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What to look for before writing a story about an academic study

Facebook is 15 years old. And there are certain things, if we believe the reams of headlines we see based on social science studies, that we now think we know about its effect on human behavior. It can cause people to commit hate crimes, one set of headlines suggests. Older Americans spread more fake news, […]
Posted: February 19, 2019, 7:46 pm

It’s time for a “radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people,” the British parliament says

Companies like Facebook are behaving like “digital gangsters,” British parliament said in a final report on disinformation and fake news released on Sunday after 18 months of work, and it’s time to rein them in. “We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people. The age of inadequate...
Posted: February 19, 2019, 7:00 pm

Must aid be an ethical dilemma?

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing 200,000 people, destroying Port-au-Prince, and leaving more than a million people homeless. Reporters from the United States flew to the scene, and a debate quickly emerged about the role of journalists in such a desperate situation. Doctors who worked as medical correspondents for major news […]
Posted: February 19, 2019, 5:05 pm

So is Spotify now the inevitable next King of Podcasts? Or will it struggle, like everyone else, to get past Apple?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 196, published February 19, 2019. Sort-of reader mailbag: Spotify edition. It’s Spotify Day +13. My inbox has pretty much started to chill after all the news, which has given me some time to sift through and check out what’s been occupying the Hot Pod...
Posted: February 19, 2019, 3:07 pm

Andrew McCabe’s book makes headlines—and sells

As has become common in the Trump era, a book tour just jump-started an important news cycle. Last Thursday morning, 60 Minutes dropped clips from its interview with Andrew McCabe, the former acting director of the FBI, pegged to his new memoir, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. Around the same time, The Atlantic released an excerpt. McCabe’s claims on 60 Minutes—that officials discussed how Trump might be removed from office under the 25th Amendment and that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, offered to wear a hidden wire to record the president—have driven sustained media interest in the book, even though, according to NPR, they don’t specifically appear in it. As The Threat hits shelves today, McCabe will be plugging it on NBC’s Today show.

Amid the excited amplification of McCabe’s claims, some outlets took time to assess the reliability of his narrative. Some reporters scrutinized McCabe’s sourcing, stressing, for example, that another striking claim—that Trump took Vladimir Putin’s word on North Korea over that of his own intelligence staff—is second-hand, not a personal recollection. Others pointed out that McCabe was fired from the FBI last year; in a report subsequently delivered to Congress, the Justice Department inspector general accused him of violating the bureau’s media policy, then misleading investigators about it. Writing on Friday, Josh Campbell, an FBI staffer turned CNN analyst, asked, “With so many people involved in the book now caught lying, how are we to make sense of things?”

ICYMI: Matt Gertz tracks how Fox News manipulates Trump

The Justice Department’s motives in painting McCabe as dishonest should be handled with care. Beyond this wheel of intrigue, however, simpler questions beg answers. As Katy Tur asked on MSNBC, is McCabe believable, or is he just selling a book? But those options aren’t mutually exclusive. In McCabe’s case, the answer might be: both.

Many commentators pointed out that McCabe’s allegations about the 25th Amendment and Rosenstein’s wire confirm reporting, by Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, that first appeared in The New York Times last September. Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney, told Tur, “McCabe is not really revealing any new facts here.” Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes struck a similar note; the book rollout, they wrote, “should not in any profound respect change one’s understanding of L’Affaire Russe or the investigation of it.” Nonetheless, McCabe’s media round has moved this story forward. McCabe denied suggestions, ventured in response to the Times’s initial reporting, that Rosenstein may have been joking when he offered to wear a wire. And, as Jurecic and Wittes note, McCabe has moved the story beyond the murky realm of anonymous sourcing.

As has often been the case in the Trump era, the president himself has helped hold an insider account of administration chaos in the spotlight. Ever since the 60 Minutes clip dropped on Thursday, Trump has excoriated McCabe in a series of wild tweets. Per usual, his anger has spiraled round the right-wing mediasphere, with Fox hosts and commentators, in particular, lining up to describe the 25th Amendment discussions McCabe recalls as an attempted “coup.” Last night on Twitter, Trump made the TV–White House feedback loop explicit, quoting Fox News’ Sean Hannity on the “coup” and exclaiming, “Treason!” An hour or so later, Trump followed up: “Remember this, Andrew McCabe didn’t go to the bathroom without the approval of Leakin’ James Comey!”

