Need to Know: June 3, 2019

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


You might have heard: Driveway drive-bys: With formal briefings long gone, Trump’s aides meet the press (briefly) in an unusual spot (The Washington Post)

But did you know: Former DoD officials decry eroding media relations in the Pentagon (Columbia Journalism Review)

A full year has passed since the Pentagon’s last on-camera briefing, and during that time, off-camera briefings and less formal “gaggles” have also become less frequent. As recently as 2015, for a comparison, on-camera briefings took place twice a week, gaggles occurred daily and the press had walk-in privileges for spokesmen’s offices. Former Department of Defense officials, who served under Republican and Democrat administrations alike, express concerns that the lack of a robust relationship with the media could impact the agency’s credibility and lead to a less informed public. David Lapan, who served as a Pentagon spokesman under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, told Columbia Journalism Review that his relationship with the press was essential when he was forced to withhold information, adding, “If I’m not coming to you regularly with reliable information … how can you take my word for it when I do need you to accept what I’m saying at face value?”

+ Noted: Why the Inquirer is replacing (Billy Penn); Michael Wolff is back with a new Trump tell-all and an interview in which he speaks against asking questions “if you know the answer” (Columbia Journalism Review); Media outlets employ twice as many male critics as female critics, study finds (Hollywood Reporter)


From print-first to audience-first: Using analytics to change the newsroom mindset (Better News)

What does becoming a digital newsroom mean? Here’s how the Virginian Pilot navigated that question — by shaping a new digital reporting team and making strategy decisions based on data. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ Related: Learn how API’s Metrics for News can help your newsroom make better decisions using data


One year into a paywall, Wired is testing letting advertisers unlock access for readers (Digiday)

After Wired launched its paywall last year, the magazine’s digital subscribers grew by 100,000. Readers are typically limited to four free articles before hitting the paywall, but in a new approach in place since Saturday, Wired is giving advertisers the opportunity to “sponsor” a fifth, free story. The campaign, which will last 30 days, aims to increase advertising and subscription revenue and follows similar campaigns at other publications, like The Washington Post. Digiday reporter Max Willens wrote that one risk with this approach is that sponsoring paywalled stories constantly would lower the paywall threshold and could lower subscriber conversion rates.


Jigsaw is fixing comment sections, one language at a time (Poynter)

Perspective, a tool from the nonprofit Jigsaw that uses machine learning to help publications filter toxic comments from their sites, has expanded from English-only to include Spanish and French. The tool scans comments for problematic words or phrases, then gives them a score that estimates the probability that the comment is toxic. Many publications assign the comments with the highest toxicity scores to moderators, who review them before publishing. Perspective, which is free to use but requires coding to install, has received criticism that the algorithms governing its toxicity scores discriminate against black and gay commenters.

+ Refinery29 continues European expansion with a lighter footprint (Digiday)


Can Apple be trusted with the App Store? (The Verge)

Apple decides which apps can join its App Store and which to cut, and last week the tech company published a page that said the store “welcomes competition.” But in April, the App Store began banning or restricting most of the popular screen-time and parental-control apps around the same time that Apple launched its own app in that genre. Apple argued that the rejected apps had broken the App Store’s policy by using mobile device management, which IT departments use to manage employees’ devices at schools or companies. Apple outlawed apps from using the feature in 2017, saying that it raised privacy concerns.


‘Inconsistent, incoherent, and poorly conceived’: As the Times clamps down on reporters going on MSNBC, is there a liberal-media war? (Vanity Fair)

Last month, New York Times finance editor David Enrich initially agreed to appear on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show to talk about his story regarding Deutsche Bank flagging some of President Donald Trump’s transactions as suspicious. Joe Pompeo reported in Vanity Fair that Enrich later declined the appearance due to a Times policy that its newsroom staff should “steer clear of any cable-news shows that the masthead perceives as too partisan” or “highly opinionated.” Shows off the table include those hosted by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, CNN’s Don Lemon and Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Pompeo writes: “Of course all of this raises another point—in the current media environment, there’s hardly universal agreement on what constitutes partisan or opinionated programming. Where do you draw the lines?”

+ Newsonomics: The potential GateHouse/Gannett merger shows “more scale!” is still the newspaper industry’s top strategy (Nieman Lab)


Credder hopes to crowdsource away fake news (Columbia Journalism Review)

Journalist Rachel Cohen writes that Credder, which launched a beta version of its site last week, “is perhaps the most developed” of sites that use Rotten Tomatoes-style ratings to grade the trustworthiness of news stories. Users rank articles on their trustworthiness, then have the option of giving the piece additional labels, like “biased” or “not credible.” Each of those labels has additional tags you can choose, some of which include emotionally-charged phrases like “hit piece.” The site also ranks journalists and journalism organizations by their credibility scores, and Credder plans to add a feature that would allow readers to “tip” trustworthy writers.

+ ‘The Weekly’ wants to show you that “reporters are not robots” (The New York Times)