Need to Know: May 30, 2019

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


You might have heard: In pushback against unions, the media industry has always had an ally: its own reporters (Big If True)

But did you know: Vox Media has shifted its hiring toward part-timers and contract workers since its staff unionized (Nieman Lab)

Hundreds of Vox Media workers staged a one-hour walkout yesterday in an effort to urge the company to accept a union contract that includes annual raises, severance improvements and revenue sharing. In 2017, Vox Media Union joined a labor movement taking place in traditional and digital newsrooms across the country, but data from Thinknum suggests the unionization may have had unintended consequences. After the union formed, Vox shifted away from hiring full-time staff in favor of contract, part-time and freelance positions. Before unionizing, Vox’s job openings had a 51-to-1 ratio of full-time to non-full-time positions. Now the ratio is 2 to 1, with 25 openings for part-time or contract jobs.

+ Noted: NBC News Now, a free streaming service, launches Monday through Friday (NBC News); After four years of handing out money for European news projects, Google is expanding its funding to North America (Nieman Lab); The Washington Post is making its programmatic platform available to publishers web-wide (Adweek)


How Chalkbeat works with local funders to start its local bureaus (Nieman Lab)

Since launching about a decade ago, education news nonprofit Chalkbeat has grown to a staff of more than 50 workers spread across seven bureaus around the country. The network requires each bureau to receive most of its funding from the local community, according to Chalkbeat senior director of partnerships Maria Archangelo, who adds, “The thinking of that is, if the local community wants us there, that’s better for all of us.” This fundraising focus has led 110 foundations and individual philanthropists to donate $1,000 or more to Chalkbeat in the past two fiscal years, leading to $6.8 million in revenue last year. Before expanding into a new city, Chalkbeat first considers if it’s a place where there are interesting education stories to be had, if there’s an education coverage gap and if enough funds could be raised locally to make the operation sustainable.


Women photojournalists call for action to tackle ‘damaging’ under-representation in news industry (Press Gazette)

According to a survey from the World Press Photo Foundation, 80 percent of photographers polled were men and 68 percent of female respondents said they experienced discrimination at work. Now, female photojournalists are calling for increased representation of women after just 9 percent of the work at a British Press Photographers’ Association exhibition was by women. In an open letter, the Women Photographers of the UK say the BPPA’s selection for its most recent exhibition demonstrates a “shocking gender imbalance” that suggests the organization doesn’t care about under-representation of women in the field. BPPA maintains that the organization is working to improve gender imbalance and that the showcase selections were made “blind,” adding that just 12 percent of its membership is made up of women.


I’m a former elite athlete and I call BS on tech’s obsession with working long hours (Fast Company)

Long hours are built into the tech industry’s culture. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, for instance, has said that 80 to 100 hours is an ideal work week, and a job description for machine learning company noted that the team worked 70 to 90 hours a week. Jason Shen, a former athlete and co-founder of esports and gaming tech company Midgame, argues that working long hours should be a rare occurrence because it leads to lost productivity. A study from Stanford University and Germany-based Institute for the Study of Labor found that after 50 hours a week, employees’ output drops sharply. Shen points out that in sports, the NCAA limits training hours, and great performance “requires short bursts of concentrated, intense effort, followed by rest and recovery.”


War all the time? Climate reporters weigh coverage quantity against quality (Columbia Journalism Review)

According to a study from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, five major American newspapers ran more climate change stories in March of this year than almost any month since 2000. More than half of those stories ran in a single newspaper, The New York Times. New York University professor and writer Abby Rabinowitz asks how much climate change coverage would be sufficient, a question without a consensus. Some editors prioritize data-rich, interactive and longform features on the topic over an increased number of climate-related stories. On the other hand, Nathaniel Rich, author of “Losing Earth,” calls for increased coverage that folds climate change coverage into other beats as a way to better understand them.


Facebook could fix the news industry with micropayments — unless Kik does it first (Fortune)

The idea of charging readers a small fee to read a single news article on a paywalled site isn’t particularly new, but Columbia Journalism Review media writer Mathew Ingram told Fortune that the notion required too many middle men and that media companies failed to come up with a standard payment amount for single-serve news. One solution could be Facebook’s blockchain concept, Project Libra, which would create its own currency and provide media organizations with an easy way to receive micropayments. Messaging app Kik also is in the blockchain game, having recently given its millions of users blockchain-based coins that also could lead to micropayments.