All this, of course, has done wonders for McCabe’s book sales—overnight, it ascended to the number-one spot on Amazon’s best sellers list, ending the long reign of Michelle Obama’s Becoming. (As of this morning, The Threat is at number two, with Becoming at three.) It’s hard to escape the feeling, once again, that we’re trapped in some sort of Trump–Twitter–media–publishing industrial complex. But the Trump era’s slew of insider accounts—and, at least in McCabe’s case, the publicity surrounding them—helps build a real-time historical record of Trump’s presidency. Massaging egos and bank balances may be an unavoidable side effect of covering it.

Below, more on books:

  • “The president that doesn’t read”: Throughout his presidency, Trump has taken a special interest in books that cover him—often taking to Twitter to promote those that praise him and trash those that don’t. In November, the Times’s Katie Rogers shared a round-up.
  • “A rapid-fire G-man memoir”: The Times’s Dwight Garner weighs The Threat’s literary merits: “McCabe’s prose is lean. (Not that he wrote this book. In his acknowledgments, he thanks ‘a great writing and editing team,’)” Garner writes. The result is “better than any book typed this quickly has a right to be.”
  • “Time to Panic”: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, in which David Wallace-Wells lays out the existential threat of climate change, is also out today. Wallace-Wells, who wrote about the subject for New York in 2017, previewed the book in a weekend op-ed for the Times.

Other notable stories:

  • For CJR, Mya Frazier reports concerns about cost-cutting within the AP’s foreign press service: “Current and former correspondents and bureau chiefs detail a litany of changes, including the shrinking of its global footprint as bureaus are quietly closed; the phasing out of the salaried ‘expat package’ for correspondents; and the reliance on local stringers and staffers, who often are paid far less than full-time American correspondents once were.”
  • CNN hosted its third town hall of the 2020 election cycle last night, with Amy Klobuchar taking voters’ questions in Manchester, New Hampshire. (The broadcast was an improvement on CNN’s previous town hall, with Howard Schultz.) The Post’s Paul Farhi reports that other Democratic candidates are wondering when, exactly, their CNN town hall invite might drop; the network has kept quiet about its selection criteria, Farhi writes. Those candidates now include Bernie Sanders: the Vermont senator just announced he’s running in an interview with CBS This Morning’s John Dickerson.
  • The Post’s Dave Weigel has a useful reminder that, when it comes to covering the campaign, Twitter may not be the most reliable source: “The Democratic electorate showing up to meet its candidates is far less ideological and skeptical than the one that lives on social media,” he writes. Relatedly, the Times’s Astead W. Herndon finds that voters don’t really care about Elizabeth Warren’s DNA-test blunder, despite pundit preoccupation with the issue.
  • Keith Burris, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial director whose Martin Luther King, Jr., Day editorial last year was condemned by that paper’s staff, has been promoted to executive editor, The Incline’s Colin Deppen reports. Burris, who was also linked to the high-profile firing of Rob Rogers, an editorial cartoonist, will continue to direct the editorial pages of the Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, which were controversially merged last year. Burris’s appointment follows last week’s extraordinary newsroom outburst from John Robinson Block, the Post-Gazette’s publisher. For CJR, Kim Lyons runs through the details.
  • Capitol Forum, a subscription service that produces policy reports on topics including consumer protection and antitrust enforcement, is suing Bloomberg for “free riding” on its output. The case marks a rare claim of “misappropriation” under the “hot news” doctrine, an arcane legal principle that has not faced proper scrutiny in the digital age, Jonathan Peters writes for CJR.
  • In France, 10 government ministers, including Edouard Philippe, the country’s prime minister, are spending today taking questions on Twitch, the video-game livestreaming platform, Politico’s Rym Momtaz reports. Ministers are hoping to engage young people in France’s ongoing “grand debate,” a response to the recent Gilets Jaunes protest wave.
  • German prosecutors are investigating a journalist from the Financial Times as part of a probe into possible market manipulation, Reuters’s Arno Schuetze reports. The paper, which has published a series of stories alleging fraud at Wirecard, a Munich-based payment processing company, denied any suggestion its reporting had been unethical.
  • In the UK yesterday, seven lawmakers broke away from the opposition Labour Party to form a new independent grouping in Parliament, citing, among other things, Labour’s lackluster efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism from its ranks. As one of the seven spoke at a press conference, an unknown voice on a BBC livestream was heard muttering, “between this and Brexit, we’re fucked.”
  • And Aaron Sorkin is reportedly in talks to reboot The Newsroom. Media Twitter does not seem impressed.

