Need to Know: June 7, 2019

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


You might have heard: In about half of metro areas, TV stations do better than newspapers online (Knight Foundation)

But did you know: Newspapers command less than 1 percent of their readers’ time online (Medill Local News Initiative)

A study of three metro news websites — the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Indianapolis Star — shows that the sites commanded less than 1 percent of their desktop users’ total digital time. What those readers are doing with the other 99 percent of their time is critical for news organizations to understand, says Tom Collinger, executive director of Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center, which conducted the study. “The history of local news media is thinking, well, my competition is the guy down the street,” Collinger said, but it’s smarter to realize that everything else on the web is a potential competitor because “it’s a fight for the time of every reader … There should be an intentional effort to gather this broader understanding of competitive forces.”

+ Noted: See how your newsroom stacks up in the Newsroom Transparency Tracker, a new tool from PEN America and The Trust Project that scores newsrooms based on several transparency counts (Newsroom Transparency Tracker); Democracy Fund supports entry fees for micro newsrooms in 2019 Online Journalism Awards; deadline extended to June 12 (OJA); Maryland journalists challenge ban on broadcasting criminal court procedures (Columbia Journalism Review); Craig Newmark gives $6 million to Consumer Reports (New York Times); Vox staff walks out for a day to demand union contract deal (Bloomberg)


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: teens are a quick study when it comes to learning fact-checking skills; misinformation doesn’t need to be altered to go viral; and Snopes’ legal battle against its “existential adversary.”


What to ask yourself before you start a crowdsourcing project (ProPublica)

Crowdsourcing can be a powerful tool for journalists to tap into an audience’s expertise and build engagement. But it’s not right for every reporting project. ProPublica’s Jess Ramirez shares a list of questions to consider before diving into a crowdsourcing endeavor, including defining the type of information you’re hoping to get from it, what methods you’ll use to collect the information, and how you’ll plan to follow up with participants.

+ “We can’t report for Southern Californians if we’re not reporting with Southern Californians”: KPCC reporters write individual mission statements that appear at the bottom of each story, along with an invitation for readers to ask questions about their beat (Medium, LAist/KPCC)


Why this week’s raids on Australian media present a clear threat to democracy and press freedom there (Nieman Lab)

The recent high-profile police raids of Australian journalists who exposed government secrets have set off alarm bells for press freedom advocates around the world. But to those in Australia, the developments were unlikely to surprise. Australia has more national security laws than any other nation — laws that were significantly tightened in 2018. It is also the only liberal democracy lacking a Charter of Human Rights or other foundational document that would protect media freedom through, for example, rights to free speech and privacy.

+ The relationship between a Kenyan human rights worker and a local journalist illustrates how NGOs have stepped in to fill in the reporting gap on investigative projects where their interests align (Columbia Journalism Review)


Promoting based on potential: How The Atlantic is putting a lot more women in charge (Nieman Lab)

In 2016, women made up just 17 percent of editorial leadership at The Atlantic. Today, women account for 63 percent of newsroom leaders. What accounts for the dramatic increase? Making hiring women a “top-tier priority,” says editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg. Goldberg says there’s no quota system in place, and his number one goal is to find the best leadership talent to run The Atlantic, period. “Women are judged on experience and men are judged on potential,” he says. “I began to look, inside and outside the organization, at who did not fit traditional models of what editorial leadership might look like. I studied their potential, their innate leadership abilities, their competence and ambition — and I thought, I’m surrounded by amazing talent, and it’s under-utilized talent.”


What if we treated fake news like spam? (Wired)

Treating fake news as a distribution problem, the way we do spam, could be a solution for proactively limiting its impact, writes Renee DiResta. With spam, “It wasn’t controversial to suggest that we could use signals to determine whether or not a domain was low quality. There was a consensus that not all information was worth pushing directly into people’s inboxes. Today, the vast majority of email that’s clearly crap is stopped at the source — and no one mourns the free speech rights of spammers.” While it’s not a perfect parallel, taking a similar approach in which we apply common restrictions on the distribution of fake news could be one way around the sensitive area of censorship, DiResta suggests.   


Google and Facebook sucked profits from newspapers. Congress wants to help publishers fight back. (Washington Post)

In a surprising show of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have come together to support legislation that would provide a temporary “safe harbor” for news publishers — a four-year antitrust exemption as they negotiate with Google and Facebook over how news content is used and how advertising dollars are distributed. The legislation would give publishers better leverage against the tech giants as they seek to regain control over how their content is distributed and monetized online. Google and Facebook “have pitted themselves against newspapers in a David-and-Goliath battle in which newspapers don’t have a stone to throw much less a slingshot to put it in,” said Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.). “The readers are the true losers as newsrooms empty out across this country.”


+ The man who told America the truth about D-Day (New York Times)

+ Recently, when the Justice Department delivered Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress on CD-ROM, journalists began comparing notes about how they submit and revise their work for editors. In the age of Google Docs, it can be hard to imagine what came before. CJR takes a historical look at how journalists have filed in decades past. (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ “I hate it when the bad guys win”: Herbert Sandler, the “man who made ProPublica possible,” passed away this week. Richard Tofel and Stephen Engelberg tell the story of how he built ProPublica into an investigative reporting powerhouse. (ProPublica)