Need to Know: Nov. 19, 2019

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Product teams have taken national news organizations by storm — but at local outlets, the work is still mostly done by people in other roles (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Publishers are having trouble hiring for product roles (Digiday)

In a new survey by Digiday, publishing executives said the most important roles they’re looking to hire in the coming year are product developers and product managers. Product roles have become the new must-have job capability within publishers, but they require a diverse and unusual skill set: the ability to work effectively with both the business and editorial sides, while developing new products that could take the form of anything from event series, to newsletters, to new multimedia opportunities. In the survey, 58% of respondents said product managers were the most difficult role to hire for.

+ Earlier: We wrote about how to hire effective product managers for a news organization

+ Noted: El Tímpano will test text message distribution to reach immigrant communities (IJNET); Chalkbeat is the first nonprofit news org to join Chorus, Vox Media’s publishing platform (Ad Week)

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TRY THIS AT HOME

More evidence — this time from a small publisher — that readers are willing to pay for accountability journalism (Nieman Lab)

The northeast Kansas-based Shawnee Mission Post is one of the few small publishers that have managed to successfully implement a paywall. Two years after they introduced it, they’ve found that while stories about car crashes and crimes may drive up page views, the content that converts readers into paying subscribers tends to be the kind of stories journalists often find more rewarding. “The accountability journalism, the Civics 101 content we put out there — that was the kind of stuff that seemed to get people over the hump and giving us money every month,” said publisher Jay Senter.

+ Earlier: One way to get reporters to buy into metrics? Show them places where the data confirms that they and their audience want the same things — like watchdog stories or unique angles on routine coverage.

OFFSHORE

No, artificial intelligence won’t take over journalists’ jobs — the ‘human touch will be at a premium’ (Polis)

A study examining how newsrooms around the world have adopted AI found that the majority don’t use it all — just 37% have an active AI strategy. Those that do said they’re mostly interested in using AI for efficiency and for targeting audiences with more relevant content. While AI promises a significant boost for news orgs who figure out ways to harness its potential, it could ultimately widen the gap between large and small newsrooms. “There was a significant fear of their newsroom falling behind,” noted Charlie Beckett, the study’s author. “This was a particular problem for small newsrooms, raising the prospect of growing inequality between small and large organisations.”

OFFBEAT

‘No one believes anything’: Voters worn out by a fog of political news (New York Times)

A new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 47% of Americans believe it’s difficult to know whether the information they encounter is true. Just 31% find it easy. And 60% of Americans say they regularly see conflicting reports about the same set of facts from different news sources. In the midst of President Trump’s impeachment inquiry, this inability to agree on a common set of facts has many Americans turning away from the news altogether. National politics has started to look like eyewitness testimony, said one: “People can see totally different things, standing right next to each other.”

UP FOR DEBATE

Journalism movements that are changing the industry’s culture — for the better (Twitter, @jayrosen_nyu)

The professional culture of the press is conversative in the sense that it tries to preserve the conditions and practices that have historically made it possible to do good work, writes Jay Rosen. But when so much about the traditional news business model is changing, when trust in the media is low, and when polarization is high, that conservativism can become a handicap. Rosen points out several movements within the industry that are trying to alter its culture in a positive way: engagement journalism, solutions journalism, less extractive journalism, and more attention to mental health in the newsroom. “Nothing I have seen while watching these emerge suggests they are going away soon. The shocks to the system have been so many that the culture of the press is evolving.”

+ Earlier: What exactly is engagement and what difference does it make?

SHAREABLE

Why a TV station recruited climate skeptics to go on a fact-finding road trip (Poynter)

Last year, a reporter from WFAA in Dallas, Tex., issued a broad invitation on Facebook: Anyone who doubted whether climate change was real could nominate themselves to accompany him on a reporting trip to go to Alaska, meet climate experts and see the effects of climate change firsthand. More than 200 people responded; Justin Fain, a roofer from Dallas, was chosen. The approach is what reporter David Schechter calls “citizen-assisted reporting.” He’s taken several other viewers on similar road trips in an attempt to make the reporting process more accessible to the public — particularly when it comes to complex, divisive topics like climate change or immigration. Fain said that the experience changed his opinion about climate change — though not that of his friends — and caused him to think more about how his personal experiences match up with what he learned.