ICYMI: Post-Gazette staffers, shaken by publisher’s behavior, stand by their story

Posted: February 19, 2019, 1:07 pm

Rethinking foreign reporting at the AP

In October 2011, almost a year into the Arab Spring, Robert Reid, a regional editor for the Associated Press based in Cairo, received a call from his bosses: cut the staff in Libya. Rebels had seized the capital of Tripoli two months earlier. Moammar Gadhafi was in hiding. Previously, there had been at least AP […]
Posted: February 19, 2019, 11:50 am

Knight Foundation putting $300 million toward rebuilding local news

On Tuesday, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a $300 million commitment toward rebuilding local news ecosystems during the next five years, with details on where the first $100 million of that money would go.

“We’ve all …

Posted: February 19, 2019, 11:22 am

“Rebuilding a local news ecosystem”: Knight pledges $300 million to local news, free speech, and media literacy organizations

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will provide a whopping $300 million over five years to organizations including the American Journalism Project, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and and ProPublica, the foundation announced Tuesday. The funding announcement follows the Knight Commission’s release earlier this month of a report outlining its recommendations...
Posted: February 19, 2019, 10:00 am

‘Mansplaining’ and its offspring

People seem to have a whole lot of “splaining” to do about how they are “splaining” things to people who already know better. “Splain” has become a common suffix—akin to “gate,” and attached to a word to mean: “You are trying to tell me? The one you may be most familiar with is “mansplain,” which […]
Posted: February 18, 2019, 6:38 pm

This project wants to help you cover your beat in a different way

For a lot of reporters, their beat is the topic they cover. Their sources help make sense of that topic, and their audiences are the people who read/watch/listen/engage. But what happens when you mash all those things together?

Last year, …

Posted: February 18, 2019, 4:26 pm

Here’s what we are doing with Galley, our discussion forum app

As some of you may know, CJR took over the management and direction of a discussion forum website/app called Galley late last year, and we have been doing our best to turn it into a place where people—not just journalists, but anyone—can have thoughtful, meaningful discussions with each other on a platform that cares about […]
Posted: February 18, 2019, 1:59 pm

British Parliament takes aim at Facebook’s ‘digital gangsters’

“Digital gangsters.” In a scathing report out today, lawmakers on a high-profile committee of the British Parliament tag that description to Facebook, warning the tech giant and its competitors not to act like they are “ahead of and beyond the law.” Facebook, the lawmakers say, “intentionally and knowingly” broke data privacy and competition laws (Facebook denies this), and should be subjected to multi-pronged oversight—including a compulsory code of ethics and an independent regulator with legal teeth—going forward. “Facebook continues to choose profit over data security,” they write.

The House of Commons’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport select committee opened its inquiry into social media giants in 2017. Back then, its focus was the spread of “fake news”—a hot topic on both sides of the Atlantic following the UK Brexit referendum and US election in 2016. Last March, however, a different scandal exploded: The New York Times and London Observer reported that Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from the profiles of 50 million Facebook users, then mined it to profile and target voters on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. As Facebook flailed through the remainder of 2018, the UK committee publicly raised the stakes. In November, it ordered Ted Kramer, a US tech executive who was in London for a business trip, to surrender documents from a California lawsuit involving Facebook and his app; when Kramer refused, Damian Collins, the committee’s Conservative chair, dispatched the Serjeant-at-Arms to escort Kramer to Parliament. Days later, Collins chaired an “International Grand Committee on Disinformation,” bringing together lawmakers from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore, and the UK. When Mark Zuckerberg refused to attend (he sent a deputy), he got the classic empty-seat-with-his-name-on-it treatment.

ICYMI: Apple goes for the jugular with subscription revenue deal

Echoes of those theatrics ring through today’s final report. The committee lays out its conclusion, based on the documents it obtained from Kramer, that Facebook was “willing to override its users’ privacy settings in order to transfer data” to some app developers while “starving” others, CNN reports. Lawmakers also accuse Zuckerberg of contempt of Parliament for his repeat refusals to show, and of making “simply untrue” statements about his company’s data-selling practices. Zuckerberg “continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies,” Collins says. Next time Zuckerberg sets foot on British soil, he can expect a formal summons.

