from the podcast. The resulting exhibit featured photos related to 15 of the podcast episodes, and headphones were installed at each photo so that visitors could listen to 10-minute clips. The exhibit was promoted by both Nanook and the National Library and was visited by 13,000 people within two months. “We found that journalism can affect you in a much more powerful way when it is presented in a not traditional space, such as a gallery,” said Karolis Vyšniauskas, NYLA’s host and editor. 

+ In the U.K., podcast measurement challenges stall advertiser investment (Digiday); Here’s The Correspondent’s budget for its English-language expansion (Nieman Lab)


The rest of the world’s fact-checkers collaborate on big elections — why won’t they in the U.S.? (Poynter)

In recent years, it has become a worldwide trend for fact-checkers to collaborate in multiplatform projects ahead of presidential or other elections. But it’s a trend that hasn’t taken off in the U.S. There are a couple benefits to avoiding such a collaboration, says Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of API. For one, having multiple outlets independently verify claims could strengthen the public’s conviction of their validity. For another, it makes American fact-checkers less vulnerable to attacks from hostile politicians looking to spread doubt about their objectivity. “By being one group, they would be an easier target,” said Rosenstiel. “Fact-checkers would probably be attacked as being a group that got together to criticize Trump. When U.S. fact checkers work separately, they show there is no such thing as an articulation against a candidate or an administration.” 

+ Related: Republicans far more likely than Democrats to say fact-checkers tend to favor one side (Pew Research Center); New research shows the successful impact of newsroom collaboration on fighting misinformation (First Draft)


A year after newsroom attack, journalists embraced by city (AP)

At a time when journalists are vilified as “enemies of the people,” staff members at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., say they’ve experienced warm support from their community since the deadly shooting that took place in their newsroom one year ago, claiming the lives of five of their colleagues. Annapolis residents have held fundraisers for the Gazette and have been known to walk up to staffers and thank them. Subscriptions also soared 70% a week after the shooting and have remained there. “They’ll say that they read our work, and then they’ll be really nice to us, which is nice, even if they disagree with whatever we’re reporting,” said reporter Selene San Felice, who hid under a desk during the June 28, 2018, shooting.


+ In recent months publishers may have been noticing an increase in traffic from SmartNews, a news app that now counts 15 million monthly active users globally. According to, SmartNews referrals have been growing at an average of 8.8% per month in 2019. But can SmartNews help news organizations convert those newcomers into subscribers? “The publishers I spoke with see SmartNews as a fairly simple set-it-and-forget-it traffic booster,” writes Laura Hazard Owen. Some entertain hopes of attracting readers to their newsletters or other offerings, but as one said, “if they don’t become subscribers or monetize in some capacity — whether it’s events or subscriptions — then it’s just traffic to the website.” (Nieman Lab)

+ “By the end of the exchange, Zuckerberg had done something that has become increasingly rare in the tech industry the past few years: defend free speech with a hammer, not a shrug.” For major tech platforms, safety and free speech represent diverging paths. Is Facebook going down the free speech road alone? (Wired) 

+ Starting next week and through July, Poynter is inviting local newsrooms to share the work they’re most proud of. It’s a follow-up to last year’s call for local stories, which not only turned up some fantastic examples of small newsrooms punching well above their weight, but also resulted in some valuable nuggets of advice. (Poynter)