Need to Know: October 9, 2018

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


You might have heard: Newsroom employment dropped nearly a quarter in less than 10 years (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Newsroom employees earn less than other college-educated workers in U.S. (Pew Research Center)

According to a Pew Research Center study, newsroom employees are more than twice as likely as other U.S. workers to be college graduates, with nearly 8-in-10 possessing a college degree. But they also tend to earn less than workers in other industries. The median earnings of newsroom employees with a college degree are about $51,000, compared with roughly $59,000 for all other college-educated workers. One reason for the lower median earnings of college-educated newsroom employees is that they tend to have degrees in the arts and humanities. Workers with these degrees typically earn less than those with degrees in other areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Across all industries, the median earnings for college graduates with an arts and humanities bachelor’s degree are about $50,000, compared with about $68,000 for those with undergraduate degrees in science, engineering and related fields and about $63,000 for those who majored in business.

+ Noted: ASNE’s 40-year-old diversity survey (still) needs responses before it can be released (Poynter); FactStream app posts latest fact checks from, PolitiFact and The Washington Post (Duke Reporters’ Lab)


How to build an audience from scratch (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: As it expanded into the post-secondary beat, journalism nonprofit EducationNC visited all 58 community colleges across North Carolina in one week to build relationships, surface issues, identify sources, and begin building a wholly new audience. 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.


Verifying your own writing without a dedicated fact-checking team (International Journalists’ Network)

In newsrooms where there isn’t a dedicated fact-checker, it’s important for journalists to have a process to double-check their own work. Cristiana Bedei rounds up a few suggestions from experts: Print out your draft and go through it with a red pen, circling names, numbers and other facts and checking them off once you’ve verified them, says Bill Adair, founder of PolitiFact. Verify high-stakes facts first — information that, if you have it wrong, could open you to a lawsuit or harm someone. When reporting on public officials, ask them to back up their claims with sources. When reporting on scientific research, consider how it fits into other literature, and reach out to scientists who weren’t directly involved in a particular study to get their perspective. Finally, “Read the story from the perspective of your biggest critic and plug any holes in logic and sourcing as appropriate,” says Brooke Borel, journalist and author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking.


EU calls for fast inquiry into killing of Bulgarian journalist (Reuters)

The European Commission urged Bulgaria on Monday to conduct a rapid investigation into the killing of journalist Viktoria Marinova as hundreds of mourners held vigils in her hometown and cities throughout the Balkan country, reports Angel Krasimirov. “There is no democracy without a free press … We expect a swift and thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice,” the Commission said in a tweet. Bulgaria is the lowest-ranked member of the European Union with regard to press freedom. While there has been no link established to Marinova’s work so far, the killing occurred just a few days after the journalist appeared on air to speak about an investigation into alleged misuse of EU funds.

+ The silencing of a Saudi truth teller (Columbia Journalism Review); “If the Saudi crown prince thought he could stifle criticism by murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi, let’s prove him wrong. Here are Jamal’s columns, and the @washingtonpost has now made them accessible outside the paywall so anyone can read.” (Twitter, @NickKristof)


Google’s privacy whiplash shows big tech’s inherent contradictions (Wired)

Google announced yesterday that it is shuttering its Google+ social network, following revelations by the Wall Street Journal that the company did not disclose a recently discovered bug that exposed data from up to 500,000 Google+ users, reports Lily Hay Newman. In the same breath, Google introduced new tools to give users more control over the data they share with apps and services that connect to Google products. The company says that the Google+ discovery spurred its focus on expanding user privacy protections. But the move has not mollified those who are questioning why Google didn’t disclose the bug in the first place. “I think we’re past the point where Google should get to decide if Google has done enough to address a problem,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “A company deciding on its own whether or not it thinks it should notify [customers] is never the right answer, because there’s no incentive to take the criticism and the stock hit.”


The media must cover climate change ‘like it’s the only story that matters’ (The Washington Post)

The United Nations report on climate change, released this weekend, carried perhaps the grimmest news on the subject yet: The world has barely 10 years to get climate change under control, before irreparable damage sets in. The problem requires sustained focus by the news media, writes Margaret Sullivan, which goes “very much against the grain for the distraction-prone media and the news-weary public.” Finding a compelling, immediate angle on the environment to compete with palace intrigue or horse-race politics will not get any easier, says Sullivan. But “just as the world, especially the United States, needs radical change to mitigate the coming crisis, so too for the news media. Journalists and news organizations all over the world — but especially in America — need their own transformation” to keep the story front and center in a way that sparks change.


The great disconnect: How journalists at local and national outlets are evolving different skill sets (Nieman Reports)

As local news jobs shrink around the country, many young journalists flock to digital outlets based in major East Coast cities, where they’ll learn different skills than if they worked in local news, writes Steve Myers. And many of those skills web production, writing search- and social-friendly copy, aggregating stories, and writing hot takes on the biggest stories in the news cycle are not transferable to local journalism. Reporters in small markets exercise their reporting and writing muscles every day, learning how to interview, build sources, develop a beat, and frame stories. “It’s as if local and national news — or more precisely, local legacy media and national digital media — reside on separate islands in the Galápagos, evolving with their own needs and characteristics,” writes Myers.