Need to Know: March 8, 2018

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


You might have heard: Sinclair requires its local TV stations to run short video segments that it calls “must-runs” that tend to advocate for a right-wing agenda with content that is sometimes untrue (New York Times), in effect operating as on-air op-eds (The Hill)

But did you know: Sinclair Broadcasting is creating promos that criticize ‘fake news’ from national media outlets with its local anchors (CNN Media)
Sinclair’s newest promos are taking aim at national news outlets, calling out “biased and false news.” And many of the local anchors who have to create these promos are uncomfortable with what Sinclair is asking them to do: “At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,” one local anchor told CNN. The promos begin with one or two local anchors introducing themselves, and then saying: “I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

+ Sinclair is selling TV stations in New York and Chicago to buyers with close ties to the company, in order to stay below media ownership limits as it prepares to buy Tribune Media: Sinclair will continue to operate the stations and will retain a buy-back option (Bloomberg)

+ Noted: Newsweek Media Group admits that three of its websites were running malicious code that experts say is used for ad fraud (BuzzFeed News) and the company says it has fired two people who were connected with the code that inflated ad metrics (Wall Street Journal), while the staff of International Business Times UK have been told to prepare for layoffs, and most of the staff will likely be let go (@craigsilverman, Twitter); Tronc says the FTC and Department of Justice have approved the sale of the Los Angeles Times to Patrick Soon-Shiong (Los Angeles Times); The AP is working with Facebook to debunk misinformation during the U.S. midterm elections (Associated Press); Rep. David Cicilline says he plans to introduce a bill that would exempt publishers from antitrust enforcement, allowing them to collectively negotiate with Facebook and Google (Wired)


Newsletter readers spend 80 percent more time on site than other readers, Greentech Media finds (
Data from The New York Times, Greentech Media and show that newsletters can have major value for publishers. At NYT, newsletter readers consume twice as much content as those who do not receive newsletters — and, they’re twice as likely to become paid subscribers. Meanwhile, Greentech Media has found that its newsletter subscribers spend 80 percent more time on site that other readers. And across’s network of partner publishers, nearly a quarter of traffic is direct (which includes referrals from email newsletters), compared to 21 percent from search and 12 percent from social.

+ Hearken created a guide for succession planning for news projects, including how to plan for long-term sustainability and handle staff departures (Hearken)


Do you need a head of apps? Here’s how 3 news organizations around the world manage their app initiatives (Digital Content Next)
Newsrooms are finding that “asking journalists to find and use tools to create mobile content on their own can be a quality control nightmare,” Corinne Podger writes. One way to deal with this is to put someone in charge of your mobile journalism initiatives. Podger examines three different approaches from news organizations in the U.K., Ireland and Netherlands: Dutch broadcaster Omrop Fryslân is a small organization, but has an in-house mobile journalism trainer, who prepares journalists for using their phones in reporting through a two-day training and follow-up support. And, Ireland’s RTÉ created an in-house “mojo” team to develop a consistent style for creating visual content and provide immediate, specific support to reporters.

+ U.K. music magazine NME is ending its print edition (Guardian): “We have also faced increasing production costs and a very tough print advertising market. Unfortunately we have now reached a point where the free weekly magazine is no longer financially viable,” Time Inc. UK’s group managing director of music Paul Cheal said (Music Business Worldwide)


To help women and minorities get ahead at work, examine how you’re assigning your ‘office housework’ (Harvard Business Review)
Not all assignments at work are created equal: Some assignments are less exciting, but necessary to keep things moving along; those might include keeping track of contracts or cleaning up after a meeting, and can be called “office housework.” Other assignments can make a person’s career, and set a person up for a promotion or recognition from people at the top; these assignments are called “glamour work.” In most organizations, there’s some major disparities between who gets assigned “office housework” and who’s assigned “glamour work.” Research from the University of California finds that women and people of color are disproportionately assigned “office housework,” partially due to prescriptive stereotypes and partially because of societal pressure to volunteer for those tasks. A suggestion on how to correct: Make a list of regularly recurring “housework” tasks, ask team members how much time they spend on these tasks, and use those results to determine who’s doing more than their fair share of “office housework.”

+ Data from AdStage shows that Facebook’s algorithm changes have led to increase prices for advertising on the platform (Recode) and businesses including talent management companies and distribution networks are reporting that their businesses have been hurt by Facebook’s algorithm changes (Digiday)


The case for Meredith keeping Time Inc.’s news titles (Poynter)
After Meredith’s acquisition of Time Inc. became final, questions started circulating about who would buy Time Inc.’s news titles — and, notably, who would buy Time magazine. But Rick Edmonds argues that there’s a case to be made for Meredith keeping these titles. Magazine Publishers Association’s audience estimates show that Time Inc. titles are six of the eight biggest titles in the combined company, including Time magazine and Fortune. “News magazine have never been in Meredith’s wheelhouse,” Edmonds writes. “The company does not have editors specializing in that rhythm. However, plenty with those skills come along with the Time news titles, and Meredith could hire more.”


What can newsrooms do to keep local journalists? Pay a living wage, talk to them, and be an editor, not a nanny (Poynter)
Local journalists often find themselves in a difficult situation, Kristen Hare writes: They feel they have a commitment to cover their communities, but the organizations that employ them are often shrinking, changing owners and shifting strategies, and sometimes closing entirely. That can make moving on to another job or moving up to a national publication tempting. What can newsrooms do to keep their local journalists? Start by paying reporters a living wage (“It’s never about the money … but you’ve got to be able to live,” one journalist said). Serve as an editor, not a nanny, which could mean getting rid of story quotas or pageview requirements. Talk to your reporters, and give them constructive feedback and encourage. And above all, help them pursue ambitious stories that make a difference in your community.