Need to Know: Nov. 20, 2019

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


 You might have heard: Texas Tribune and ProPublica are joining forces to publish investigative journalism in Texas (ProPublica)

 But did you know: Two Texas Tribune journalists are launching a national news organization for women (The Texas Tribune)

Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Emily Ramshaw and chief audience officer Amanda Zamora are launching a national news nonprofit dedicated to giving women the tools they need to participate equally in democracy. Both staffers plan to stay until the end of the year in their current roles at The Texas Tribune, a state-focused news nonprofit that was one of the first to successfully pioneer the business model a decade ago. Ramshaw said on Twitter, “… The only thing I care about as much as informing and engaging with Texans on politics and policy is informing and engaging with women on politics and policy. And that’s what I’m devoting my next chapter to.”

+ Noted: Research shows the average household has almost four newspaper, magazine or streaming subscriptions (Digital Content Next); Jimmy Finkelstein, the owner of The Hill, has flown under the radar. But he’s played a key role in the Ukraine scandal (CNN); Joshua Johnson to leave 1A for MSNBC (1A)


Trust Tip: Remind your audience news is more than politics and crime (Trusting News)

Building trust is an uphill battle if our audience associates journalism only with polarizing topics like politics, writes Lynn Walsh. She suggests showing your community your reporting range on social media or in an article. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


 How news outlets can make email newsletters more effective (The Local News Initiative)

Newsletters have been linked to improved subscriber loyalty and engagement, and journalists have a lot of options for fine-tuning these products to meet their goals. One area to consider is length. “The longer it is, the less likely that some non-trivial percentage of your audience will make it to the end,” said Charlie Meyerson of Chicago Public Square. But some popular newsletters are lengthy, like Reliable Sources by CNN’s Brian Stelter, which averages over 3,100 words. Edge Group founder Ranjan Roy argues that readers are more likely to remember to read long newsletters than a specific story that isn’t already sitting in their inbox.

+ How Condé Nast plans to make money from Instagram TV (Digiday)


How exiled journalists keep investigating the countries they fled (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

In 2017, a team from the US-funded Radio Free Asia’s Uighur service broke the story of mass concentration camps in western China. The reporters also were exiles, journalists who face unique reporting challenges while covering repressive governments from abroad. After a government crackdown destroyed the Burundi radio station where Ines Gakiza worked, she fled to Rwanda, where she continues to report on her native home. Her biggest challenge has been developing diverse sources in Burundi, but she and other exiled journalists have a knack for connecting with whistleblowers. Ewald Scharfenberg, who fled Venezuela for Columbia, said sources “trust us with leaks because we are in Bogota — they are secure that we are not under certain pressures.”

+ The UK Conservative Party pretended to be a factchecking service during a debate (The Guardian)


How can large-scale investigations work without driving journalists to the point of burnout? (

The Panama Papers was the largest collaborative data journalism project in history and a major success, but there’s another side to the story. Burnout forced four of the five leaders behind the project to take at least a year off from journalism after the story broke. Investigative data journalist Mar Cabra left the industry after the end of the project, which she said was marked by 16-hour days, skipped meals and little sleep. “Projects like this sometimes come at a high personal cost, so we should be thinking about how can we have projects like this be done repeatedly without burning out,” Cabra said.

+ Snapchat fact-checks political ads, unlike Facebook, says CEO Evan Spiegel (CNBC)


Polgreen: Major corporations should give advertising dollars to news orgs (The Guardian)

Rampant misinformation and widening news deserts signal a collapse of the information ecosystem, writes HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen, adding that “the scale of the threat is hard to overstate.” At the same time that technology has given legs to propaganda, the biggest tech companies have gained 70 percent of digital advertising revenue. Meanwhile, journalism organizations are seeking new profit models, “but this is not enough to make the provision of high-quality and affordable information sustainable,” Polgreen says. She suggests that all major corporations reserve $50 billion in digital advertising funds for high-quality news instead.

+ How the Gannett/GateHouse merger could deepen America’s local news crisis (The Brookings Institution); CEOs of new Gannett: ‘Pivot’ needed for digital transformation as merger is completed (USA Today)


How the push notification came to rival the Six O’Clock News (New Statesman)

Although push notifications are a valued way to reach audiences, just 1 percent of those who receive a push alert will click on it to read the story. Still, push notifications give news organizations another way to compete for readers’ attention. In some newsrooms, editors collectively determine what to send as push alerts, and one individual may be responsible for the final decision and making it happen, a role filled by the front page editor at the BBC. Some journalists acknowledge that push notifications are intrusive, leading news organizations to limit the number they send each day.

+ Print archives show past impeachments. Where will we go in the future to find the history being made today? (Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute)