Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: May 2, 2018

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


You might have heard: Over the past four years, people have tended to agree that the internet is a plus for society and an especially good thing for individual users (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: A declining majority of online adults say the internet has been good for society (Pew Research Center)

Americans tend to view the impact of the internet and other digital technologies on their own lives in largely positive ways, Pew Research Center surveys have shown over the years. A survey of U.S. adults conducted in January 2018 finds continuing evidence of this trend, with the vast majority of internet users (88%) saying the internet has, on balance, been a mostly good thing for them personally. But even as they view the internet’s personal impact in a positive light, Americans have grown somewhat more ambivalent about the impact of digital connectivity on society as a whole. Positive views of the internet are often tied to information access and connecting with others. By contrast, those who think the internet is a bad thing for society gave a wider range of reasons for their opinions, with no single issue standing out. These responses included references to the spread and prevalence of fake news or other types of false information: 16% mentioned this issue.

+ Noted: In its biggest update since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook will allow users to opt out of letting Facebook collect their browsing history (Recode); The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard announces its 81st class of Nieman Fellows (Nieman Foundation); New Merrill Brown-led publishing tech company, The News Project, partners with AP (Axios); Wendell Jamieson, the NYT editor who resigned after an internal investigation, was accused of inappropriate behavior by at least three female employees (The New York Times); Substack raises $2 million to prove newsletters can help media (Axios)


4 ways managers can build a more inclusive newsroom for diverse new hires

At API, we know diverse news staffs that mirror their communities result in more well-rounded, connected journalism. We’re doing training this week for newsroom managers about how to create inclusive newsrooms and welcome new hires or fellows from diverse backgrounds. We partnered with the Emma Bowen Foundation, known for its approach to building the pipeline for diverse talent, and the Institute for Nonprofit News to deliver this guidance at an event in Washington. But for those unable to attend, we want to share four ways that managers can build a more inclusive, welcoming workplace.


Here’s a guide to nearly all of the code written during the Guardian Mobile Lab’s two years of experimentation (Medium, Alastair Coote)

We wrote a lot of code in the two years of the mobile lab, writes Alastair Coote. And wherever possible, the Guardian Mobile Lab’s team open-sourced that code to support the team’s mission of openness and collaboration, so that others can use it, learn from it, or just satisfy their curiosity by working out how they did something. But GitHub isn’t the easiest place to discover which code does what, so here’s a quick rundown of the most noteworthy code they’ve published, with notes about what each does.


How The Times of London uses email newsletters to drive subscriptions (Digiday)

For News UK’s The Times of London and Sunday Times, subscriptions are the end goal. Email newsletters are a key part of the Times’ arsenal to convert subscribers and retain them. “Different newsletters do different jobs,” said Ben Whitelaw, head of audience development at the Times and Sunday Times, adding that the title has evolved its newsletters strategy since launching its first newsletter five years ago. “Link roundups are not always the best content for that audience.”

+ Related: Browse a full collection of strategies and best practices for email newsletters and driving subscriptions (Better News)


5 questions to ask yourself before changing your routine (Fast Company)

In a self-improvement-obsessed world, it’s easy to find a reason to change your routine. Every day, there seems to be new research or book that tells you what time you should get up, what you should eat, and how you should sleep. But a successful routine looks different for everyone. Just because someone else swears by a particular routine and attributes their success to that, it doesn’t mean that you’ll experience the same thing. Before you think about drastically changing your diet, or setting your alarm two hours earlier than you normally wake up, it’s worth asking yourself some questions: what’s my end goal, what’s not working in my current routine, and more.


‘Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon’ (Nieman Lab)

Ken Doctor asks: Is there any chance Alden Global Capital might change course? The majority owner of Digital First Media — publisher of The Mercury News, The Denver Post, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11 Southern California dailies, and 49 others from California to Michigan to New Jersey — has faced a rising tide of protest over the past month. Doctor reveals some key financial numbers from the private company that shows just how successful Alden and DFM have been at milking profit out of the newspapers it is slashing. DFM reported a 17 percent operating margin — well above those of its peers — in its 2017 fiscal year, along with profits of almost $160 million. That’s the fruit of the repeated cutbacks that have left its own shrinking newsrooms in a state of rebellion.

+ Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires (Aeon); The media ought to be ashamed. Here’s how to redeem ourselves. (The Washington Post)


This Pulitzer-winning paper has local owners. They bought it from a chain. (Poynter)

Nearly six years ago, a group of local business people bought the Santa Rosa Press Democrat — 2018 Pulitzer prize winner for breaking news for its coverage of last year’s wildfires — from Halifax Media. That company and its 27 remaining newspapers was purchased by the investment group that owns GateHouse Media in 2015. While Gannett’s USA Today Network took home several Pulitzers this year, corporate newspaper owners, including Gannett, GateHouse, Digital First Media and McClatchy, get a lot more attention for shrinking newsrooms. Local ownership doesn’t ensure survival and it doesn’t ensure Pulitzers. But, when local owners combine a commitment to local journalism with sharp business skills, it can mean that when major news breaks, local newspapers actually have the staff to cover it.

+ About 2,500 freelance writers who sued publishers over digital rights to their work will now begin getting part of a $9 million settlement, after a 17-year legal fight (The New York Times); Baby Breitbarts to pop up across the country? (Politico)

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