Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: September 6, 2018

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


You might have heard: The New York Times took the rare step of publishing an anonymous op-ed by a senior Trump administration official, which claims many in the administration are “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses” (The New York Times)

But did you know: The story behind The New York Times anonymous op-ed about the ‘resistance’ inside the Trump administration (CNN)

Several days ago a senior official in the Trump administration used an intermediary to contact New York Times op-ed page editor Jim Dao. Through the go-between, the senior official expressed interest in writing an explosive piece for the paper, describing a “resistance” to President Trump within the government that works overtime to protect the United States from the president’s worst impulses. The result, published on the New York Times’ website on Wednesday, prompted speculation all across Washington about who the official is. The op-ed came on the same week that the excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” have revived conversations about Trump’s behavior and fitness for office. Dao said that as far as he knows, “this is a coincidence,” meaning the senior official’s outreach was not related to the Woodward book. Major newspapers almost never publish unnamed op-ed pieces. At The Times, it is very rare, but not quite unprecedented.

+ Related: How The Times explained its decision to publish the editorial to readers (The New York Times); Our recent study found that most people know what anonymous sources are, but not why journalists use them

+ Noted: Facebook and Twitter testified before Congress Wednesday on their efforts to combat foreign interference in the midterm elections (The Washington Post); News Deeply will “sunset” three of its single-subject news sites (Medium, News Deeply); GroundSource partners with the Lenfest Institute’s Solution Set to launch an SMS newsletter, or “textletter” (Medium, Simon Galperin); Patrick Dorsey to replace Susie Biehle as publisher of the Austin-American Statesman (GateHouse Media)


Covering poverty: What to avoid and how to get it right (Journalist’s Resource)

As journalism has evolved into an elite profession that draws well-educated men and women, it becomes harder to cover poor and working-class communities accurately. (Our recent study showed 57 percent of journalists and 49 percent of the public think that news organizations portray low-income people inaccurately.) Heather Bryant and Denise Marie-Ordway, two journalists who grew up poor and still have strong ties to the working class, offer tips for journalists to better connect with and portray these communities. Here are a few to start with: Avoid representing people experiencing poverty as one of three character types — the victim, the criminal or the exception. Seek out sources who are experiencing poverty for all kinds of stories — not just stories about poverty. Avoid using words such as “poverty-ridden” and “poverty-stricken,” which are vague and rely on stereotypes, and instead use words that clearly convey the specific information you want to share. And try to avoid depicting poverty only as despair. “If your newsroom’s aggregate coverage of poverty focuses extensively on tragedy, you are missing part of the story,” Bryant says.

+ Related: Covering children of color living in poverty (Poynter)

+ We like how ProPublica answers audience questions about its journalism, showing how its reporters approach things like anonymous sources and FOIA (ProPublica)


Local product quotas for Netflix, Amazon to become law (Variety)

A new law will require Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services that operate in the European Union to dedicate at least 30 percent of their on-demand catalogs to local content, reports Nick Vivarelli. Netflix, Amazon and other streamers will be required to fund TV series and films produced in Europe by commissioning content, acquiring it or paying into national film funds through a small surcharge added to their subscription fee. Other European Union rules being developed are intended to force streamers and user-generated platforms like YouTube to pay increased copyright fees to film and TV directors and writers.

+ Learn about collaborative journalism projects from around the world with this new searchable database (Center for Cooperative Media)


When a job is more than a paycheck (American Economic Association)

Economists have only just begun to study the nonmonetary rewards of work, research that could yield important insights into how companies motivate their employees, says Columbia Business School professor Stephan Meier. In a report published this summer, Meier identified four basic ways people derive meaning from their work: the organization’s mission; autonomy (the more autonomy people have in their roles, the more meaningful their work feels); competency (the opportunity people have to use their skills and talents in an optimal way); and the ability to form social connections through work. “I’m not arguing at all that people just work for nothing and just for good feelings,” said Meier in an interview with AEA. “I think monetary incentives are still very important. But if we limit ourselves to think that everything people care about is money, I think we’re missing a huge part of what motivates people to show up for work, to work, and to be engaged in the work.”


Now Twitter edits The New Yorker (The New York Times)

After a public outcry on social media, New Yorker editor David Remnick rescinded his invitation to former Trump advisor Steve Bannon to be interviewed at the magazine’s annual ideas festival. “As a friend recently remarked with respect to another publication that quickly capitulated to online furies, what this really means is that Remnick is no longer the editor of The New Yorker,” writes Bret Stephens. “Twitter is. Social media doesn’t just get a voice. Now it wields a veto.” Stephens argues that Remnick’s disinvitation has only served to keep Bannon’s name in the news, “no doubt to his considerable delight,” and “turned a nativist bigot into a victim of liberal censorship.” It also corroborates that view that the news media is a collection of left-wing group thinkers, he says.

+ Trump suggests libel laws should be changed after uproar over Woodward book (The Washington Post)


Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook (Pew Research Center)

A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows that most American Facebook users have made significant changes in how they interact on the platform, including reducing their usage of it. Just over half (54 percent) have adjusted their privacy settings within the last year; while four in 10 (42 percent) say they’ve taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more. Another 26 percent say they’ve deleted the Facebook app from their phone. Notably, 44 percent of younger users (those ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year, which is nearly four times the share of users ages 65 and older (12 percent) who have done so. Younger users were also much more likely to have adjusted their privacy settings (64 percent had done so, compared to roughly a third of older users).

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

The American Press Institute

Our mission

We help transform news organizations for an audience-centered future.

Our programs for publishers focus on four things:

  • 1. Understand your audience
  • 2. Get your audience to pay
  • 3. Transform your culture
  • 4. Do your best journalism
  • Find out more about API »

API solutions for publishers

What we can do for you

API offers a suite of original tools and services for solving the biggest challenges in news:

  • Decide what beats to cover and how
  • Identify and develop the skills you need
  • Assess and improve your culture
  • Drive more reader revenue
  • Drive loyalty through accountability journalism
  • Make analytics work for you
  • Contact us to find out how »