Need to Know: June 8, 2018

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


You might have heard: Jeff Sessions said that leak investigations have tripled under Trump (The New York Times)

But did you know: A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was arrested in an investigation of classified information leaks where prosecutors also secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records (The New York Times)

The former aide, James Wolfe, was charged with lying repeatedly to investigators about his contacts with three reporters. According to the authorities, Mr. Wolfe made false statements to the F.B.I. about providing two of them with sensitive information related to the committee’s work. He denied to investigators that he ever gave classified material to journalists, the indictment said. Wolfe’s case led to the first known instance of the DOJ going after a reporter’s data under President Trump. The seizure was disclosed in a letter to the Times reporter, Ali Watkins, who had been in a three-year relationship with Wolfe.

+ Noted: BuzzFeed is laying off about 20 people — and hiring 45 more — in another reorganization (Recode); Veteran media executive Vivian Schiller named CEO of the Civil Foundation (Medium, Civil); Florida Times-Union named Newspaper of the Year by GateHouse Media (Florida Times-Union)

API Update

API Field Notes: How analytics grow audiences, cultural change in newsrooms and “information disorders”

Our team is visiting several places this week — showing how to use analytics to decide what to cover and what not to cover, working on newsroom culture change in Omaha and Sacramento, and discussing how misinformation affects democracies. See what’s happening and how you can learn more.

The week in fact-checking

As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes what a deepfake video of Donald Trump in Belgium says about the future of political campaign strategy, Daniel Radcliffe, the original “Harry Potter,” will star in the Broadway production of the 2012 book “The Lifespan of a Fact,” and France continues to be a political laboratory for anti-misinformation action in Europe.


How one Pennsylvania station hopes to reinvent local TV news by embedding reporters in communities (Storybench)

A TV station in Pennsylvania launched “Reporter Corps” — an ambitious initiative aimed at reinventing local TV news. PBS39/WLVT, based in Bethlehem, Pa., plans to hire a dozen multi-platform journalists, embedding 10 of them in the 10 counties of the Greater Lehigh Valley — which straddles Pennsylvania and New Jersey — with a mission to produce community-focused news, with the other two positions being a video editor and a managing editor. This team will be producing in-depth news stories for PBS39’s digital platforms that will later be packaged for a nightly newscast launching in mid-September.

+ The Atlantic redesigns its article pages for speed, readability, and better ad placements (Medium, Building The Atlantic); Where killings go unpunished: New Washington Post probe includes a database other reporters can use, tracking 52,000 homicides in 50 U.S. cities (Poynter)


BuzzFeed France to shut down and the company will cut 12 jobs (The Wrap)

“We are taking steps to reconsider our operation in France given the uncertain path to growth in the French market,” a spokesperson for the company told TheWrap on Thursday. “We have begun a consultation process with BuzzFeed France and will follow up when we have more information to share.” The closure was also reported in the French newspaper Le Monde. Staffers at BuzzFeed France were informed Thursday morning of the news and that the company was re-evaluating the operation in that country.

+ New Daily Mail editor to be Geordie Greig (The Guardian); Forbidden Stories protects and continues the work of reporters who can no longer investigate (Editor and Publisher)


What data has done to capitalism (The New York Times)

David Leonhardt says he’s regularly frustrated by the process of searching for hotel accommodations for his family of five. “We know what we want: a basic suite, like at a Residence Inn, with four beds, two bedrooms and a bathroom off the common area. But we struggle to find it, because hotel search engines make it surprisingly difficult to figure out the specifications of rooms.” If someone built a better search engine, he says he’d use it (and perhaps pay more for the kind of room my family wants, rather than shopping almost exclusively by price). Leonhardt is looking for “a data-rich market” — a phenomenon sweeping across the global economy according to a new book reviewed here.

+ Direct-to-consumer brands sour on Facebook ads (Digiday)


The unintentional consequences of suicide coverage (USA Today)

In the hours after police announced Kate Spade had died, many news outlets reported graphic details of her suicide. Mental health experts say exposure to media coverage of a high-profile suicide, especially coverage which fixates on the gratuitous details of a person’s death, can lead to more suicides. “When we cover suicide irresponsibly, we actually make the problem worse because there are things in suicide stories that are scientifically proven to create a contagion effect,” said Kelly McBride, vice president at The Poynter Institute and the organization’s resident expert on suicide reporting. “We have a moral obligation to find an alternative [way] to tell the story.”

+ Related: Basic principles to consider when covering suicide (Poynter)

+ How to solve the local news crisis? Look it up in the library (Medium, JSK)


The first issue of the NYT’s ‘The Week in Good News’ had an open rate of more than 100 percent (

Most daily news coverage deals with upsetting topics. It’s not that there are no uplifting or inspirational stories, but those that are covered often get buried in the news cycle. To counter that, The New York Times launched The Week in Good News. It started as a weekly roundup that elevated a handful of the NYT’s most positive stories, and later became a newsletter. “The very first edition had an open rate of more than 100 percent, meaning that not only were our readers opening and reading the newsletter, they were reading the newsletter multiple times or forwarding it along to friends and family to read,” said Des Shoe, homepage editor for The New York Times and writer of The Week in Good News.

+ A new project called Investigative Editing Corps wants to fill a growing gap in local newsrooms — investigative journalism (Poynter)

For the Weekend

+ A year after Trump’s zero-budget threat, public broadcasting is … doing okay (Nieman Lab)

+ How to find financial security in a volatile journalism industry (Poynter)

+ Today’s smaller newsrooms are not only the result of the internet: Newspapers have faced corporate pressure for profits and worker productivity for decades (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ “Our new recipe for talking about ‘public trust’ in media”: Journalists need to find a way to overtly demonstrate the public service nature of their work, which overrides the perception that they are serving the commercial needs of their organization or their own professional advancement (The Membership Puzzle Project)