Need to Know: Oct. 10, 2019

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


You might have heard: The U.S. Justice Department gives Gannett-GateHouse merger the green light (Fox Business)

But did you know: The Gannett–GateHouse merger is really happening, but expect to see more than 10% of jobs cut off the top (Nieman Lab) 

With the antitrust division’s approval in hand, Gannett and GateHouse are expected to move forward with their merger, bringing all the companies’ news products across 265 markets under one umbrella by the New Year. “Never before in U.S. history have we seen a single company own and manage so much of the American newspaper business — about one of every six dailies,” writes Ken Doctor. “Readers, advertisers, and journalists will feel the reverberations of the Gannett–GateHouse merger for years to come,” he adds, as the unified company prepares to trim more than 10% of jobs from the business side, merge onto one CMS and combine its other business functions (“a true motley array of systems,” says Doctor), and take aggressive moves to achieve the promised $300 million in cost-cutting synergies.

+ Noted: Defense Intelligence Agency employee charged with leaking classified information to journalists (Washington Post); The Washington Post releases “Launcher,” a new section dedicated to video gaming and esports (Washington Post); LION members can sign up for Civil (and its site monetization tools) for free (Twitter, @ckrewson)


How the Greeley Tribune used a ‘mini-publisher’ team to boost revenue around food and drink discount cards (Better News)

The Greeley Tribune’s “Go+Do” mini-publisher team, which was focused on the audience segment that “enjoys going out to eat and drink,” refreshed its restaurant discount program with new restaurants and breweries and an invigorated marketing campaign. 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.


Using data as content: The publishers’ ‘secret weapon’ to break through the noise (What’s New in Publishing)

News analytics company has found that its best-performing blog posts in terms of viewership and engagement take a “data as content” approach. If the data is highly relevant to your audience, it’s not always necessary to translate the findings into text — let the numbers speak for themselves, writes Clare Carr. “Ask questions! Test out the answers as content, and see what resonates with your audience.”

+ Related: ProPublica’s “Collaborate” tool and AP’s Datakit help newsrooms tackle large data projects (ProPublica and AP); Stanford initiative collects and cleans data to aid local reporting (Global Editors Network)  


How Spanish political candidates are attempting to outsmart fact-checkers (Poynter)

Spain is about to hold its second national election in six months — and its fourth in four years. The short election cycles keep Spanish digital news site Maldita on its toes. Its fact-checking team has moved quickly to debunk some of the same hoaxes and baseless claims that surfaced in previous elections, for example. But the team has also noticed that seasoned politicians are starting to adopt sneaky tactics for getting around fact-checkers, including hiding old videos on YouTube and choosing words that make their statements difficult to verify. “Some campaigns are… providing more generic claims,” said coordinator Nacho Calle. “We’re seeing fewer declarative statements and the campaigns are using words like ‘almost,’ ‘practically,’ ‘I think,’ making claims harder to check.” The team is responding by producing more explanatory pieces that give context to vague claims.

+ Related: Colombia’s chief of intelligence resigns after fact-checkers reveal his use of misleading photos (Poynter); The European Commission calls for a “digital media observatory” that will monitor and fight disinformation online (European Commission)


Consumers say a quality ad environment is even more important than a personalized one (Digiday)

In a new study from Integral Ad Science, 83% of consumers surveyed said it’s important that ads are placed next to high-quality content, a slightly higher number than those who say it’s important that ads are personally relevant (80%). Just 13% said they would engage with ads that are adjacent to low-quality content, and 81% said they are annoyed when a brand appeared next to low-quality content. Sixty-two percent said it would even drive them to stop using that brand’s products or services.


What actually is CNN? (Columbia Journalism Review)

CNN beat reporters can be extremely good at their jobs — but it’s something that Emily Tamkin, CJR’s public editor for CNN, often needs to be reminded of. Tamkin argues that the reporters’ good work is often obscured by the punditry, round tables, talking heads, horse race politics and, well, yelling that typically dominates the network’s prime-time coverage. “CNN is very good at focusing relentlessly on the screaming dystopia of domestic politics,” she writes. “Sometimes I wish it weren’t, so we could see what it really does best.”

+ “Their requests are like a wish list for Santa Claus”: Foreign journalists often make dangerous (and ridiculous) requests of local fixers, requests that can leave fixers in positions of risk once the story is over and the foreign journalists have left. (San Diego Union-Tribune) 


How a tiny Alaskan public broadcaster ended up in Facebook’s crosshairs (Popular Information) 

“Your page has repeatedly shared clickbait.” That was the warning that KTOO, a public radio station based in Juneau, Alaska, received from Facebook after it posted one story headlined “If you think Juneau’s municipal ballot measures are confusing, you’re not alone,” and another that declared “This old Alaska mining town is almost a ghost town. It has everything to gain from Donlin mine.” Facebook notified KTOO that it was restricting the reach of its content on the platform, and the station’s attempts to appeal the decision have received unsatisfactory responses. Digital media manager Ryan Cunningham noted the “irony that Facebook, which created the market for clickbait by rewarding content that evoked an emotional response with a firehose of traffic, had now decided that his small Alaskan radio station was the problem.” 

+ Earlier: Facebook quietly changed the language of its advertising policies to make it easier for politicians to lie in ads (Popular Information); Facebook’s hands-off approach to political speech gets impeachment test (New York Times)