Need to Know: November 23, 2020

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


You might have heard: Search engine optimization has created a service journalism revival (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

But did you know: Service journalism has driven reader engagement during the pandemic (CNN)

Stories and newsletters that offer advice and guidance on everything from home improvement to investing have mushroomed this year. The Washington Post, for instance, has produced multiple newsletters that bring readers tips on how to master skills like baking or developing a routine when time is difficult to measure. Outlets doubling down on this consumer-oriented journalism technique are drawing from their roles as trusted guides for their audiences. “Some of the huge influx of audience that we’ve seen around the pandemic is people just trying to follow the news really closely because it really impacts their daily life right now,” said Tessa Muggeridge, the Washington Post’s subscriptions and engagement editor. “We’re trying to get those people engaged with a product that might solve a problem in their own life.”

+ Related: How the Philadelphia Inquirer applies a service approach to reporting from across the newsroom (American Press Institute)

+ Noted: Indiegraf to expand into the United States with investment backing from New Media Ventures (Indiegraf); The News Media Alliance is accepting nominations for the 2020 John P. Murray Award for Excellence in Audience Development (News Media Alliance); Local and national news network Capital B to launch to serve Black Americans (Twitter, @KO_616)


Journalists can change the way they build stories to create organic news fluency 

Journalists should consider it their job to build stories in a way that shows people the difference between good reporting, bad reporting and outright fakery. Here are templates for nine story types, to help journalists construct them in a way that proactively resolves doubts and questions audiences may have.


Daily news podcasts build new listening habits (Reuters Institute)

Less than 1% of podcasts are focused on daily news, but those shows account for 10% of all downloads in the United States. Some shows, like The Daily from The New York Times, have bigger audiences than some broadcasters and newspapers. Publishers from around the world have invested in daily news podcasts to attract and engage more deeply with younger audiences. The pandemic initially decreased listening opportunities like daily commutes, leading to a decline in downloads, but the market has been resilient overall, especially for daily news podcasts, which have become the most successful genre. 


Journalists accuse French government of curtailing press freedoms (The Washington Post)

Under a French bill that would ban the filming of police, offenders could receive a fine equivalent to $53,300 in U.S. dollars and up to a year in prison. The government says the law would protect on-duty officers and that journalists would be exempt, while French news outlets have argued the measure is an attempt to restrict law enforcement coverage. When this measure became the subject of a protest last week, police arrested a public television journalist for filming the event.


For news outlets, demand for software developers continues to grow (Northwestern University Knight Lab)

The news industry is increasingly relying on programmers, who create data journalism interactives and other newsroom tools, including content management systems. At some news organizations, programming teams also work closely with departments focused on other parts of the user experience. For instance, Vice Media director of web product Breana Jones said that she explains code improvements in terms of audience engagement. Pages that load faster lead to more engagement, for example.

+ Related: Condé Nast plans to fill 300 engineering and product positions in the next year (Financial Times)


When to use (and avoid) anonymous sources (NPR, @lourdesgnavarro)

Some coverage of the Trump campaign’s efforts to subvert the election has cited unnamed Republican sources who have expressed skepticism toward the strategy. Lulu Garcia-Navarro, co-host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, argues that while using anonymous sources is acceptable under certain circumstances, it “truly should only be granted to people in power sparingly and certainly not if all they are providing you is a version of spin seeking to make them look better.”


On Facebook’s News Feed, there’s not a lot of news (Nieman Lab)

Laura Hazard Owen wanted to get a better idea of what people saw on Facebook, so she asked users to send her screenshots from the first 10 posts in their feeds. During the month of October, about 170 adult Facebook users sent her samples from their feeds, which contained little news. In her survey, 54% of participants didn’t see any news in the first 10 posts in their feeds, and 46% saw one or more posts with news. Just 19% of respondents in the study were conservative or mostly conservative, groups that were most likely to view a news story while scrolling through Facebook.

+ A judge ordered Michael Pack, who oversees Voice of America, to stop investigating journalists and other attempts to control the news service’s journalism (NPR)