Coming from public officials, these are extraordinary charges lodged in incendiary language. It’s no surprise they’ve made global headlines this morning. The inquiry as a whole and the coverage its attracted, however, are perhaps best understood not as a grenade but as a time capsule. Since the inquiry launched, public and media debate has moved beyond the “fake news” problem, training a harsh spotlight on social giants’ unscrupulous use of our personal data, at least where Facebook is concerned. As the debate has widened, its tone has become angrier. And Facebook’s insistence that it’s a good actor grappling with thorny problems has worn thin. Today’s report mirrors this broadening picture. While its title still refers broadly to disinformation and fake news, CNN’s Hadas Gold notes, “the other title might as well be ‘Facebook: Digital gangsters’ because it’s Facebook that bears most of the heat.”

The committee that produced the report is a legislative oversight mechanism, not an arm of the British government—and the British government, as you may have noticed, is a little busy right now. Nonetheless, Facebook should sweat its stringent regulatory recommendations. At one point, the report namechecks Germany, where social media companies already face harsh fines when they fail to act quickly on hate speech. Britain may be untangling itself from its European partners. But where Facebook is concerned, they’re closer to being on the same page.

Below, more on Facebook and the Parliamentary report:

  • The Wright stuff: Jeremy Wright, the British government minister for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, is en route to California, where he’ll meet with top tech executives including, he says, Zuckerberg. The welcoming party for Wright could well include a former UK government colleague, Nick Clegg, who since became Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications. In October, I profiled Clegg for CJR.
  • A public rival? Britain’s opposition Labour Party wholeheartedly welcomed today’s report: “We need new independent regulation with a tough powers and sanctions regime to curb the worst excesses of surveillance capitalism and the forces trying to use technology to subvert our democracy,” Tom Watson, its deputy leader, said. Last year, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s leader, suggested taxing Facebook to fund the BBC, and even mooted the creation of a publicly owned social network.
  • Kint’s hints: On Twitter, Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, has a useful thread on what the report could mean for Facebook in the US. “Boom. Huge,” he writes. “Report states based on evidence from ICO investigation that Facebook had at least 3 senior managers aware of Cambridge Analytica ‘breach’ prior to Dec 2015.”
  • Cairncross purposes: Today’s report follows the publication, last week, of the Cairncross Review, an independent, government-commissioned inquiry into the state of Britain’s media. As well as public subsidies for local news, the review also suggested better regulation of social media companies, as well as a public investigation of the Google–Facebook ad duopoly. For CJR, Emily Bell assessed the findings.

Other notable stories:

  • Late last month, news broke that Jussie Smollett, who stars in Empire, had been attacked in downtown Chicago; two masked men, it was reported, hurled racist and homophobic abuse and yelled about “MAGA country” as they put a rope around Smollett’s neck and poured bleach over him. Over the weekend, the story shifted: citing sources in law enforcement, CBS Chicago and others reported that the attack may have been rehearsed and staged (Smollett’s attorneys deny that claim). “The narrative that just a week ago seemed cut-and-dry has become messy and divisive—and it’s all playing out again on social media,” the AP’s Lindsey Bahr writes.
  • As expected, Trump declared a state of emergency on Friday morning. During a remarkable Rose Garden press conference, he said, among many, many other things, that “I didn’t need to do this”—a line which could come back to haunt him in court. After Alec Baldwin satirized the presser in a Saturday Night Live cold open, Trump tweeted: “how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!” The media is “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE,” he added shortly afterward.
  • As lawmakers filed through the Senate basement on their way to vote on the spending bill last Thursday, Capitol Police officers physically shoved and blocked reporters who tried to talk to them, Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus reports. According to an audio recording of the confrontation, one reporter told officers, “I am a pregnant woman and you just pushed me.”
  • As the 2020 campaign kicks into gear, the Post’s Margaret Sullivan wonders how sexist coverage of female candidates might get. “One of the qualities that makes women unlikable? Ambition. Which is, after all, hard to avoid in a candidate for president of the United States,” Sullivan writes. “We’re a sexist society, and the media reflect and amplify this.”
  • Heather Nauert, the former Fox anchor and State Department spokesperson, has pulled her name from consideration to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations. A background check found that Nauert—who would have faced a tough confirmation process anyway due to her lack of diplomatic experience—once employed a nanny who was not authorized to work in the US, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams, and Margaret Talev report.
  • For CJR, Amal Ahmed looks at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a Michigan–based research institute that aims to bust stereotypical portrayals of Muslim Americans by putting better data in the hands of journalists and public policy experts.
  • Last week, Google and Apple were criticized for carrying Absher, a Saudi government app that allows male guardians to track and impede women’s movements. While Absher is “awful,” The Guardian’s Arwa Mahdawi writes, it isn’t the root of the problem: one Saudi woman even told her that the app can help women circumnavigate repressive laws. “It feels more than a little hypocritical for politicians to be outraged about an app when both Democrats and Republicans have a long history of ignoring gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia,” Mahdawi writes.
  • Days after staffers at the Hartford Courant announced their intention to unionize, management at the publication and its parent company, Tribune Publishing, voluntarily recognized the effort, the Courant’s David Owens reports.
  • And The Guardian’s Alex Hern reports on a “revolutionary AI system” that can write convincing fake news stories from simple prompts. “OpenAI, a nonprofit research company backed by Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, Sam Altman, and others, says its new AI model is so good and the risk of malicious use so high that it is breaking from its normal practice of releasing the full research to the public.” The Guardian does have a demo.

