Need to Know: Nov. 7, 2017

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


You might have heard: Last month, The New York Times and The New Yorker reported on numerous allegations of sexual harassment against film producer Harvey Weinstein brought by women both formerly and currently working in the film industry

But did you know: Before allegations of sexual harassment came out against Harvey Weinstein, he hired private investigators to collect information on actresses and journalists to try to stop their publication (New Yorker)
In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein hired private investigators to collect information on the women making accusations of sexual harassment against him and the journalists trying to expose those allegations, Ronan Farrow reports. “The explicit goal of the investigations,” Farrow writes, “was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies ‘target,’ or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally.” Farrow reports that the investigators were both trying to uncover the reporters’ sources, as well as investigate the reporters’ own backgrounds.

+ Weinstein’s lawyer was also representing The New York Times while helping Weinstein try to block the paper’s publication of sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein (Hollywood Reporter)

+ Noted: Vox Media says it should have investigated accusations of sexual harassment against its former editorial director Lockhart Steele more seriously: “In hindsight, there were stronger steps the company should have taken to investigate more vigorously while also looking out for those who were brave enough to come forward to share information,” CEO Jim Bankoff says (Business Insider); After the Los Angeles Times was barred from advance screenings of Disney films (Los Angeles Times), The A.V. Club, Flavorwire and a Washington Post writer pledge solidarity with the L.A. Times, saying they will not attend any Disney screenings until the ban on the L.A. Times is rescinded (Hollywood Reporter); Russian Twitter accounts posing as Americans began posting in support of Trump in June 2015, just weeks after Trump announced his presidential campaign and earlier than previously known (Wall Street Journal); Facebook adds a new way for publishers to toggle recirculation ads in Instant Articles after requests from publishers for easier ways to control monetization in the article format (Facebook Media)


‘You can do anything, but you cannot do everything’ (CJR)
Based on their research for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism on how small newsrooms are thinking about the future of journalism and using new digital tools, Christopher Ali and Damian Radcliffe offer suggestions of strategies local newsrooms should adopt to reinvigorate their work. Among their ideas: Local newsrooms should own the narrative of their communities, considering which beats they should cover and what they want to approach differently. “You can do anything, but you cannot do everything,” Spirited Media CEO Jim Brady says on this idea.


Here’s how The Guardian is bringing in more reader revenue: With more data available, The Guardian can identify patterns that lead to paying customers (Digiday)
Late last month, The Guardian announced that it’s now making more money from reader revenue than from advertising revenue. Jessica Davies explains for Digiday how The Guardian built its consumer revenue operation, and where it plans to go from here. “Building consumer revenue has been a cross-departmental effort involving around 50 people across editorial, marketing, commercial and user experience,” Davies says. “Now, with a year’s worth of data under its belt, it’s easier to spot patterns of behavior and preferences across different markets — information it will use to help with attracting more paying members.”


On YouTube, children are being exposed to traumatizing content at young ages, an example of ‘just one aspect of a kind of infrastructural violence being done to all of us, all of the time’ (James Bridle, Medium)
“Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level,” James Bridle writes on the “increasingly symbiotic relationship” between YouTube and younger children. Bridle explains how algorithms and humans are both creating and disseminating disturbing content for children, a result of automation and seeking high video view numbers. “What concerns me is not just the violence being done to children here, although that concerns me deeply. What concerns me is that this is just one aspect of a kind of infrastructural violence being done to all of us, all of the time, and we’re still struggling to find a way to even talk about it, to describe its mechanisms and its actions and its effects.”


‘After the fall of DNAinfo, it’s time to stop hoping local news will scale’ (Recode)
In the hours after DNAinfo and the Gothamist network of sites were shut down, reporters and editors for the outlets say they started receiving an outpouring of financial support from the site’s fans: One reporter said that by 10 p.m. the day the sites were closed, he had received $900 in Venmo payments from the sites’ supporters. “After years looking at this problem, the only answer I see lies in convincing people to help pay the tab before the goodbye drinks are necessary,” former DNAinfo editor in chief John Ness writes. “A journalism professor at Ohio University told me the only way to make neighborhood news work would be to work out how it would benefit from economies of scale. But it doesn’t, really: You need a reporter for every 70,000 people or so. And they need an editor. Maybe other things can scale around them, but you need them.”

+ “The truth is that many of the communities most in need of accurate, representational media simply can’t sustain a fully staffed news outlet that caters to their particular needs, and news in well-resourced communities is a fact of life that is largely taken for granted,” City Bureau co-founder Darryl Holliday writes on the need for publicly supported media in the wake of DNAinfo and Gothamist (City Bureau, Medium); There isn’t enough advertising in Chicago to support a neighborhood news site such as DNAinfo, Mike Fourcher argues, and that challenge is compounded by a plethora of local news options in the city for readers (Vouchification)


A year in push notifications: Slate analyzes push notifications sent by NYT and Washington Post since Trump was elected (Slate)
“Something happened to the news this year. It wasn’t only Trump. It was the convergence of Trump and technology and the media landscape, with the invigorated news giants and hungry digital outlets duking it out for our bloodshot eyeballs,” Allison Benedikt writes. “And there was no better way to get our attention, to barge into our days with the latest revelation, than with a push alert.” Slate collected a year’s worth of push notifications sent by The New York Times and Washington Post, serving as an investigation into how the pace of news shaped our perceptions of the last year.

+ Margaret Sullivan writes on what journalists should consider heading into year two of Trump’s presidency: “There’s been great accountability journalism, but a very poor signal-to-noise ratio. Citizens are left with a confusing, chaotic picture — one that many doubt is true, and many others have decided to block out” (Washington Post)