Need to Know: Nov. 14, 2019


You might have heard: GateHouse and Gannett shareholders will vote today on whether to approve a merger of the two companies; cuts are expected to begin next week (Poynter)

But did you know: McClatchy’s financial distress has the company exploring options — including a sale (Poynter)

McClatchy reported a series of financial setbacks Wednesday so severe that it may not be able to meet its obligations in 2020, including a $120 million pension funding payment due in the spring, reports Rick Edmonds. The company stated in a press release yesterday that the payment “greatly exceeds the company’s anticipated cash balances and cash flow.” As a result, it has retained financial and legal advisers to explore options, which is typically the first step of a company in considering a sale. McClatchy’s revenue losses continue to be worst among publicly traded news companies — 12% overall compared to the same period a year ago, and 19% in total digital and print advertising. Out of yesterday’s earnings report, however, there was a nugget of good news: Paid digital-only subscriptions rose to 199,200, a 45% increase compared to the same quarter in 2018.

+ Noted: The News Impact Project is calling for submissions about local reporting’s community impact (News Media Alliance); Tribune Publishing shutters Spanish-language newspaper Hoy in Chicago (Nieman Lab); Accelerate Local announces The TV Membership Project to drive new consumer engagement and revenue (Local Media Association); Financial Times names first woman as top editor in its 131 years (New York Times)


What Americans and the news media do — and don’t — understand about each other

As part of the Media Insight Project, a joint effort between API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, we surveyed journalists and members of the public to understand the miscommunication that often occurs between the two. See the most common misassumptions journalists make about their audiences, and vice versa — and how they could be hurting your newsroom.


Put news feeds at the end of articles, and readers may just keep scrolling (What’s New in Publishing)

Although “finishable news” certainly has its fans, now there’s research to suggest that readers are psychologically compelled to consume content that’s presented in a feed at the bottom of articles. A study from Nielsen shows that people’s cognitive load is lowest immediately after finishing an article, which means they’re most willing to take in new information. While publishers often offer up additional story recommendations, the study found that people may prefer to see a continuous feed at the end of an article. The feeds were found to generate 20% more attentiveness and a 17% higher emotional response among readers than articles without content recommendations at the bottom. “People are being fed continuous scroll feeds on almost every major social platform — and there’s a great amount of psychological evidence explaining why this keeps audiences consuming content,” the study’s authors noted.


There is a growing tribe of truth warriors fighting false news in India (Poynter)

In India, low literacy rates combined with skyrocketing rural internet usage and extreme linguistic diversity have created a climate ripe for viral disinformation. In response, fact-checkers and fact-checking groups have begun to proliferate, supported by training organizations like Internews and DataLEADS. The movement has also urged many of India’s mainstream news organizations to form dedicated fact-checking desks and web sections. “As one of the country’s largest media groups, it became our responsibility to take steps to combat the increasing tide of misinformation,” said Rajesh Upadhyay, editor-in-chief of a fact-checking website launched by the Dainik Jagran media group. “We owe this to [our readers]. It was the need of the hour.”

+ Related: Sri Lankans fear violence over Facebook fake news ahead of election (The Guardian)

+ A BBC division made glowing sponsored content for Huawei, and BBC News reporters are horrified (BuzzFeed News)


‘It was just a joke’: How satire is used to excuse disinformation in elections (First Draft News)

Multiple recent incidents point to an emerging trend of political parties invoking satire or humor as a justification for disinformation. From the U.K. to Brazil to the U.S., politicians and their supporters are using satire to “bypass fact-checkers and to distribute rumours and conspiracies, knowing that any push back can be dismissed by stating that it was never meant to be taken seriously,” said Claire Wardle, co-founder of First Draft. While satire is a sure sign of a healthy democracy, it’s traditionally done in a way that leaves the audience in no doubt about what is true and what is not, writes Alastair Reid. “This is also the key legal distinction that separates satire from defamation in some countries. Crucially, satire is not supposed to be believed by an audience.”


University of Illinois is stifling NPR reporting on sexual misconduct, critics say (New York Times)

The university, which owns the license for NPR Illinois, has a policy that requires NPR member station reporters to disclose information about sources who say they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted. The policy has come under fire as NPR Illinois, in partnership with ProPublica, published an investigation into whether the university protected the reputations of professors accused of sexual misconduct. After the university notified the station that it could not promise confidentiality to sources, the station’s leadership and reporters pushed back, writing an open letter to the university asking for an exemption to the policy. The letter noted that such a decision could have broad implications for NPR member stations around the country, two-thirds of which are licensed to, or affiliated with, colleges and universities.


How a podcast created a language app to better serve its audience (Reuters Institute)

Radio Ambulante, an award-winning Spanish-language podcast that covers untold stories from Latin America, kept hearing from listeners that they were using the podcast to improve their Spanish. They also noticed that roughly one-fifth of the listeners engaging with their website or responding to surveys did so in English. So they partnered with a startup called Jiveworld to develop Lupa, a language-learning app that transforms stories from the podcast into simple but effective language lessons. Subscriptions to the app start at $10/month. “The revenues feed directly back into Radio Ambulante’s mission in journalism and Jiveworld’s mission to transform language learning,” said Radio Ambulante co-founder Carolina Guerrera. Though the app is still in the early days, she added, they’ve had paying subscribers from the very first day.

+ The New York Times’ obsession with Trump, quantified (Columbia Journalism Review); Podcasts furiously vie to control impeachment narrative (Politico)