Need to Know: Nov. 12, 2019

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


You might have heard: The last several years have seen a wave of unions at digital media outlets (The New York Times)

But did you know: Hearst Magazines staffers unionizing across two dozen publications (The Daily Beast)

Hearst Magazines employees spent more than a year building support for a cross-property union, which will be one of the largest in the industry. On Monday, Hearst staffers from 24 publications announced plans to form the union, which will include editorial, photo, video and social media staffers. The union will be represented by the Writers Guild of America East. Hearst follows a trend in both print and digital media during the last several years, as publications like The Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, The New Yorker and others have unionized.

+ Noted: National Enquirer publisher’s secret scheme to funnel $1 million to accused pedophile R. Kelly (The Daily Beast); Twitter drafts a deepfake policy that would label and warn, but not always remove, manipulated media (TechCrunch); Facebook and YouTube ban naming alleged Trump impeachment whistleblower (The Verge); County resolution threatens Wisconsin journalists with prosecution (Associated Press)


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Survival tips for nonprofit newsrooms: Fundraising, membership, and sustainable models (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

According to data from the Institute for Nonprofit News, funding for nonprofit journalism has quadrupled since 2009, with 40 percent of revenue coming from individuals and families. Membership has become an increasingly popular component of fundraising strategies, but Emily Goligoski, a senior audience researcher for The Atlantic, said that most organizations earn less than 10 percent of their revenue from membership programs during the first three years. Fundraising specialist Bridget Gallagher recommends prioritizing local donors, focusing on donors’ needs and not overpromising on what you can deliver.


Readers are ‘more willing to pay for content,’ reports the World Association of News Publishers (What’s New in Publishing)

From 2013 to 2018, digital news subscriptions across the globe grew 208 percent, according to the World Association of News Publishers, or WAN-IFRA, which anticipates subscriptions will grow another 13 percent this year. According to data from 248 countries, guest pageviews are up 76 percent this year. Chartbeat numbers show that most traffic takes place on mobile devices, just as Google dominates traffic as compared to social media. The report also found that the number of pages viewed during users’ first visit can predict whether or not they return.

+ The risks of reporting on Phillipine President Rodrigo Duterte (60 Minutes)


AI-powered journalism: A time-saver or an accident waiting to happen? (

As the use of artificial intelligence to write news stories slowly grows, computer science professor Anya Belz writes in a recent report that bias, errors and missing context in AI reports mean that human editors are essential before a story is published. Sweden-based Monok uses AI to aggregate news stories, and at times, the AI mixes up words, like seven and 70. Belz expects that AI-written stories will become more common in the future. “If you can use those automated techniques to survive and focus the staff that you have on local investigative journalism, for example, then I think a lot of people would agree that’s a good thing,” she said.


Barry Petchesky: Pretending sports exists in a vacuum would have been dishonest (The New York Times)

The mass exodus of Deadspin’s staff two weeks ago started with Barry Petchesky, who was fired from his role as editor in chief for refusing to follow G/O Media’s sports-only coverage rule. He writes, “Reporting sports with integrity requires knowing that there’s no way to wall off the games from the world outside.” Great Hill Partners bought G/O Media seven months ago, part of a trend in private equity firms managing media companies and often making drastic cuts to maximize profits. “This strategy is cynical enough when the victim is something like Toys ‘R’ Us; it’s a societal crisis when it comes for journalism,” Petchesky says.

+ Related: G/O Media faces two lawsuits from former execs, alleging discrimination (CNN)


How The Boston Globe is using a suite of niche products to cover the booming business of marijuana (Storybench)

After hooking tens of thousands of readers with its weekly cannabis newsletter, The Boston Globe hired a team to launch a section devoted to marijuana about a year ago. The Globe also has a daily subscribers-only newsletter geared toward those who work in the industry, and staff spend several hours of their week on newsletter products. “They’re subject matter experts at a level that just would not be the case if they were trying to do two or three things at once,” said Matt Karolian, general manager of the section. “It also allows us to maintain a level of being goal-orientated around a business standpoint.”