Need to Know: April 16, 2019


You might have heard: WHYY acquires local news site Billy Penn, making it the latest in a series of public media mergers with digital-first news startups (WHYY)

But did you know: Could public media and digital startups be the next trend in mergers? (Nieman Lab)

Billy Penn and Denverite, both formerly of Spirited Media, have been acquired by WHYY and Colorado Public Radio, adding two more to the list of recent public media/digital news startup couplings. Last year, KPCC, WNYC and WAMU scooped up LAist, Gothamist and DCist, and just last month, digital outlet NJ Spotlight found a home with WNET/New York Public Media. “Really, the quality of the journalism and business model made it viable for us and make it viable for the other legacy stations around the country,” said Bob Feinberg, WNET’s general counsel and merger discussions leader, pointing to Spotlight’s memberships and events. “None of us [in public media] are in a position … significantly increasing our reportorial staff without funding attached.” “We provided them some digital chops and our kind of reporting that helps them make that digital transformation and they provide this breadth,” added John Mooney, NJ Spotlight’s founding editor. “The line I often use is a combination of depth and breadth: depth of our reporting and breadth of their reach. A great marriage to have.”

+ Noted: Here are the winners of the 2019 Pulitzer Prizes (Poynter); As Notre Dame burned, an algorithmic error at YouTube attached information about 9/11 attacks to the news videos (Nieman Lab); Tampa Bay Times unveils newspaper racks that can stream video news and advertising (Tampa Bay Times)


No more parachute reporting: How national editors are cutting back (Source)

Parachute reporting — it happens. But when national outlets send reporters into smaller communities with little to no context for the situations unfolding there, it can cause problems down the road for the local media when the out-of-towners inevitably get details wrong or miss important pieces of the story. “Parachute reporting exacerbates distrust of media far more than anything else,” said Sarah Baird, a Kentucky-based journalist and the founder of Shoeleather, a tool that connects national editors with local reporters well-equipped to cover their own communities. Shoeleather is one of the ways national news outlets have been cutting back on parachute reporting. Others have formed useful collaborations with local outlets, like ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, which supports local newsrooms with investigative projects, and HuffPost’s crowdfunded “Ferguson Fellowship,” which enabled a journalist with the Beacon Reader (now defunct) to remain in Ferguson, Mo., for one year after the 2014 killing of Michael Brown.


How one of the world’s youngest regions consumes news (

One third of the population in the Middle East is under 15 years old, and another one fifth is between the ages of 15 and 24, making the Middle East and North Africa one of the youngest regions in the world. The region’s youthfulness has major implications for news consumption, say the authors of a new report from the University of Oregon, State of Social Media, Middle East: 2018. “Young Arabs are now getting their news first on social media, not television,” said Sunil John, who helped produce the annual report. “This year, our survey reveals almost two thirds (63 percent) of young Arabs say they look first to Facebook and Twitter for news. Three years ago, that was just a quarter.” YouTube usage in MENA has also risen sharply, with the number of YouTube channels increasing by 160 percent in the past three years and, in 2017, half of Arab youths reporting that they use YouTube daily. However, social networks have a complicated relationship with the region, with service blocks, the banning of certain features, and government monitoring being relatively common place. + The European Council adopts the copyright directive that will reinforce journalists’ and publishers’ rights to protect their work online (Press Gazette)


Why hypotheses beat goals (MIT Sloan Management Review)

While risk-taking is encouraged (at least theoretically) in many organizations, the way employees are told to go about taking risks isn’t setting them up to learn from potential failures, writes Jeanne Ross. Employees are typically asked to set goals for the year, which may or may not be revised as the year progresses. But goal-setting doesn’t directly stimulate learning or encourage innovative thinking, Ross says. “Instead, companies should focus organizational energy on hypothesis generation and testing. Hypotheses force individuals to articulate in advance why they believe a given course of action will succeed. A failure then exposes an incorrect hypothesis — which can more reliably convert into organizational learning.”


Are ‘media bros’ and ‘risk-averse’ news coverage part of the reason America’s never had a female president? (Refinery29)

Put news coverage of female presidential candidates under a microscope and the media doesn’t come out looking so good. One recent study found that news outlets tend to describe male candidates more positively than female candidates, and another study found that cable news pays an outsized amount of attention to white, male candidates. Another showed that 70 percent of political coverage overall is done by men, who tend to retweet each other three times more than their female colleagues, leading to a political news “echo chamber” that tends to exclude women’s voices. Yet the majority of Americans report that they would be happy to vote for a woman for president, points out Natalie Gontcharova. The disconnect when voters head to the polls lies “somewhere between media bros, internalized misogyny, and ‘risk-averseness,’” she writes. “But now that all of these factors are out in the open, we have no excuse but to address them head-on and, ultimately, do better than we did in 2016.”


What will journalism do with 5G’s speed and capacity? (Nieman Lab)

Mainstream use of 5G (mobile networks expected to have at least 20x the speed of 4G) is around the corner, and forward-looking publishers and reporters are dreaming up the possibilities it holds for journalism. While it’s safe to say the most significant impacts 5G will have are probably ones publishers can’t anticipate today, possibilities include: allowing more journalists to live-stream events on social media or send the material straight back to their newsroom; steeper competition for people’s attention (when it’s split by so much other content delivered on 5G); and “newsrooms of things,” where content is live-streamed to viewers without the aid of a reporter or camera crew. “A lot of these ideas rely on AI improvements as much as far better networks — but those will improve in tandem,” writes Benton. “The more raw data there is to analyze, the more tools will be built to analyze it.”