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Need to Know: May 14, 2018

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


You might have heard: Top figures at The Denver Post, including its former owner, resigned amid budget and staff cuts made by the newspaper’s New York-based hedge fund owners (Associated Press) and 55 of The Denver Post’s newsroom staffers signed an open letter calling on Alden Global Capital and Digital First Media to “either invest in the newspaper or sell it to someone who cares about Colorado” (Denver Newspaper Guild)

But did you know: What the gutting of The Denver Post looks like from the inside (The Atlantic)

“These weeks have been surreal, spent watching people I’ve worked with for my entire adult life get laid off or resign in disgust and sadness,” John Wenzel writes in a first-person account of what’s happening to the staff of the Denver Post. “My own panic has risen in inverse proportion to our staffing. From a high of 310 newsroom employees when I started, we now have around 70 people covering a metro area of about three million people. … I am now the sole remaining features or arts and entertainment reporter at the paper. … We cover far less than we used to, from legislative sessions and court cases to breaking news, concerts, and enterprise stories.”

+ Related: Alden’s management of the Denver Post shows how owners may determine “more value can be extracted by sucking the marrow rather than by investing or selling” (Politico Magazine)

+ Noted: CrowdTangle data over four months shows Facebook’s News Feed algorithm change had little effect on engagement for  mainstream publishers like CNN and Fox News (The Outline); Apple News officially lets publishers use Google’s DoubleClick to serve ads (Digiday); Indian Country Today is relaunching after shutting down last year, and hopes to raise $100,000 (Nieman Lab); BuzzFeed News’ new weekly podcast features a chatbot Jojo, which responds to listeners’ texted keywords with links to articles from featured segments (Nieman Lab)


Al Jazeera develops InterviewJS, an open source tool that turns Q&As into interactive messaging where the reader asks the interviewee pre-selected questions (

InterviewJS is a free, open-source tool transforming interview articles into shareable and embeddable interactive chats, developed by Al Jazeera and funded by the Digital News Initiative Fund. With InterviewJS, journalists can build a story as interactive messaging, complete with the three dots as the interviewee “types” their answer. This puts the reader in the journalist’s seat — instead of simply reading, they ask the interviewee pre-selected questions and watch the conversation unfold. The interviews can be embedded on a website or shared on social media, and you can use text, images, video, audio, maps, and charts.

+ How 19 outlets are pursuing in-depth reporting on poverty and economic justice in America’s poorest big city (Columbia Journalism Review)


Behind Torstar’s strategy to send StarMetro readers to, where it will likely begin hypertargeting those most likely to pay for its planned paywall (The Walrus)

Torstar — with just over $71 million in cash reserves — is betting on an expansion in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Halifax. The plan relies on the Star treating the free Metro commuter newspapers under its control as bureaus for their respective cities, rebranding them as StarMetro. As part of the revamp, Torstar hired 20 reporters. All Metro web traffic is now being sent to, with coverage tailored to the various metro areas. The strategy will eventually include a digital paywall. But can the Star convince enough readers from coast to coast that one of Canada’s most storied news brands is worth paying for? “That’s not the biggest question,” Cooke says. “It’s the only question.”

+ Q&A with The Guardian’s Anna Bateson, chief customer officer, on asking readers for funding, the importance of Google and Facebook, and preparing for the GDPR (Medium, Global Editors Network); MEMO’s Gaza correspondent shot by Israeli sniper (Middle East Monitor)


Facebook exec says company will build an API for machine-readable access to info on ads in political-ad archive, but researchers worry that may not be enough (The Atlantic)

When facing criticism about Facebook’s role in elections, the company’s executives have repeatedly promised to provide maximum transparency about the advertising that runs on their services. Given the weight that Zuckerberg and Facebook have placed on this measure before the public and legislators, the company’s actual execution of this idea is of paramount importance—and the bar should be high. Is what Facebook is building a useful tool, or is it merely transparency-washing, to coin a horrible phrase?


All the problems at NBC News aren’t just coincidence. They’re symptoms. (The Washington Post)

The low points at NBC News this past month — Ronan Farrow broke another huge story for the New Yorker, the network’s story that federal agents were wiretapping Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s phone had to be walked back and corrected and the network’s internal investigation of the circumstances surrounding deposed star Matt Lauer’s sexual misconduct was seen by many as a whitewash — aren’t mere coincidences; they’re symptoms of a larger malaise, writes Margaret Sullivan. And they are not the only ones.

+ Related: Ronan Farrow’s forthcoming book “Catch and Kill” will discuss his clash with NBC execs over Weinstein story and how it ended up at The New Yorker (CNNMoney)

+ Maggie Haberman and the toxic swamp: The New York Times reporter on the White House Correspondents Dinner, Trump’s Cohen investigation fears, and why she hates Twitter (Slate)


A look at The Fourth Estate, Showtime’s documentary about The New York Times during Trump’s first year (Politico)

Filmmaker Liz Garbus wanted to make a documentary about Trump’s first year in office as told by the reporters covering it. “I was granted access, but it was left to each individual reporter to decide if he or she wanted to cooperate,” writes Garbus. “I went to Washington and made the rounds. I understood quickly that what the journalists prized the most, and would protect most fiercely, was the confidentiality of their sources. … For journalists covering Washington, allowing sources to speak anonymously can be the key to getting the facts. And while the life and testimony of one person may make for a great film, in journalism it is never enough to have just one.”

+ Facebook just publicly thanked Julia Angwin for finding (and reporting on) the platform’s issues (Twitter); Why do journalists call what they produce “pieces?” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

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