Need to Know: September 25, 2018

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


You might have heard: Blockchain-and-journalism startup Civil launches token sale; says 100 percent of proceeds will go to the Civil Foundation to fuel grants for worthy journalism projects (Medium, Matthew Iles)

But did you know: Aiming to attract buyers who aren’t cryptocurrency nerds, Civil is offering a way to buy its tokens with regular old cash (Nieman Lab)

Civil has been running its initial coin offering — think IPO for cryptocurrencies — since Sept. 17, just over a week. In that time, it’s drawn lots of complaints about the baroque and buggy process one must go through to actually get your hands on the virtual CVL tokens that are Civil’s virtual currency, writes Joshua Benton. Now, Civil is attempting to simplify the process by making it possible to buy CVL tokens using direct payments. “In other words, instead of first buying one cryptocurrency (Ethereum) in order to buy another (CVL), you can just use…non-cryptocurrencies (old-fashioned things like dollars) to buy CVL,” writes Benton. Meanwhile, Civil is under the clock to generate at least $8 million from this initial coin offering for the sale to go forward. If it falls short, everyone gets their money back.

+ Earlier: How to buy into journalism’s blockchain future (in only 44 steps) (Nieman Lab); “‘Here is a tremendously complicated purchasing process for a monetary system of dubious worth attached to a journalistic process of unknown value’ seems to be the entire value proposition.” (Twitter, @dansinker)

+ Noted: Bloomberg is expanding its Twitter network TicToc into a full-fledged media brand (Digiday); Reddit’s largest pro-Trump subreddit appears to have been targeted by Russian propaganda for years (BuzzFeed News); SiriusXM to buy Pandora in all-stock deal valued at $3.5 billion (CNBC)


How journalists can talk less and listen more (Source)

Often when journalists are listening, we’re really looking for an opportunity to ask another question, to quickly extract the information we need, writes API’s Director of Newsroom Learning Amy Kovac-Ashley. But what if this way of listening is creating a barrier between journalists and the communities we’re supposed to be representing? Many newsrooms are now using what is called “focused listening” to better understand and build trust with their communities. Two conditions for focused listening: recognize that a community may feel wary of, or even angered by, local media due to past inaccurate or slanted coverage, and be mindful of the power dynamic that exists when journalists show up to cover a story. “Journalists wield a lot of power just by the nature of what we do,” Kovac-Ashley says. “We need to make others comfortable before they are willing to talk with us.”

+ Related: Our latest report explains how focused listening can strengthen reporting and improve relationships, particularly with communities that have traditionally been marginalized or misrepresented by news coverage.

+ One way to stay sane amidst this week’s media maelstrom is to have a healthy skepticism, writes Margaret Sullivan: Know your source, and trust the stories you like even less than those you don’t want to believe. (The Washington Post)


Irish newspapers join forces in campaign to cut tax on print, say Irish journalism is ‘at a crossroads’ (Press Gazette)

Local and national newspapers in Ireland are calling on the government to slash the Value Added Tax rate on newspapers to help protect the industry for future generations, reports Dorothy Musariri. Currently consumers pay a reduced 9 percent VAT rate for newspapers in Ireland, but the campaign is pressing the government to use part of its 2019 budget to reduce the rate to 5 percent. It has also asked for Ireland’s draconian defamation laws to be reformed, and calls for the appointment of a Minister for Media and a News Publishers Media Fund to help drive innovation and investment in a training support scheme for all journalists. “Without the supports and investment, and clarity on VAT rates, the sector will not be able to thrive and invest, but will falter and publications will be forced to close or at best scale back on the good, independent journalism that has been a bedrock of Irish democracy,” said Vincent Crowley, chairman of trade group NewsBrands Ireland.

+ WhatsApp appoints grievance officer to curb fake news in India (Livemint)


In a screen-filled world, word of mouth is still key (AdWeek)

According to a new study, consumers consider personal experience to be the most valued source of information about brands, followed by brand familiarity and recommendations from loved ones. These sources beat out online reviews, advertising and even recommendations made by friends on social media. Moreover, the study found that Generation Z and Millennials were those most likely to recommend brands after hearing positive feedback about them from friends or family. “I’m fascinated that in this world of 24/7 digital engagement, face-to-face word of mouth is becoming more influential, not less, among those most connected,” said Susan Baier, founder of the research firm Audience Audit, which conducted the study.


Why editors can no longer publish and be damned (The Guardian)

“Making heinous mistakes of fact or opinion is not an option for editors in a subscriber-driven world,” writes Emily Bell. “Upsetting readers and sponsors in economically perilous times weighs more heavily on editorial decisions, or the reversal of same … Public shaming for what are perceived as poor decisions can have serious financial consequences for a newsroom.” With readers applying enormous pressure on publishers via social media, newsroom editors are put into the risky position of deciding whether to exercise their right not to publish or amplify certain types of content. In the current highly politicized environment, writes Bell, these decisions are typically cast as a struggle between what many see as an over-amplified far right and what the right would describe as a liberal elite.


In Oregon, three news organizations are teaming up to cover state government (Poynter)

Four years ago, as the number of reporters covering statehouses continued shrinking, two news organizations started working together to cover state government in Oregon. Now, they’re adding a third. The Salem Reporter, which launched online in September, joins Pamplin Media Group and EO Media Group. The three organizations will form the Oregon Capital Bureau. The Bureau will offer its work for free to newsrooms that don’t compete with the three news organizations, said Joseph Beach, editor and publisher of the Capital Press of EO Media. It also publishes a weekly newsletter, the Oregon Capital Insider, which has already gained more than 84,000 subscribers, according to the Salem Reporter. “We can do a lot more together than if we were trying to compete with each other to try to provide the same in-depth coverage and get people to pay for the service or sponsor the service,” said Les Zaitz, editor of Salem Reporter and the Malheur Enterprise.

+ On the 80th anniversary of the Nieman Foundation, Nieman Fellows reflect on the journalism that’s left an indelible mark on them and their careers (Nieman Reports)