Need to Know: September 17, 2018

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


You might have heard: Local news has borne the brunt of the crashing journalism ecosystem (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: $20 million is heading toward local news from the Lenfest Institute and Knight Foundation (Nieman Lab)

After initially joining forces to boost Table Stakes — their project to boost the nation’s metro newspapers — the Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute are each putting $10 million into a joint fund targeted at local news, writes Christine Schmidt. The collaboration will expand Table Stakes to meet “the technology, business, and audience realities of the future” to include as many as 16 new regions and especially ethnic media. It will also create a hub for sharing best practices on using certain journalism technology (think Chartbeat,, WordPress) and bolstering journalism tools like DocumentCloud; as well as invest more into Philadelphia, home of the Lenfest Institute and a city of focus for the Knight Foundation, as a “live lab” for testing news products, the strategies from Table Stakes, and other ideas. The fund is a five-year commitment, with at least four organizations (not necessarily limited to newspapers) joining Table Stakes through 2024. The initiative will periodically call for applications to the next round.

+ Noted: Time magazine sold to Salesforce founder Marc Benioff for $190 million (The Wall Street Journal); New database connects journalists to historians who can provide context for current events (Organization of American Historians); Twitter now puts live broadcasts at the top of your timeline (TechCrunch); 2018 Online Journalism Award winners include The Washington Post, The Marshall Project and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting (Online Journalism Awards)


‘The key is … getting them addicted to our content’ (Poynter)

The Houston Chronicle revamped its newsletter strategy last year, growing its morning report newsletter from 1,000 subscribers in January to 20,000 in August. Executive Editor Nancy Barnes said that they are positioning newsletters as a key driver to the larger subscriber funnel. By the end of this year, she expects, the Chronicle likely will have more readers coming to its subscriber website through newsletter click-throughs than home-page visits. “The key is finding new audiences and delivering content to those new audiences and getting them addicted to our content,” Barnes said. It might be that unbundling parts of your content is a next step, she added, potentially creating different types of niche products to drive new streams of income.

+ Related: How to use newsletters to build a sustainable revenue stream (Better News)

+ The end of the year is the most popular time for charitable giving as people get in the holiday spirit. Here’s Propublica’s year-end fundraising playbook, which both nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms can use to convince readers to support their work, whether that’s through membership, subscriptions, or some other direct contribution. (Lenfest Institute)


It’s getting more difficult for foreign journalists to work in the U.S. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Since April 2017, when President Trump issued his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, immigration officials have made what seem like small changes to policy that add up to large obstacles for foreign journalists aiming to work for U.S. outlets, writes Amanda Darrach. Attorney Rakhel Milstein told Darrach that, among her clients, there has been a 6 percent drop in approvals for the O-1B visa, the documentation required of those entering the U.S. to do creative work. “The laws for O-1’s are the same as ever, but the processing has changed significantly under the Trump administration,” said Milstein. USCIS used to send back 5 to 10 percent of Milstein’s cases with requests for further evidence, but in the recent months, around half of the case files did not pass initial review.

+ The Daily Mail’s “screaming handbrake turn” on Brexit as it takes a different tone under new editor Geordie Greig (Press Gazette)


Close your browser tabs. You won’t miss them. (Motherboard)

“As a writer, I know a lot of other writers, and I hear a common refrain among the writerly set — they have billions of tabs open, each with a potential new thing to read that they hope to get to someday, but might not ever see,” writes Ernie Smith. Smith argues in favor of being a “tab minimalist”: “I’m a human being that consumes a lot of information on a given day, someone who can turn a wild goose chase into a structured work. I’m aware that the next important detail might be hiding behind the next tab, like the world’s smallest needle in the world’s largest haystack. But by keeping every tab open, I let the haystack win because I give every piece of information the same amount of value.” He suggests bookmarking or pinning tabs that you really care about — and don’t panic about losing something valuable because you closed a tab: If you really want to get back to something, search your way to it through your browser history.


‘We’re expanding our right-to-be-forgotten experiment’ (

Two months ago launched a “right-to-be-forgotten” experiment, fielding people’s requests to have their identities removed from stories about minor crimes they’ve committed. (Strongly opposed by free speech advocates, the “right to be forgotten” is at the heart of an ongoing legal controversy with far-reaching implications in the European Union.) is now forming a newsroom committee to consider requests from those whose embarrassing stories were not based in court. “Fairness will be the principle that guides us,” writes editor Chris Quinn. “We will try to answer the question, case by case, as to whether the harm being done to the people who seek our help outweighs the value to the community of the information remaining public.”

+ Abusive media moguls harmed more than just individual women. They shaped a misogynistic culture. (The Washington Post)


‘More than crime and poisoned water’ (ONA)

During ONA18, Zoe Jackson, an intern in the conference’s student newsroom, recalled her recent experience interning for a newspaper in Flint, Mich. “During my first week, I wrote a brief profile about a group of teens who were cleaning up the Civic Park neighborhood for a first-time festival. It was a simple story, but one that received hundreds of shares online. Many people expressed gratitude on social media for the newspaper’s effort to shine a light on something positive.” Jackson says that while the ongoing water crisis and the city’s high crime rate can’t be ignored, stories that look beyond those highly-reported problems tended to resonate with the local community. “I learned that these ‘small’ stories aren’t such small stories, and they matter,” she wrote. “They aren’t less important than crime or the water crisis. They’re important because they show the full, multifaceted picture that Flint is.”