Need to Know: Oct. 21, 2019

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


You might have heard: Despite repeated efforts by Congress, the United States is still the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee its citizens paid family leave (New York Times)

But did you know: The Washington Post now offers 20 weeks of paid parental leave; here’s what other U.S. news orgs provide (Nieman Lab)  

As of January 1, The Washington Post will expand paid parental leave from four weeks to 20 — five months — for all new parents, whether or not they gave birth. Paid parental leave policies vary wildly at news organizations; Gannett, for example, offers six weeks of paid leave, whereas McClatchy currently offers zero. Bloomberg appears to be the most generous, at 26 weeks, and NPR is currently at eight. 

+ Noted: Thomson Reuters begins search for new chief executive (Financial Times); Freelance writers scramble to make sense of new California law that limits their articles to 35 a year (Hollywood Reporter)


How to retain subscribers by keeping their engagement levels high over time 

The latest addition to API’s Reader Revenue Toolkit looks at ways to keep subscribers engaged, from quizzes and exclusive content, to chronicling their reading experience and reminding them of benefits they may be missing out on. 


Here’s how researchers got inside 1,400 private WhatsApp groups (Nieman Lab)

“With no APIs, tools, or best practices in place to help outsiders tap into ongoing activity inside closed groups,” researchers from Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism gained access to private WhatsApp groups the old-fashioned way: they did a Google search for “WhatsApp invite links.” In fact, they found entire websites whose sole purpose is to aggregate WhatsApp invite links, and were even able to cherry-pick the ones most relevant to their purpose: monitoring the flow of information on WhatsApp during the Indian election. 

+ Earlier: There actually are best practices on gaining access to closed or semi-closed platforms like WhatsApp (Nieman Lab)


Australian newspapers black out front pages to fight back against secrecy laws (The Guardian)

The front page of every newspaper in Australia was blacked out Monday in a concerted effort to protest the federal government’s anti-whistleblowing laws. The campaign, led by the Right to Know Coalition, follows raids on ABC’s Sydney headquarters and the home of a News Corp journalist in June, the legality of which is being challenged in the nation’s high court. It also comes as two whistleblowers are facing jail time for revealing abuses of power in the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Australian Tax Office. “This morning’s newspapers are brought to you by government secrecy provisions, misuse of FOI and stifling defamation laws,” tweeted one reporter, along with a photo of the “redacted” front pages. 


The problem with accounting for employees as costs instead of assets (Harvard Business Review) 

Companies will often describe employees as their “most valuable assets” — but under current accounting standards, employees are considered costs. That’s because, unlike actual assets, companies have no control over when an employee chooses to leave and take their skills elsewhere. But the distinction “allows companies to hide behind platitudes and not disclose whether they invest in their workers in ways that promote long-term success,” writes Ethan Rouen. “We need a new way to account for labor so that we can track and reward companies for how they actually treat their employees.”


Who split America? A journalist looks to his own for answers. (Washington Post)

In a new book, veteran Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi accuses the American media industry of intentionally driving a wedge in American politics in order to drive profits. “In 2016 especially, news reporters began to consciously divide and radicalize audiences,” he writes. “. . . As Trump rode to the White House, we rode to massive profits. The only losers were the American people, who were now more steeped in hate than ever.” Taibbi also accuses “the bulk of reporters today” of being “soldiers” for one party or the other, a broad sweep that Ann Marie Lipinski, reviewing the book, believes is an overreach. “There’s an honest moment early in the book when Taibbi acknowledges that ‘a lot of us are quietly struggling’ to find the balance between traditional journalism standards and the pressure to politicize content,” she writes. “I’ve heard this from many journalists and wished for more exploration of this tension.”

+ Why is the hyperlink policy at The New York Times so inconsistent? (Vice)


When the student newspaper is the only newspaper in town (New York Times)

In Ann Arbor, Mich., the duty of keeping residents informed about the doings of their local government falls on four student reporters at the University of Michigan. The student newspaper has been the only daily paper in Ann Arbor for more than a decade. “We’ve been given this mantle of holding the powerful accountable, five nights a week, with no department backing us up,” said Finntan Storer, 21, the managing editor of The Daily. “It’s a huge responsibility.” In a sign of how seriously The Daily takes its responsibility to fully cover the city, Maya Goldman, 21, was elected editor in chief only after she was able to name the 11 members of the City Council, along with their wards and party affiliations.