Need to Know: September 12, 2019

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


You might have heard: The failing diversity efforts of newsrooms (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: American newsrooms should employ more people of color, annual ASNE survey finds (Poynter)

The American Society of News Editors’ annual Newsroom Diversity Survey finds newsroom diversity mostly unchanged from the prior year. According to the survey, 22 percent of newspaper newsrooms and 19 percent of their leaders are people of color, compared to the general population’s 24 percent. At online-only organizations, 31 percent of full-time staffers  are journalists of color, up from 25 percent the year before. Women, who dominate journalism education programs, still make up less than half of newsroom staffers. This year’s response rate to the survey was stronger than last year’s, with 429 newspapers and online-only publications participating, for a response rate of 23 percent.

+ Noted: ThinkProgress to be archived after union threatens “legal options” against the Center for American Progress (The Daily Beast); Turning fake news against itself: AI tool can detect disinformation with 92% accuracy (What’s New in Publishing); The Athletic ventures outside the paywall and into advertising (Bloomberg)


Sign up for the next free Trust 101 class

Trusting News is offering another session of its Trust 101 class that explores how to earn your community’s trust. This free, five-week course will take place in October and November, and you can apply here.

+ Here’s where to find the Trusting News team today and tomorrow during ONA. 


Mediahuis shares lessons from reader activation efforts (International News Media Association)

Engagement strategies at many newsrooms often take place apart from the marketing department. Belgian media company Mediahuis, which has spent the last few months closely studying users’ reading habits, found that collaboration between marketing teams and newsrooms is essential. Because the most loyal readers are also the most likely to renew their subscriptions, Mediahuis markets content to push subscribers to check out more content. Newsrooms provide lists of articles to the marketing team, which plugs the stories into ads for subscribers. Mediahuis’ sites also have used web notifications and personalized newsletters to keep subscribers plugged in.


This new position at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism ensures its journalism makes a difference (Nieman Lab)

Like many of us, Miriam Wells got into journalism because she wanted to make a difference. Now, as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s first impact editor, Wells is dedicated to just that – making sure that the UK-based publication and its collaborators usher in change. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. “We know journalism cannot bring about change on its own — but it can be a really effective piece of a bigger movement of actors and events that do bring about change,” Wells said in an email to Nieman Lab.

+ More than 460 journalists at Le Monde asked the publication’s owners to guarantee their editorial independence by granting them a right of approval for new controlling shareholders.


Fundamentals first: Why getting your house in order should come before innovation (AdAge)

Jeff Adelson-Yan writes that while advertising and media industries receive praise for successful creative endeavors, core work like insights reporting and tracking standards takes place in the background. “Without doing all the little things well, innovation and great creativity are extremely hard to find,” he writes. Much of this comes down to strategic planning. After determining your organization’s goals, develop a strategy that includes elements like content, analytics goals and specific tactics you plan to take. Offering context on these moving parts will help you and your team members better understand your organization’s approach and whether or not it’s working.


How a small sample size yields an unreliable statistic (The Atlantic)

Deep within a grueling review of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “Talking to Strangers,” Andrew Ferguson shone a light on the importance of understanding where data comes from. In his book, Gladwell claimed that the suicide rate of poets is five times higher than that of the general population. Ferguson questioned how this could be calculated, given the low number of working poets and the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t include poets in its standard list of occupations. Ferguson examined Gladwell’s source for the information, then traced it back to a study of just 36 poets born from 1705 to 1805. “Voilà!” Ferguson wrote. “A statistic is born.”

+ Related: On Twitter, Fordham University School of Law professor John Pfaff described this as “an excellent lesson on why you should always track down the original source of seemingly-unlikely statistics. Because often secondary sources launder really bad counting.”


Express, commuter newspaper published by The Washington Post, shuts down after 16 years (The Washington Post)

Twenty journalists have been laid off as part of the shutdown of Express, The Washington Post’s free weekday paper geared toward Metro riders. Post management said the paper was folding because it was losing money. The Metro system’s addition of WiFi undoubtedly caused riders to focus on their own smartphones, rather than papers like Express. “This Monday morning, as I rode the train to work … three people on my crowded Blue Line train were reading Express (thank you!),” executive editor Dan Caccavaro wrote in a final column running today. “One man had his nose in an old-fashioned book. Almost everyone else was staring at a phone.”

+ Playwrights shadowed Dallas Morning News reporters to write 2020 play about local journalism (The Dallas Morning News)