ICYMI: Matt Gertz tracks how Fox News manipulates Trump

Posted: February 18, 2019, 12:51 pm

Case against Bloomberg a rare one under ‘hot news’ doctrine

This month began with a rare sighting: a claim for misappropriation under the “hot news” doctrine. It appeared in a lawsuit filed in a DC federal court by Capitol Forum, a subscription service that produces policy reports, against Bloomberg. According to the complaint, Capitol Forum’s reports provide time-sensitive analysis to subscribers about various policy matters, […]
Posted: February 18, 2019, 11:55 am

The Cairncross Review admits what America won’t about journalism

The tech world’s influence on journalism is finally receiving policy pushback—at least, outside the United States. Governments are busy drawing up plans to directly intervene with tax support and even direct subsidies for journalism. In the past year, a hail of European bills aimed at taxing and curbing platform growth have been introduced. At the […]
Posted: February 15, 2019, 9:44 pm

Cox to sell majority interest of TV group to Apollo Global Management

Correction: An earlier version of this story didn’t specifiy that the sale will be for Cox’s TV group. The headline and story have been updated to reflect that. We apologize for the error.

Posted: February 15, 2019, 8:11 pm

A better quality of data on Muslim Americans

Muslim Americans are more likely to marry outside their faith tradition than Protestants. A third of the members of this religious community live at or below the poverty line. Seventy-five percent were registered to vote in 2018. About four in ten Muslim American children reported experiences of bullying because of their faith, sometimes at the […]
Posted: February 15, 2019, 4:50 pm

How can local TV news fix its young person problem? Maybe it needs to look more like Vox

Would more young people watch local TV news if it looked more like a Vox video and less like, uh, local TV news? It’s worth a try, according to a report released by Shorenstein and Northeastern this week. The authors suggest that local TV stations “remix” their hard news offerings by borrowing tactics from digital-native...
Posted: February 15, 2019, 4:00 pm

If Facebook wants to stop the spread of anti-vaxxers, it could start by not taking their ad dollars

How much should we freak out about anti-vaxxers? WHO named anti-vaxxers one of the top 10 global health threats for 2019. But is the threat from internet crazies overblown? Or are there certain things about the anti-vaccination movement that make it particularly dangerous? This debate is the health version of an argument we see often...
Posted: February 15, 2019, 2:01 pm

Clicks are an “unreliable seismograph” for a news article’s value — here’s new research to back it up

Go with your gut, not with the clicks: In a saturated media environment, news consumers most value news that is relevant to them — a factor that can’t be sussed out in a newsroom by measuring clicks, according to new research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. (But you should still make...
Posted: February 14, 2019, 5:03 pm

Acing the algorithmic beat, journalism’s next frontier

Algorithms shape large parts of everyday life: our interactions with other people, what products we purchase, the information we see (or don’t see), our investment decisions and our career paths. And we trust their judgment: people are more likely to follow advice when they are being told that it came from an algorithm rather than...
Posted: February 14, 2019, 4:21 pm

Inside Inside’s new local newsletters and its plans to keep scaling (with 750,000 active subscribers on board)

Surprise: Subscribers to a nerdy bitcoin newsletter are just about as engaged as subscribers to a nerdy local newsletter., the startup that waited over a decade for the domain with its core product now in the inbox and not the browser, focuses on growing relationships using curated email newsletters to grab your attention. Last...
Posted: February 14, 2019, 2:20 pm

