Need to Know: March 28, 2019

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


You might have heardThe Correspondent announces it will close its New York office and move to its headquarters in Amsterdam (Medium, The Correspondent)

But did you know: The Correspondent’s editor-in-chief talks about what U.S. expansion means (and doesn’t — an office) (Nieman Lab)

After setting up a campaign office in New York and crowdfunding a record-breaking $2.5 million in one month, Dutch news outfit The Correspondent abruptly announced that it will shut down its U.S. office and move back to Amsterdam. The news surprised and even angered many of the outlet’s U.S. fans, particularly those who donated to support The Correspondent’s membership-based model, which was touted for its transparency and built-in emphasis on reader trust. Many said the campaign’s messaging misled supporters to believe the outlet would have a U.S. newsroom. “It got interpreted by a lot of media who wrote about us as, ‘They’re launching in the U.S.,’” said editor-in-chief Ernst Pfauth in an interview with Nieman Lab. “Which is pretty much 80 percent true, in the sense that we are going to have English-language correspondents in the U.S.” But Pfauth claimed that his team “never promised” to cover the U.S., saying, “We’re not a geographically oriented journalism platform.” Further into the interview, Pfauth told Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen that she was “legitimizing confusion” by doing this story. “I think the confusion is a legitimate story for an organization that is very focused on trust and on being very clear with its subscribers about what it’s doing,” responded Owen.  

+ Noted: Facebook bans white nationalism and white separatism (Reuters); ProPublica to further expand local reporting network with additional newsrooms (ProPublica); Bustle Digital, the company that bought Gawker and Mic, has acquired the Outline (Recode); Fearful of fake news blitz, U.S. Census enlists help of tech giants for 2020 count (Reuters)


Journalism needs to practice transparency in a different way to rebuild credibility (The Conversation)

Organizational scholars Andrew Schnackenberg and Edward Tomlinson have proposed that transparency in organizations actually consists of three parts: disclosure (information is released in a timely manner), accuracy (information is correct), and clarity (information is understandable in context by the intended audience). But journalists, even when they are pouring effort into “stories behind the story” or providing original evidence for claims made in their reporting, aren’t always doing a good job of coordinating those elements of explanation and disclosure, write Michael Palanski and Andrea Hickerson. “When an important concept like transparency is only partially applied, it leads to something of a transparency trap. Media organizations may believe they are acting transparently, but incomplete attempts at transparency may damage credibility and thus do more harm than good.”

+ Earlier: How to weave transparency efforts, from in-line disclosures and substantiating documents, to long-form “here’s how we did it” stories, into your reporting


The great British brush-off: The BBC and Google are fighting over who gets to control the podcast experience (Nieman Lab)

Since Google launched its own podcast app last year, it’s been directing people looking for BBC podcasts into its own service — a move that the BBC, trying to promote its own podcast app BBC Sounds — was not happy with. This week, the BBC yanked its podcasts from the Google ecosystem, explaining that the move is “for the good of listeners,” as it allows the broadcaster to retain control of listener data, which theoretically is used to improve the BBC’s audio content for its audiences. “It’s logical enough for the BBC, which is desperate to make BBC Sounds work after all the resources and effort that’s been poured into it,” writes Caroline Crampton. “But I think the benefits are more on its side than on listeners’, who now have fewer outlets where they can access BBC material.”

+ “The internet had previously been divided into two: the open web, which most of the world could access; and the authoritarian web of countries like China, which is parceled out stingily and heavily monitored. As of today, though, the web no longer feels truly worldwide. Instead we now have the American internet, the authoritarian internet, and the European internet.” (The Verge)


The Captionfluencers (New York Times)

Conceived as a photography app, Instagram is now flourishing as one of the web’s most compelling storytelling platforms, writes Ruth La Ferla; a place for “uplifting confessions, compressed screeds, some with candidly political overtones, self-help digests, mini essays and speculative musings and, perhaps most compellingly, serialized memoirs in sound-bite form.” Long-form captions have become so prevalent in the last couple years that some observers have begun considering Instagram as an alternative blogging platform. “Lately, I’ve started to wonder if Instagram is the new WordPress,” Harling Ross, an editor at Man Repeller, wrote in 2017.


A way to detect the next Russian misinformation campaign (New York Times)

Despite the best efforts of several technology firms, there still seem to be secretive groups distributing political ads without disclosing who is funding those ads. Social media companies, wanting to regulate themselves, can get in the way of investigations, and putting a blanket ban on political ads would give incumbents an unfair advantage in elections. But as billions of people head to the polls in India and across Europe, and the U.S. presidential election looms in 2020, a solution is increasingly urgent. Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, offers up a potential answer: Have all technology companies put all ads, all the time, into a public archive.

+ A recent case study comparing two newspapers found that the paper guided primarily by audience metrics published fewer stories about civic issues, had fewer sources and let reader traffic guide news judgment to a greater degree than the paper that viewed analytics as a secondary consideration. But what audience metrics was the first paper using? Not all metrics are created equal, and page views can be misleading, as some journalists pointed out. “If your metrics are hurting your journalism, you are using the wrong metrics,” tweeted Damon Kiesow, journalism professor at the University of Missouri.


Even now, Brexit remains impossible to understand (The Atlantic)

Decoding and untangling Brexit has been particularly challenging for journalists tasked with covering it. Keeping it comprehensible for audiences, both within the United Kingdom and around the world, has proved even harder. “In many ways, Brexit has the makings of a perfect story,” writes Yasmine Serhan. “There is intrigue, high drama, and an ever-changing cast of characters. But it also has other aspects that are far more difficult to convey: things such as ‘three-line whips,’ amendments to amendments, and British parliamentary procedural rules dating as far back as the 17th century. For the reporters who cover this story, making sense of it all can seem like an insurmountable struggle.”