Need to Know: November 14, 2018

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


You might have heardCNN sues President Trump and top White House aides for barring reporter Jim Acosta (CNN)

But did you know: The CNN lawsuit isn’t just about Jim Acosta’s White House badge (The Hollywood Reporter)

CNN’s Jim Acosta may or may not regain regular access to the White House as a result of the lawsuit filed Tuesday. But if President Trump chooses to stand firm on the position that the White House has the right to deny Acosta a “hard pass” to regularly attend briefings, his administration better be prepared for a new ball game of transparency in its relationship with the press, writes Eriq Gardner. “…This new case isn’t just about credentials, nor is it even merely about the First Amendment. CNN’s lawsuit also alleges a violation of the Fifth Amendment and it’s this cause of action that could provide Acosta’s best chance of prevailing.” In the 1977 case Sherrill v. Knight, which provides precedence for CNN’s lawsuit, another reporter sued after being denied White House press credentials. While the D.C. Appeals Court noted that the president has discretion when it comes to interviews and briefings, Sherrill ultimately prevailed because the court ruled that refusal to grant press access must be based on a compelling government interest.

+ Reporters Committee and Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection file brief in support of CNN’s lawsuit against the White House (RCFP)

+ Noted: WhatsApp awards $1 million for misinformation research (Poynter); Quartz plans paid-for business coverage and new app (The Financial Times); Online advertising business continues to grow at double-digit rates, reaching $49.5 billion in the first half of 2018 (TechCrunch); The New York Times digitizes millions of historical photos using Google Cloud technology (The New York Times)


How the Bay Area News Group used Slack to improve internal communication during breaking news (Better News)

The Bay Area News Group streamlined communication using Slack by creating three #bigstory channels — announcement, feeds, and logistics. The process simplified how editors and reporters communicate during big, breaking stories. It also created sub-channel threads to keep the conversations separate and easy to follow. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


Introducing: The email newsletter benchmarking tool (Medium, Shorenstein Center)

For newsrooms that use MailChimp for email newsletters, the Shorenstein Center has released a free email benchmarking tool. Enter your MailChimp API key, and the tool will send you a “report card” of six key metrics that matter: overall list size, list composition, overall open rate, the distribution of your open rates, the percentage of your list that opens 80 percent of the time or more, and the percentage of your list that hasn’t opened in the past year. For all of those metrics, with the exception of the distribution of your open rate, the tool gives you both your newsletter’s metric and the average metric for all other users of our tool (“average” referring to the mean across all lists in the data set). The more users in the system, the more accurate the benchmarking becomes.


France to ’embed’ regulators at Facebook to combat hate speech (Reuters)

Facebook will allow French regulators to “embed” inside the company to examine how it combats online hate speech, the first time the wary tech giant has opened its doors in such a way, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday. From January, Macron’s administration will send a small team of senior civil servants to the company for six months to verify Facebook’s goodwill and determine whether its checks on racist, sexist or hate-fuelled speech could be improved. “It’s a first,” Macron told the annual Internet Governance Forum in Paris. “I’m delighted by this very innovative experimental approach,” he said. “It’s an experiment, but a very important first step in my view.”


Applying UX design to a local news app (Medium, Lenfest Local Lab)

UX designer Faye Teng worked with the Lenfest Local Lab to design a location-aware app that delivers news to users based on their location in Philadelphia. After research and analysis, the team dove into phase two: design and testing. Teng used the design tool Sketch to create simple  —  or low-fidelity  —  wireframes with placeholder items to define the app’s flow. She then created mid-fidelity wireframes with actual content to optimize for real scenarios, going through several iterations that led to a few key changes to the app. Step three was creating a visual design that can be used in high-fidelity wireframes, for which Teng created two mood boards with differing visual styles. In the final design step, the team went through multiple iterations with high-fidelity wireframes, which yielded important final changes to the app, including adding a motion-detection feature that allows users to determine when and how they receive news notifications.


So some people will pay for a subscription to a news site. How about two? Three? (Nieman Lab)

The path forward for premium media is seemingly clear: Put up a paywall. But how many paywalls will people pay to click past? If someone’s first digital subscription is to The New York Times or The Washington Post, how many are willing to pay for a second, or a third, or a fourth news site — especially if that second or third site costs as much or more than their favorite national daily? “To frame it another way: There’s a segment of the population” — 16 percent, according to a Reuters survey of U.S. consumers — “that can grudgingly be convinced to pay for a news site, out of some mix of consumer reward, civic duty, and peer pressure,” writes Joshua Benton. “But that second or third subscription requires a level of devotion that can be hard to sustain in a digital environment where the links come at you from every direction.”

+ An answer: API’s research shows that 53 percent of Americans pay for news; Among newspaper subscribers, 55 percent pay for two to four kinds of publications (i.e., print newspaper, digital newspaper, print magazine, etc.) and 30 percent pay for five or more kinds of publications. Subscribers to non-newspaper sources tend to pay for fewer types of sources — 58 percent pay for just that one magazine or digital source.

+ Climate change plays second fiddle as California burns: “There is clear contextual evidence of the role of climate change in California’s worsening wildfire problem, and not enough outlets have cited it” (Columbia Journalism Review)


Covering gun violence from a solutions angle (Journalist’s Resource)

Media coverage of mass shootings is problematic for many reasons, says journalist German Lopez. There’s evidence that it has a “self-perpetuating” effect, in that it inspires “copycat” shootings. There’s also a tendency to provide nonstop coverage when a mass shooting occurs, with reporting on very specific details about the tragedy; rather than focusing on larger issues around gun control and gun violence. “If you do want to focus on mass shootings in particular, there’s a lot of work you can do there,” says Lopez. “You can talk to experts about why these keep happening, you can start walking through … not even just gun control policies, but other policies that might be effective for preventing mass shootings. There’s a lot of journalism you could do there that doesn’t focus just on the latest mass shooting to happen and the specific details that came out of that.”

+ Related: “I am sick of media outlets making a case for hopelessness and stalemate after the latest mass shooting,” wrote Guardian journalist Lois Beckett. “There are ways to prevent some of these these shootings. But people don’t know about them because WE DON’T COVER THEM.” Beckett cited the Gun Violence Restraining Order law, which could have prevented the shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “California has had this law since 2016, but many family members/law enforcement still don’t know the law exists … Public education and awareness are crucial here. And that’s our job.” (Twitter, @loisbeckett)