Need to Know: March 29, 2019

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


You might have heard: News publishers’ digital archives are not as complete or long-lasting as they should be — or could be, leading to “a kind of Orwellian ‘memory hole’ of our own unintentional making” (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

But did you know: The dire state of news archiving in the digital age (Columbia Journalism Review)

In a report examining the archiving practices and policies of news publishers, researchers from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism found that the majority of news outlets had not given any thought to even basic strategies for preserving their digital content, and not one was properly saving a holistic record of what it produces. Instead, news organizations have handed over their responsibilities as public stewards to third-party organizations such as the Internet Archive, Google, Ancestry, and ProQuest. The Internet Archive aside, researchers note, the incentives of these companies for storing news archives is neither journalistic nor archival. “It is worth noting that preserving digital content is not, first and foremost, a technical challenge,” researchers wrote. “Rather, it’s a test of human decision-making and a matter of priority.” This report should serve as a wakeup call for publishers, they said. “In an era where journalism is already under attack, managing its record and future are as important as ever.”

+ Noted: Facebook launches searchable transparency library of all active ads (TechCrunch); Maryland General Assembly votes to name June 28 ‘Freedom of the Press Day’ in honor of victims of Capital Gazette shooting (Capital Gazette); The Correspondent editor-in-chief responds to supporters’ complaints about shutting down its New York office (The Correspondent); Twitter is considering labeling Trump tweets that violate its rules (CNN); The Marshall Project launches a print publication that will be distributed in prisons and jails (The Marshall Project)


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: the U.S. Census could be the next target for misinformation campaigns; Google assembles team to help it avoid “moral hazards” of artificial intelligence; and how you can get involved on International Fact-Checking Day on April 2.


How a public radio station collaborates with high schoolers to produce audio documentaries (Lenfest Institute)

For more than 20 years now, high schoolers from the University Laboratory High School in Urbana, Ill., have been producing hour-long documentaries for Illinois Public Media. The partnership was conceived by a social studies teacher whose goal was to show students how history and past actions continue to affect people today. The teacher turned to the local public radio station, WILL, to see if they would collaborate on an oral history project that would enable students to conduct interviews with locals and turn that material into a radio documentary. Today, the production process involves dozens of students and typically takes two years from start to finish. Every year, the project is led by a group of older students who work closely with WILL staffers. “We treat the students how we would any other person that wanted to get content on our air,” said Kimberlie Kranich, director of education and community engagement at WILL. “We don’t talk down to them. We talk to them as professionals. It’s a real conversation that you might have in a news meeting or in any other editorial meeting at the station.”


How newsrooms across Northern Europe are using bots to attract subscribers (

Newsrooms across Northern Europe are building a loyal subscriber base thanks to automated content on sports, property and breaking news, reports Jacob Granger. United Robots, a Sweden-based company, uses bots to analyze and automate large datasets, pushing out around 2,000 stories every day for its Nordic customers. “Our strategy today is to build loyalty; we’re not interested in anonymous clicks and traffic,” said United Robots co-founder Robin Covik, who is also chief digital officer of MittMedia, one of Sweden’s largest media organizations. “We use data points to give the user a better experience and, of course, make more money both directly through targeted ads but also indirectly by producing news products that are tailored to users’ needs.”

+ Media Impact Funders releases new report on global media philanthropy (Media Impact Funders)


What to do when industry disruption threatens your career (MIT Sloan Management Review)

As industry volatility has increased, the responsibility for career management has shifted from companies to individuals. Employees at all levels need to understand how broader industry trends affect their employability, and continually examine and develop their skills to remain competitive throughout their careers. Don’t get complacent, warn Boris Groysberg, Whitney Johnson, and Eric Lin. “Take charge of your career trajectory by scouting for early signs of industry volatility and getting ahead of them at your company, identifying other companies in your sector where your skills will be in high demand, and developing highly portable skills that will travel across industries.”


Do technology companies care about journalism? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Lately it seems that Google and Facebook are trying to outdo each other in their efforts to boost local news, including pushing millions of dollars at local news initiatives, hosting training programs, and even directly funding new journalism startups. But what’s in it for them? “The suddenness of technology companies caring about the financial stability of journalism is not at all coincidental,” writes Emily Bell. The 2020 election is approaching, and regulation of tech platforms is emerging as a top agenda item for frontrunner candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, she points out. “But who would suggest that Google’s increased funding of U.S. journalism is at all related to the first major initiatives to regulate technology platforms? This sounds like a conspiracy theory so rich it should be relentlessly promoted on YouTube.” Bell also points to the big red flag in the tech giants’ funding of news: “Facebook, Apple, and Google do things that journalists should be investigating, not profiting from.”

+ Will Facebook’s new ban on white nationalist content work? (Wired)


Slow down, read up: Why slow journalism and finishable news is (quickly) growing a following (Nieman Lab)

With taglines like “Slow down, wise up” and “We prioritize knowledge over speed,” a growing group of “slow journalism” startups is betting on two converging trends: readers’ increasing feelings of “news fatigue” and their sense that the media is sacrificing long-form, “explainer” journalism for breathless never-ending updates. The rise of the dual consumer trend demanding a slower kind of journalism and actively looking to avoid news is conspicuous, writes Benjamin Bathke. “Now the question becomes: Can slow journalism serve as an alternate for news fatigue — and news avoidance? And can media startups capitalize on news consumers’ disenchantment with an offer people are willing to pay for?”


+ Inside the new L.A. Times, a 100-year vision that bets on tech and top-notch journalism (Nieman Lab)

+ Baseball, prize fighters, diseases (“unless epidemic”), elopements and seductions were among the “classes of news” not wanted from AP correspondents in 1911. Now you can read about these and other quaint, quirky, or downright infuriating old rules of newswriting in digitized AP Stylebooks going back to 1900. (Poynter)

+ The example of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes shows why journalists should never forget to ask for the name of the dog. (Poynter)