Need to Know: May 23, 2018

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


You might have heard: Readers accused the New York Times of normalizing a Nazi sympathizer with its now-infamous piece “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland”

But did you know: A new report from Data & Society says the rise of young, white ‘Internet reporting’ probably helped bolster the alt-right (Nieman Lab)

“The choices reporters and editors make about what to cover and how to cover it play a key part in regulating the amount of oxygen supplied to the falsehoods, antagonisms, and manipulations that threaten to overrun the contemporary media ecosystem — and, simultaneously, threaten to undermine democratic discourse more broadly,” according to Data & Society’s latest report. Whitney Phillips, an incoming assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University, says the “journalistic rule set” — traditional notions of “objectivity” and “both sides” reporting, for instance — must be reconsidered. The study also offers a theory of how a rise of young reporters hired to write about the Internet (often for Internet-only outlets) led to older reporters at legacy outlets reporting on the same issues, thus “resulting in a mushrooming of additional iterative coverage” and contributing to an increasingly emboldened group of white supremacists.

+ Noted: Nielsen expands its partnership with YouTube TV to include YouTube viewership in local TV audience measurements (AdWeek); Vanity Fair has laid off six employees in addition to the 15 laid off in February as part of restructuring (Hollywood Reporter); Univision has tapped Vincent Sadusky to succeed Randy Falco as CEO (Wall Street Journal); BuzzFeed Studios has signed a deal with agency WME as it looks to ramp up its film and television output (Hollywood Reporter); The New York Times is launching a parenting product with Jessica Grose as editor-in-chief (The New York Times Co.); EPA bars the AP and CNN from summit on contaminants (Associated Press)


API Field Notes: We’re talking about analytics in Virginia and journalism’s future in Vienna

API’s reach extends across the pond this week as Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel offers his perspectives on changes in the journalism industry at “The Future of Journalism & Democracy in the Age of Fake News” in Vienna, Austria tomorrow. Back on home turf, Director of Content Strategy Liz Worthington and Content Strategy Specialist Mel Jones are heading to The Virginian-Pilot next week to dig into Metrics for News audience engagement data with the newsroom.


Why The New York Times likes short-run newsletters (Digiday)

The New York Times has lofty subscription goals, aiming to get to 10 million globally, but with some newsletters, it’s going small. Tomorrow the Times is set to launch its latest newsletter, Summer in the City, which will come out every week through Labor Day and offer ideas on things to do in the city each weekend. Short-run newsletters are a small part of the 55 Times newsletters that reach 13 million subscribers, but the Times sees pop-up newsletters as a good way to introduce people to the publication’s breadth of coverage and help the Times reach specific audiences. Summer in the City was created with young people in mind, an audience the Times wants more of.

+ Email — yes, email — is the next great media platform (Fast Company); Since noticing significant declines in its Facebook Live viewing figures this year, BuzzFeed has begun testing Amazon-owned platform Twitch (Digiday)


How media paywalls work in authoritarian countries (Bloomberg)

Recent discussion about journalism and paywalls, writes Leonid Bershidsky, has been focused on the economics of supporting quality reporting; nearly all of it has been centered on American journalism. Bershidsky hopes to widen the frame by sharing his experience in Russia. There the record is more complicated, he says. In Russia, paywalls have been essential for maintaining journalistic integrity. But at the same time, they have shown that charging for journalism can reduce its impact. In authoritarian countries, this can in turn lead to an erosion of free speech and accountability.

+ Indian journalist Rana Ayyub recounts how she was harassed online, subjected to rape threats and worse, allegedly by followers of the country’s prime minister (The New York Times)


Most GDPR consent renewal emails are unnecessary, and some even illegal, experts say (The Guardian)

The vast majority of emails flooding inboxes from companies asking for consent to keep recipients on their mailing list are unnecessary and some may be illegal, privacy experts have said, as new rules over data privacy come into force at the end of this week. Many companies, acting based on poor legal advice, a fear of fines of up to €20 million ($23.4 million) and a lack of good examples to follow, have taken what they see as the safest option for hewing to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): asking customers to renew their consent for marketing communications and data processing.


Local media needs to sustain itself, not be saved by others (Rusty Coats)

Saving local media has been the mantra for more than a decade, writes Rusty Coats, especially through the double-barrel recessions of the aughts. How do we save local media? Who (or what) will protect it from the changes of digital, platforms, mobile and social? “Local media does not need to be saved. Our efforts are noble, but saying it that way — saving local media — creates an expectation that there is a magic bullet, a tax on Google and Facebook, a specific level of consolidation, a gizmo. We do not need salvation. We need to sustain ourselves.”

+ Why it’s past time for governments to fix public comments online — and how (E Pluribus Unum)


A Charlotte journalist hones the voice he nearly lost for good (Columbia Journalism Review)

Tommy Tomlinson’s voice — most of which he lost to throat cancer and a surgery to remove it — improved a bit from the first frayed syllable post-surgery, but it will always max out at a heavy whisper. To carry on as a journalist, Tomlinson would have to change his approach to reporting. He would have to lean more on observation and other tools. Tomlinson stops short of calling his brush with cancer a blessing, but he readily credits the ordeal with improving the trajectory of his career. He has gone on to be a Pulitzer finalist, he’s received the prestigious fellowship to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and his memoir is due out in January 2019. And now he has parlayed his skills into the unlikeliest of gigs — host of his own interview podcast.

+ New miniseries shows the New York Times is thriving despite its bleak outlook in the 2011 Page One documentary, but the struggles it faced still plague other outlets (Columbia Journalism Review); The reporter who broke the Theranos saga wide open pinpoints the moment he knew he had a big story on his hands (Business Insider)