Need to Know: May 17, 2019

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


You might have heard: San Francisco police raid on journalist alarms free press advocates (New York Times)

But did you know: How cops use search warrants to go after journalists in California (Vice News)

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, at least 35 American journalists have received subpoenas or legal orders for information since 2017. San Francisco journalist Bryan Carmody joined that group when police recently served a warrant to search his home for the source of a leaked police report, sending shock waves through the Bay Area reporting community. Vice reports that however rare, search warrants filed in hopes of discovering journalists’ information are not unheard of in California. Law enforcement agencies served at least four Golden State journalists with search warrants during the last decade, including one against a Gizmodo reporter whose home was searched for information about a stolen iPhone prototype in 2010.

+ Noted: Gannett board members reelected as shareholders reject MNG nominees (USA TODAY); Sony Music jumps into podcasts, forms venture with producers Adam Davidson and Laura Mayer (Variety); The Washington Post adds subscription tools to Arc, the publishing platform it began licensing to other publishers in 2016 (Digiday)


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: Twitter goes after anti-vaxxers, how Americans are copying Russian disinformation tactics to try to undermine 2020 presidential candidates, and the EU’s digital arms race.


How do you reach young audiences? These local newsrooms and Mizzou grads will experiment on Instagram (Poynter)

As part of a new Instagram Local News fellowship program, three newsrooms will rethink their strategy for Instagram this summer. The fellows, all Missouri School of Journalism graduates, will work with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune and The Boston Globe to build on what the publications are already doing. The newsrooms hope the fellows will help them reach a completely new, younger group of readers, which is a long-term strategy based more on building relationships than pageviews. The fellows will examine other innovative news coverage on Instagram and will work with high school students to develop an Instagram story geared toward teens.


Sweden’s MittMedia increases subscriber conversions by 20% with a ‘time wall’ (Digiday)

For the first hour that any piece of content across MittMedia’s 20 sites is published, it’s free for readers to access. A green-lettered stamp shows readers how much time they have to view an article before it goes behind the paywall. According to the publisher, opening up all content for the first 60 minutes has led to an increased subscriber conversion rate of 20%. “It was a win-win situation,” said product manager Katarina Ellemark. “We had people following the metrics closely, and no one was cherry-picking all the articles in the first 60 minutes. The only feedback we got from users was, why wasn’t the feature in the app?”   

+ Mexican journalist murdered while under a federal protection program for journalists, whose effectiveness “is constantly being called into question” (Reporters Without Borders); After serving a prison sentence for leaking state secrets, Israeli woman sues the country’s leading newspaper for failing to protect her identity as a source (Columbia Journalism Review)


Why are so many people running for president and so few for mayor? Blame the media (and the Internet) (Nieman Lab)

While the field of presidential hopefuls is increasingly crowded, it’s getting harder and harder to find people willing to run for local office. A 2017 Rice University study found that in 2016, 60 percent of all mayoral elections across the U.S. featured just one candidate running unopposed — a number that’s been going up since 2000. The scarcity of mayoral candidates has been linked in a previous study to the closure of local newspapers. Fewer reporters, fewer candidates, the study concluded. Meanwhile, the migration of journalism to the coasts, where it’s clustered across a handful of digital-forward national outlets, has resulted in far more coverage of presidential politics than ever before, writes Joshua Benton. Another factor explaining the surge in presidential candidates is their discovery of social media as a tool to drum up supporters. “To put this all in the most basic terms: The Internet makes us more interested in national politics and less interested in local politics.”

+ Survey illuminates generational differences in values motivating public-media donors (Current); Behind Twitter’s plan to get people to stop yelling at one another (BuzzFeed News)


Publishers that closed their comments sections made a colossal mistake (What’s New in Publishing)

In the early 2000s, comment sections started out as an expansive, inclusive remodel of the letter to the editor. But revved-up reader participation led to online comments laced with trolling and racism, leading many media organizations, like CNN, The Atlantic and National Public Radio, to do away with toxic comment sections. Washington, DC-based journalist Simon Owens argues this move was a mistake that caused publications to forfeit relationships with their audiences, who were pushed to move their conversations to social media. Owens suggests alternatives, like The Athletic’s approach, where commenting is a perk for paid subscribers who engage more deeply with the product and each other.

+ Earlier: Goodbye “moderators,” hello “audience voice reporters”: Here’s how The Wall Street Journal is refocusing the comments to incentivize better behavior


Pre-teen reporter delivers commencement speech to graduating class of journalists (Orange Street News)

On May 10, 12-year-old reporter and publisher of Orange Street News Hilde Lysiak delivered the commencement speech to West Virginia University’s graduating class of journalism students. In her speech Lysiak urged a return to the traditional elements of journalism — good shoe-leather reporting, and the pursuit of the six fundamental questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. Answering those “six sacred questions,” said Lysiak, is how journalists have gotten to the truth for years. The reason so few people trust the news anymore, she said, is because journalists have “strayed from the basics I knew by age six — that reporting was about finding answers to those six sacred questions.”

+ Related: A 17-year-old politics junkie scooped Bill de Blasio on news of his own presidential launch (Washington Post)

+ Journalism schools need to focus on data, local news, social media and business models. Here are some that are. (StoryBench)


+ Teaching journalism in the age of Trump: How one professor teaches students to be fair-minded and balanced in their reporting in an environment that is increasingly hostile to journalists (Inside Higher Ed)

+ Dissatisfaction with social media has pushed us back into the arms of email, private chats, and now, the personal website (Matthias Ott)

+ How group chats are making the internet fun again: The rise of topic-specific (very specific) group chats across various messaging platforms are an “outright replacement for the defining mode of social organization of the past decade: the platform-centric, feed-based social network,” writes Max Read. “For me … group chats aren’t the new AIM. They’re the new Facebook.” (New York Magazine)