How Capital Public Radio covered a community’s high suicide rate (and developed a tool for residents to keep)

Covering suicides has, sadly, become more and more codified in the journalism industry — literally, here’s a site called Reporting on Suicide. Don’t include how they died, link to a support hotline or other resources in the piece, use words like “died by suicide” instead of “successful attempt.” But that’s been largely reactive as more...
Posted: February 13, 2019, 3:05 pm

BuzzFeed News and the Toronto Star team up to report on misinformation around the Canadian election

2019 is a general election year in Canada (as it is in many countries around the world), and the Toronto Star wanted to be on top of the misinformation and disinformation efforts that will almost inevitably arise as voting day draws closer. Star editors didn’t have to start from scratch in getting a handle on...
Posted: February 13, 2019, 3:00 pm

A major British government review proposes some light regulation of Google and Facebook (and perhaps new limits on the BBC)

It’s become something of a trend for national governments to convene a commission of some sort to review the status of their countries’ news industry — and to recommend what policies or regulatory changes might help sustain a vibrant free press. Australia had its Senate Select Committee last year and a new review that came...
Posted: February 12, 2019, 7:54 pm

In Liverpool, a football podcast has grown into a real media company — based mostly on listener payment, not advertising

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 195, published February 12, 2019. That’s an (Anfield) wrap [by Caroline Crampton]. Hot Pod readers probably know that I’m based in the U.K., but I’m not sure it’s entirely clear that I don’t live in London. I moved away in the summer of 2017...
Posted: February 12, 2019, 2:45 pm

With Supporting Cast, Slate wants to build the paid-membership layer of podcasting

As the Swedish dust from last week’s Spotify acquisition-palooza settles, there’s little time to wait. Slate, the veteran digital media company and purveyor of fine podcasts, announced this morning that it’s rolling out something called Supporting Cast, a new technology service meant to help podcast publishers set up paid subscription layers or membership programs. For...
Posted: February 12, 2019, 2:00 pm

More than 240,000 people donated to nonprofit newsrooms via NewsMatch in 2018 (50,000 for the first time)

In journalism’s long and treacherous move away from ad dependency, the growing nonprofit news sector is trying to build a culture of philanthropy. At one level, that involves convincing foundations to send grants their way. But probably more important for the long term is building the habit of giving to news in a large number...
Posted: February 12, 2019, 12:00 pm

Want to reduce political polarization? Save your local newspaper

It almost seems impossible to ignore national politics today. The stream of stories about the president and Congress is endless; whether online, in print or on television, it’s never been easier to follow the action. National news outlets are adapting well to this environment: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal made big gains...
Posted: February 11, 2019, 4:26 pm

Newsonomics: In the Consolidation Games, enter the bankers

The bankers are now hired. Is the early 2019 newspaper chain M&A face-off now getting serious? It’s reminiscent of an earlier brand of warfare. Newspaper chains — all cutting desperately, each facing a shortening deadline to make a “digital transition” — line up their dealmaking armies, swords sharpened if not yet crossed. Gannett, having rejected...
Posted: February 11, 2019, 3:35 pm

Patch is launching paid, “ad-lite” memberships

A profile of hyperlocal news site Patch pops up once a year or so, and here’s the latest one, from Recode’s Peter Kafka. A few tidbits: — Patch is profitable (and has been for a few years — the company also said it was profitable in early 2016 and in mid-2017). — It now consists...
Posted: February 11, 2019, 3:21 pm

Here’s where your new readers are going to come from in 2019

Data has a habit of giving us advance signals about particular trends. It shouts: “Hey, something big is happening.” Like when we saw Facebook decline for six months before they announced official changes to their News Feed. Some of those trends jump out more than others. Wouldn’t it be great to predict how reliable those...
Posted: February 8, 2019, 3:23 pm

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing — no, seriously, it is, according to this new research

People who’ve scanned Facebook for news gain a little knowledge. Why do some of them think they’ve gained a lot? Consider statements like “I feel that I need to experience strong emotions regularly” and “I feel like I need a good cry every now and then.” How much do these statements apply to you? If...
Posted: February 8, 2019, 12:29 pm

Tony Haile’s Scroll acquires the news-reading app Nuzzel (it’ll remain free)

