Need to Know: Nov. 11, 2019


You might have heard: How the media messed up when reporting on the Mueller investigation (Columbia Journalism Review) 

But did you know: Why the impeachment hearings will be the trickiest test of covering Trump (Washington Post)

On Wednesday, as televised impeachment hearings begin in the House of Representatives, journalists need to be on their game, writes Margaret Sullivan. There’s an “extreme likelihood that the media will be focusing on the partisan fight, rather than the substance of what is being proved or not proved in the hearings themselves,” she cautions. Among other pitfalls journalists should watch out for: speculating on the public’s reaction, letting political stunts and distractions hijack the coverage, and using misleading language, like the term “quid pro quo.” Calling it “extortion” or “bribery” would be closer to the mark, says Sullivan (and these 33 writers agree).

+ Noted: As Gannett merger nears completion, union claims “journalism will suffer” under deal (Washington Post); Apply for the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Women in Journalism Workshop 2020 (Reynolds Journalism Institute)


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How graduate students are combining academic research and original journalism to report for local newsrooms (Lenfest Institute)

A new program at Michigan State University places graduate students as reporters in local newsrooms, with the idea that the students’ subject area knowledge can help them stand in as beat reporters where newsrooms may be lacking them. “Our newsroom has gotten smaller. Folks have less time to develop the specific kind of expertise that allows them to see stories where we might not otherwise see them,” said Matt Miller, editor of the Lansing State Journal, where the pilot program was conducted. “It struck me that the university has all sorts of people who can do that, but they don’t necessarily have an incentive to write for us or a practice of writing for us.” The incentive for the students, it turned out, is gaining experience outside the world of academia, where the job market is notoriously challenging, as well as accessing a wider audience for their work — so a win-win for both parties.


‘Slow news’ publisher Tortoise Media gains nearly 20,000 members within 6 months of launch (Press Gazette)

A membership to Tortoise, which is based in London, costs £5 per month or £50 a year for the under-30s, or £24 per month and £250 per month for everyone else. The under-30s currently make up nearly 40% of the Tortoise’s membership. Co-founder James Harding has said that the Tortoise’s “Thinkins,” live events where members and journalists discuss issues in the news, have played a big role in building its early momentum. “The real measure of success over time is going to be to build a solid membership that pays for Tortoise, because they want to be a part of it, they come and participate to our Thinkins in the room or online, and they believe in and value the journalism that comes out of it,” said Harding.


To reach Gen Z, it’s time to think beyond digital (The Drum)

Conventional thinking when it comes to reaching the digital-native audience is to focus purely on digital. But research earlier this year found that 88% of Gen Z respondents prefer brand experiences that blend digital and physical channels. “It’s more important than ever for brands to be able to play effectively where the real and digital worlds collide,” writes Sarah Cantillon. “This approach will win over younger audiences, future-proofing businesses for the next generation of consumers.”


Should publishers still invest in Amazon Flash Briefings?

When the Amazon Flash Briefing was still a novel media channel, many publishers took advantage of its relatively low barriers to entry to gain access to its rapidly growing audience. But now there are more than 10,000 briefings to choose from, leaving some publishers wondering who’s listening, who can find them and if it’s still worth it for them to be doing these briefings. While it may continue to be a good investment for larger news outlets like USA Today and The Washington Post, smaller organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to get discovered by new audiences through Flash Briefings, writes Deanna Ting.


Has climate news coverage finally turned a corner? (Columbia Journalism Review)

In September, 323 news outlets from across the United States and around the world collaborated to provide a week of high-profile coverage of the climate story, in the most extensive project of its kind on record. The collaboration was organized by Covering Climate Now, a project co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. Over that week, the stories produced by the participating outlets reached an audience of well over 1 billion people — the most in nearly a decade of covering the climate, according to the Media and Climate Change Observatory program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Now, to make the climate story a routine part of daily news coverage, Covering Climate Now and its partners are facilitating joint coverage collaborations, as well as producing reporting and commentary that are free for participating outlets to republish.

+ “The Trib Effect”: Lessons for nonprofit journalism entrepreneurs from the Texas Tribune, which turned 10 years old last week (Poynter); Successes and lessons learned from Stories of Atlantic City, the restorative narrative project that brought together residents and local journalists to tell untold stories (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)