Need to Know: Oct. 30, 2019

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


You might have heard: Deadspin’s staff was ordered to stop covering topics that weren’t related to sports (The Daily Beast)

But did you know: G/O Media executive defends firing Deadspin editor for not sticking to sports (The Daily Beast)

On Monday, G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment ordered Deadspin’s staff to stop covering topics that weren’t related to sports. A day later, the company fired deputy editor Barry Petchesky “for not sticking to sports,” the journalist said on Twitter. “We are sorry that some on the Deadspin staff don’t agree with that editorial direction, and refuse to work within that incredibly broad mandate,” Maidment said. In April, private equity firm Great Hill Partners purchased Gizmodo Media Group, now G/O Media, and the sports-only mandate followed several months later, leading to clashes with staff.

+ Earlier: When she quit in August, former Deadspin editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell wrote about how the “stick-to-sports” policy conflicted with healthy traffic from non-sports content.

+ Noted: NBC News adding digital jobs, but laying off some staffers (Axios); Newspapers allege Maryland political ads law violates First Amendment (Associated Press); Ex-Fox News employees ask for NDAs to be lifted in wake of NBCUniversal decision (Deadline); Judge rules Elon Musk can’t depose BuzzFeed reporter in defamation case (Twitter, @RMac18); GateHouse owner and Gannett announce board of directors for post-merger company (USA Today)


Trust tip: Use plain English in your disclosure statements (Trusting News)

Disclosure statements are the perfect opportunity for transparency, so don’t let coded language get in the way. Joy Mayer recommends also adding language to reflect that your newsroom has a system to ensure conflicts of interest don’t impact your journalism. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 


Does your news organization owe African Americans an apology? Here’s how to do it the right way.  (Poynter)

In recent years, publications like the Montgomery Advertiser and National Geographic have written editorials apologizing for decades of racist coverage. Robin Hoecker, assistant journalism professor at DePaul University, breaks down what makes an institutional apology effective. She writes that apologies from a publication’s top editor or editorial board can have greater impact because they suggest an institutional change is underway. Apologies also sound more sincere if they are issued proactively, rather than during a public relations crisis, and they work best if they incorporate research from staff and outside resources on historical coverage issues.


Hong Kong reporter protests police harassment of media covering civil unrest (Press Gazette)

During Sunday’s Hong Kong protests, police clashed with journalists, detaining one and targeting others with tear gas and pepper spray. In response, a Hong Kong reporter interrupted a press conference with police this week to protest law enforcement’s treatment of journalists who are covering months-long demonstrations in the city. The reporter, who was later identified as freelance journalist Amy Ip, said that press freedom in Hong Kong is under attack, while shining a high-powered flashlight at police — the same type of flashlight that police have shined on journalists during the protest.

+ Earlier: The Hong Kong protests are also a fight for a free press (Nieman Reports)


How to use the unexpected to get out of a creative rut (Source)

Journalists and other newsroom workers can bump into occasional anxiety-inducing creative blocks. During a SRCCON (pronounced “source-con”) session, participants brainstormed strategies to get out of this head space, including embracing the unexpected. For instance, Katie Park, a developer for The Marshall Project, previously stumbled upon a design concept after accidentally adding type to a CSS inspector, causing a graphic to morph into something new that was worth exploring. Another idea comes from musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt, who created a deck of cards called Oblique Strategies. The cards, meant to break creative block, include prompts like, “What would your closest friend do?”


Reporter on Katie Hill scandal promotes GOP candidates for her seat (Politico)

After publishing the photos that would lead Democrat Katie Hill to resign from the House of Representatives, RedState deputy managing editor Jennifer Van Laar expressed support for several Republicans to fill her seat. Van Laar, RedState and the site’s owner, Salem Media Group, transparently lean to the right. But reporter Michael Calderone writes that “Van Laar’s shift from reporting on Hill, and publishing what some have deemed ‘revenge porn,’ to promoting Republicans for Hill’s old job is a blurring of roles that would be unacceptable in mainstream newsrooms.”


Arizona’s high court clamps down on photos, video in public places including sidewalks, court steps (Arizona Republic)

A recent order from the Arizona Supreme Court bars photography, video recording, live streaming and other types of broadcasting at Phoenix and Tucson’s appellate court buildings. Critics have said the restrictions, which apply to entrances, hallways, parking lots and even sidewalks, are unconstitutional and will limit public and media access to the court. The order does provide a recording exemption to those who receive permission to record from the subjects of a proceeding, as well as a high-ranking court official like the chief justice or chief judge.

+ Hellvetica is a horrific take on the famous typeface (The Verge)