Need to Know: October 19, 2018

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


You might have heard: A Treasury official is charged with leaking bank reports to journalist (The New York Times)

But did you know: The Trump administration’s new method for cracking down on leakers (Columbia Journalism Review)

The Trump administration has now indicted at least five journalists’ sources in less than two years’ time — a pace that, if maintained through the end of Trump’s term, would obliterate the already-record number of leakers and whistleblowers prosecuted under eight years of the Obama administration, writes Trevor Timm. The latest case, which broke on Wednesday, shows the administration taking advantage of a new avenue to go after a potential whistleblower. Instead of using the archaic Espionage Act — the 100-year-old law meant for spies, not sources — prosecutors are pursuing the latest alleged leaker using financial laws. Senior Treasury official Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards faces one count of “unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports” and one count of “conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports,” which violate codes protecting information involving foreign financial transactions.

+ Related: Former FBI agent also sentenced to four years in prison this week for leaking documents to The Intercept (The New York Times)

+ Noted: Trump praises Greg Gianforte, Congress member from Montana, for assault on Guardian reporter (The Guardian); Twitter pulls down bot network that pushed pro-Saudi talking points about disappeared journalist Jamal Khashoggi (NBC News); Fox Business pulls out of Saudi business conference amid Khashoggi probe (Poynter); Scripps to acquire Triton, an industry leader in digital audio infrastructure (ABC Action News); Grant application deadline extended to Oct. 31 for public radio stations to test revenue ideas with WBUR (WBUR)


API’s Gwen Vargo talks about audience metrics and subscription models on ‘It’s All Journalism’ podcast

Gwen Vargo, director of reader revenue at API, joins “It’s All Journalism” producer Michael O’Connell to discuss how to get readers to first click on the articles reporters spend so much time creating, and then how to take it a step further and get them to subscribe.

The week in fact-checking

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of “The Week in Fact-Checking” newsletter, Khashoggi misinformation highlights a growing number of fake fact-checkers; Brazil battling a “tsunami” of misinformation during presidential election; and a game that teaches students how to spot misinformation.


How editors in Cleveland are trying to build a more compassionate newsroom (Nieman Lab)

Chris Quinn, the editor and president of Ohio, is leading the charge to make local newsrooms more compassionate through a unique take on the concept of the right to be forgotten, writes Laura Hazard Owen. Quinn has changed’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories, and it no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes in its stories. In decisions to remove names from past stories about minor crimes, “A lot more people [in the newsroom] were vehement that we should adhere to the old newspaper standard where you never change anything,” Quinn said. “But we were hearing from people who clearly were suffering, because this stuff kept coming back to haunt them … It really comes down to: How long does somebody have to pay for a mistake?”


Financial Times launches new tool to help ‘knowledge-hungry’ subscribers track their reading (

“FT subscribers are knowledge-hungry, but sometimes they struggle with context, knowing what to read next and why,” said James Webb, group product manager for the Financial Times. That’s why the FT launched Knowledge Builder, a tool to help readers track amount of information they read about a topic, and suggest other articles for them to read. The tool also “gamifies” news consumption by allowing readers to earn points as they read articles on various topics, which flow into a “progress bar” that shows them how much they’ve learned on a given topic. Webb’s team will track click-through rates on recommended articles versus latest stories, completion rates, the number of stories a user reads in one visit, and whether visual cues draw in lower-engagement users. “If we can get disengaged users to visit one extra time every 90 days and read just one extra article on a topic they are already engaged on, this could be worth up to £1.5 million a year,” Webb said.


Signs you’re making your job harder than it needs to be (Business Insider)

If going into work feels like slogging through mud, you may be making your job (and your life) harder than it needs to be, writes Julia Tell. But almost any situation on the job can be improved if you just get out of your own way. Procrastinating on difficult tasks and missing out on opportunities to collaborate (or simply asking for help when you need it) are some of the ways you may be making your life harder at work. Shrinking from decision making can also bring on frustration. “People who insist on finding the absolute best solution to a problem tend to be less satisfied with their choices than people who make quicker decisions,” writes Tell. “Try to make a good decision, one where you will be fine with the outcome. Then move on to other tasks. You’ll waste less time and feel better, too.”


Who is Facebook to define what is ‘legitimate’ news? (BuzzFeed News)

Last week Facebook purged 559 pages from its site, saying the pages had broken the company’s rules against spam and exhibited “inauthentic behavior,” writes Marc Belisle. “From 2014 to 2017, I worked as the world affairs editor at Reverb Press, one of the pages that was targeted. Facebook’s characterization of the kind of work we did — and our motives for doing it — is wrong, and those who support a free press in America should be very worried about how the company disappeared our page.”


What podcasts are teaching traditionally text-based reporters (Poynter)

Two new podcasts, “Gladiator” from the Boston Globe (which debuted No. 1 on the iTunes podcast chart this week), and “Carruth” from the Charlotte Observer, provide ample training grounds for traditional text reporters, writes David Beard. The producers have a few tips for reporters working in both platforms: First, record as much as you can. “You’ll be surprised at what you want to use, and what you end up using,” says Scott Fowler, a reporter for the Charlotte Observer. Focus on the people who are the subjects of your story, and their complexities, motivations and backstories. And collaborate editorially and business-wise as you never have before. The Boston Globe partnered with Wondery Media (of “Dirty John,” “Dr. Death,” and “Felonious Florida” fame) to help with marketing, negotiations with iTunes and ad-selling, and “Carruth” was a product of McClatchy Studios and Storied Media Group, which has brokered the NYT-WBUR collaboration “Modern Love” and the NYT’s upcoming “36 Hours” for the Travel Channel.

+ Are Facebook’s bad metrics to blame for “pivot to video”? Publishers disagree (The Wall Street Journal)


+ Why Matt DeRienzo, former executive director of the nonprofit group Local Independent Online News Publishers, is heading back into newspapers: “I do believe there’s a hierarchy when it comes to the big newspaper companies. You have publicly traded companies that manage heavily to the next earnings report and the stock price. You have a startling number of daily newspapers now owned by companies controlled by hedge funds that have no background in the business of journalism, and likely no long-term future … And then you have companies such as Hearst, which has a long-term commitment to and track record of investing in local journalism.” (Poynter)

+ The online tools we use to do our jobs — Airtable, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Slack, you name it — are great, but who doesn’t still appreciate (and rely on) a well-designed planner? Here are some journalist favorites. (Poynter)

+ Brooklyn’s Eyebeam Center invites artists to delve into journalism: The grant program, called the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism, is the first of its kind in providing commissions — ranging from $500 to $5,000 — for artists to produce journalism for major media outlets. (The New York Times)