When you’re building a healthy web environment for journalism, there are a few key groups to keep in mind, says Scroll CEO (and Chartbeat founder) Tony Haile. Of course, you need to think about the publishers — the content creators — and the readers. Scroll, the $5/month, ad-free premium news site–reading experience that will roll out...
Posted: February 7, 2019, 5:00 pm

In a hot week for audio, paid newsletterer Substack introduces a way for podcasters to earn money

In another snippet of podcast news this week — wait, you didn’t see the three pieces about the Spotify/Gimlet/Anchor news? — Substack, the all-in-one independent (paid) newsletter provider, is now offering support for subscriber-only audio, too. The added feature won’t make the same kind of splash as Spotify’s $230 million buy, of course. But Substack...
Posted: February 7, 2019, 4:00 pm

It’s time to apply for an Abrams Nieman Fellowship for Local Investigative Reporting

If you’ve read this site for any length of time, you’re well aware of the crisis in local news. Digital media, rather than decentralizing journalism geographically, has concentrated more of it in New York and Washington and Los Angeles and San Francisco than ever. The local newspaper bundle has been broken up; hours spent watching...
Posted: February 7, 2019, 3:35 pm

The New York Times is getting close to becoming a majority-digital company

The dream for any newspaper seeking to last longer than print itself is to transition its business model into digital. The New York Times is almost there. The Times announced its fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 financials this morning, and there’s a lot of good news. (One quick heuristic I like to run with newspaper company...
Posted: February 6, 2019, 5:34 pm tries a membership program, with a twist: It’s focused on video and entirely on YouTube

Would you pay an extra $5 a month to attend a quarterly meeting over Google Hangouts? Not “$5 a month to skip a meeting.” “$5 to have the privilege of attending a meeting.” Well, it turns out, plenty of video lovers would. When you sign up for a Vox Video Lab membership, you can...
Posted: February 6, 2019, 4:11 pm

Anchor too? With a second big acquisition, Spotify shows it’s serious about podcasts — as both producer and platform

Told you Spotify wasn’t done shopping. This morning, the Swedish streaming company announced that it has closed its acquisition of Gimlet Media and that it had also acquired another podcast company: Anchor, the podcast hosting-and-monetization platform founded by Michael Mignano and Nir Zicherman. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Here’s the press release, and...
Posted: February 6, 2019, 3:02 pm

The end of an era: Spotify buying Gimlet signals the start of something new in podcasting. Is that good or bad?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 194, published February 5, 2019. Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! Okay, so, obviously I’m going to go long on the Gimlet–Spotify deal this week, but we need to start with some other stories first, because plans were made. A quick exclusive: Vox Media has...
Posted: February 5, 2019, 5:22 pm

Researchers crunched 13 TB of local newspaper subscriber data. Here’s what they found about who sticks around.

Hey, local newspapers: Want to try to predict which of your subscribers are going to stick with you — and keep paying — no matter what? New research out of the Medill Local News Initiative at Northwestern suggests that creating a habit is the most important thing to focus on: The frequency of reading local news is...
Posted: February 5, 2019, 4:35 pm

Transparency, diversity, philanthropy: The Knight Commission’s final recommendations for 21st-century journalism

Radical transparency, committed philanthropy, disinformation-debunking technology, organizational diversity — and a year of service: There are some of the recommendations from the 27-member Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy, highlighting examples of successful experiments in a 200-plus page report a year and a half in the making. “We, as individual citizens of a great...
Posted: February 5, 2019, 2:00 pm

Happy birthday, Facebook! These are the 10 most important moments in your not-so-great relationship with the news industry

Facebook turns 15 today, and it wouldn’t be wrong to describe this as its awkward phase. Its limbs have grown unexpectedly quickly, and it’s a bit clumsy walking down the hall, all gangly angles and elbows. Its relationships with others at times seem governed less by reason than by something deeply adolescent. It gets into...
Posted: February 4, 2019, 6:30 pm

“It doesn’t seem like we’re striving to make third-party fact checking more practical for publishers — it seems like we’re striving to make it easier for Facebook”

Happy anniversary, Facebook: Snopes quit your fact-checking partnership. Poynter’s Daniel Funke reported Friday that Snopes has pulled out of the third-party debunking squad Facebook enlisted in 2016. The Associated Press is not currently fact-checking for it either (but apparently hasn’t fully quit), TechCrunch reported. Snopes, the 25-year-old fact-checking site, said Facebook’s system was too manual...
Posted: February 4, 2019, 6:28 pm