Need to Know: March 4, 2019

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


You might have heard: Spotify has bought two podcast startups and it wants to buy more (Recode)

But did you know: Luminary aims to be the Netflix of podcasts (New York Times)

“We want to become synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming,” Matt Sacks, Luminary’s co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview. “I know how ambitious that sounds. We think it can be done, and some of the top creators in the space agree.” Most podcasts are free, but the Luminary app — set to arrive by June — will focus on subscriptions. For $8 a month, subscribers will gain access to Luminary’s ad-free lineup. For creators, Luminary is offering large upfront payment guarantees in exchange for exclusive rights to distribute their work, reducing the risk of a concept and, hopefully, encouraging greater creativity and higher production values. The company will also pay creators bonuses if their shows reach certain listening thresholds. Luminary allows “creators to focus on creating the highest-quality content possible and stop worrying about selling ads,” says Liza Landsman, whose venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates has invested in the startup.

+ Related: First signs of a subscription model for podcasts (Twipe)

+ Noted: BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold explains his controversial reporting on Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in Q&A (New Yorker); ProPublica is expanding and open-sourcing its tools for crowd-powered data investigations (ProPublica); Your favorite way to get around The New York Times paywall might be about to go away (Nieman Lab); AT&T plans to revamp CNN’s digital arm (Wall Street Journal); The Atlantic’s shift to subscriptions is delayed (Digiday)


Lessons in matchmaking: connecting community and ethnic media to local government (Medium, Trust, Media & Democracy)

The Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism recently organized a “speed-dating” event in New York City where reporters from community and ethnic media outlets sat down with representatives of local government agencies. Forty-five outlets showed up, speaking to the struggles these outlets typically face in gaining access to government groups. “We watched connections being forged — between the media outlets whose work is in the city’s myriad communities that speak more than 200 languages, and the government entities whose activities and messaging needs to reach deep into those communities,” writes Daniela Gerson. For those interested in hosting a similar matchmaking event, it’s important to make sure both sides come prepared, she said. The event is not only about getting advertising dollars from the city, but also about learning the work of different city agencies that may have a direct impact on readers, and generating possible story ideas about that work.

+ Related: What newsrooms can learn from those who facilitate collaborations between ethnic media and mainstream outlets; SembraMedia launches toolkit for Spanish-speaking journalists and newsrooms who serve Spanish-speaking audiences (SembraMedia)


Limiting your digital footprints in a surveillance state (New York Times)

“In China, evading the watchful eyes of the government sometimes feels like an exercise in futility,” says Paul Mozur, a New York Times correspondent based in Shanghai. Despite occasional house visits from the Chinese police, Mozur uses a handful of tactics to escape government surveillance, including working on Apple devices, which he says tend to be more secure than Android, using a few different VPNs, and using apps that look innocuous but in fact store important and sensitive data. Mozur often uses the messaging app WeChat to connect with potential sources, but because communication there is closely monitored, he often tries to guide them to more secure platforms — or set up in-person meetings. “It should also be said that for all these precautions, there’s no doubt the authorities have plenty of ways into our communications. It’s almost impossible to stop a determined state actor, but it’s worth making it more difficult.”  

+ Related: Live from America’s capital, a TV station run by China’s Communist Party (New York Times)


Your speech, their rules: Meet the people who guard the internet (Medium, OneZero)

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other content platforms set out to get rid of gatekeepers, not become them. “Yet here we are. Controversial content takedowns are regular news,” writes Alex Feerst. What is considered acceptable speech and what is not, which rules encroach on our rights and which protect us from harassment and threats, is a constantly changing, contentious issue. “As policymakers, academics, nonprofits, and private companies work on solving this very hard problem, someone has to wake up, go to the office, sit at their desk, and make these decisions every day,” writes Feerst. These content moderators, as they’re typically called, call the shots as best they can. “They are at once the judges and janitors of the internet … They understand how this work can be at once depressing and surprisingly uplifting, stressful and fascinating, reliably absurd and gravely serious.”

+ Related: Comedian Adam Sokol writes about his six years working as a comment moderator for a right-wing website (New York Times)


Momo is as real as we’ve made her (New York Times)

The “Momo challenge,” a viral hoax featuring a distorted image of a woman who allegedly instructs children in self-harm, has found its way into news reports worldwide. While there is no credible evidence that any child has been directly influenced by the video, “This hasn’t stopped police departments and school administrators and local and national media around the world from reporting on the phenomenon as a verified and imminent threat, relying heavily on second- and thirdhand accounts, via parents, of upset children,” writes John Herrman.

+ The making of the Fox News White House: Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda? (New Yorker)


How should journalists write about killings near schools? The students weigh in (Los Angeles Times)

About a dozen students from two South Los Angeles high schools participated in a round-table discussion in spring 2018 at the nonprofit organization Community Coalition. They read a story from The Los Angeles Times’ Homicide Report about a killing just blocks from Fremont High School, annotating the article as they read, and talked about the kind of coverage they want to see about their communities. Their comments are featured in The Times series “Surrounded,” which examines the impact of violence that occurs near schools. “I like how they didn’t stigmatize the fact that he lived in South Central,” wrote one student about the victim. “I feel it’s very important that this article did not racially profile him,” added her classmate. Another student wanted to see more “solutions and next steps” in the article: “I think this would be great to plug into the bigger picture of gang violence, gun violence, and overall the safety of black and brown people, particularly youth of color.”

+ #IsThisLegit? How 18 teenagers are fighting misinformation on social media (Poynter)