Need to Know: October 1, 2018

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


You might have heard: Minority journalists comprised just 16.6 percent of the workforce in U.S. newsrooms in 2017 (ASNE)

But did you know: The White House press room is overwhelmingly white (The Washington Post)

The press corps that covers the president has long been overwhelmingly composed of white reporters, writes Paul Farhi. The White House reporting staffs of the largest and most prominent outlets, particularly newspapers and newswires, tend to be the least racially diverse of all. Despite efforts going back to the 1960s, when a group commissioned by the Johnson administration reported that the racial divide in America was due in part to a highly segregated media, news organizations overall have only slowly become less white, lagging far behind changes in the general population. The White House beat — arguably the beat with the highest profile — may be among the most resistant to change; with no minority reporters among those from The New York Times, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and USA Today, reports Farhi. “The lack of diversity in the White House press corps is unsettling,” said Sarah Glover, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. “News organizations should have staff that reflect the communities they serve … A White House press team without ethnic diversity is a complete missed opportunity.”

+ Noted: Internet, social media use and device ownership in U.S. have plateaued after years of growth (Pew Research Center); The Washington Times settles lawsuit over its coverage of the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, issues retraction and apology (CNN); CBS faces probes in New York tied to Moonves allegations and workplace culture concerns (Variety)


Using links to keep readers on news sites (Center for Media Engagement)

Recirculation, or the percentage of users who visit another page of your website after they finish reading their first article, is driven in part by links that promote other content on the site. This makes links critical components of news sites. The Center for Media Engagement analyzed how seven local broadcast newsrooms use links, and identified factors that generated the highest click-through rates: Link layouts containing images generated 63 percent more clicks than those that consisted of only text; links at the end of a page generated 55 percent more clicks than links in the middle of a page; and overall, using related content instead of popular content led to a 14 percent increase in clicks.

+ Bloomberg Media is using text-to-audio to keep app users engaged (Digiday)


A local French site is trying to reach new audiences through events (Lenfest Institute)

Local news site Rue89 Strasbourg hosts about four community gatherings each month, holding interviews in bars and setting up “open newsrooms” around its hometown of Strasbourg, as part of its strategy to build a more loyal audience and attract potential subscribers. “For about two years, we have decided to go bigger and bigger on the events because we need to strengthen our ties to our readers and community,” said founder Pierre France. “We think events are the best way to go because if people are willing to subscribe, they need to know us.” Rue89 works with a local movie theater to host monthly film screenings, which often attract up to 200 people; bar interviews typically get around 100 attendees; and the “Connect Neighborhoods” open newsrooms (sponsored by the state ministry of culture) are designed for much smaller groups of about a dozen participants. Most of the events are free, and overall revenue generated typically just covers costs. “This year is really an investment,” said France. “If it doesn’t produce new subscriptions, we’ll have to lower the pace.”


As Google turns 20, what does its future offer advertisers? (AdWeek)

Major shifts in how people use Google are challenging the company to find new advertising opportunities, writes Ronan Shields. One shift is the rise of “assistive computing” — approximately 20 percent of Google search queries from Android devices are now voice-based. In terms of consumer expectations, this means the precision of search results has to be higher as usage migrates to non-screen devices. “The next revolution is that we will provide, as part of our cloud offering, something I’d call ‘machine learning as a service,’” said Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer; which essentially means using machine learning to test which campaign creative operates best in a given environment.


Why it’s morally more hazardous to own social media than a newspaper (Polis)

“Media ownership without agenda may be at least as dangerous for the quality of our political life as the old robber barons who used their newspapers as political pamphlets,” writes George Pitcher. Pitcher argues that the enormous, pervasive influence of social media puts more pressure on the owners of these platforms to serve as moral arbiters; a role which Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and other new media leaders have emphatically disclaimed. “If you operate a form of situation ethics — the idea that you apply varied moral standards depending on the situation you find yourself in — then, as many a newspaper proprietor has discovered, you can be pulled into the gutter by the situation,” writes Pitcher. “But if you exercise no influence over your own media situation too, you will be pulled into the gutter by other people. It’s a lesson Zuckerberg & Co are currently learning.”


How a college dropout became a champion of investigative journalism (The Guardian)

The 39-year-old founder of Bellingcat, an investigative website that has broken scoop after scoop — including last week’s blockbuster unmasking one of the alleged perpetrators of the novichok attack in Salisbury, England — never intended to be at the vanguard of open-source journalism, writes Jamie Doward. Eliot Higgins started in 2011 with a fact-checking blog, and now, through Bellingcat, employs a staff of 10 and has a cadre of volunteers, in addition to an audience well-versed in examining social media and open sources to make connections mainstream journalists might miss. “We get a lot of our money from donors like the Open Society Foundation and we also get about 50 percent of our income from workshops that we offer,” said Higgins. The training, which focuses on open source and social media investigation, is directed at journalists, NGOs, lawyers and “people in the business and intelligence worlds,” he said.

+ Fresno Bee reporter Bill Patterson went to jail to protect a confidential source. His legacy changed journalism. Patterson died last Sunday at the age of 91. (Fresno Bee)