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Need to Know: Bots impersonate journalists during breaking news, NYT starts a subscriber-exclusive series, and balancing fake news and free speech

Need to Know
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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

You might have heard: Last spring, BH Media Group eliminated 289 jobs, saying that print ad losses couldn’t be offset by digital growth (Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: BH Media Group is eliminating 148 jobs and not filling 101 vacant positions, reducing its workforce by 6 percent (Bloomberg)
In a statement on Tuesday, Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group said it was reducing its total workforce by 6 percent, eliminating 148 jobs and not filling 101 vacant positions. The company attributed the cuts to declining ad revenue. BH Media Group CEO Terry Kroeger says the shift to online shopping has forced large regional and national advertising clients to cut back on its spending with BH Media Group as the industry as a whole faces a “harsh reality.”

+ At the Omaha World-Herald, 43 positions were eliminated, including 11 newsroom jobs: Number of pages in the print newspaper are also being reduced (Omaha World-Herald); Press of Atlantic City says it eliminated 16 jobs (Press of Atlantic City)

+ Noted: Newsweek gave 10 pages of free ads to a New York county where Olivet University was opening a campus, showing a link between Newsweek and Olivet as the Manhattan district attorney’s office continues its investigation (Newsweek); Newsweek was banned from the /r/news community on Reddit for concerns about paid spamming (BuzzFeed News); The FCC is expected to publish its reversal of Obama-era net neutrality rules on Thursday (Reuters); Digital media companies including Vice, BuzzFeed and Vox are forced to adjust their business models, thanks to “an uncertain advertising environment and Facebook’s recent change of heart” (Financial Times); In its fourth quarter results, Gannett reports “deep declines in advertising and wobbly circulation revenues,” which were not made up for by its digital business (Poynter); editorial staffers announced their intention to unionize on Tuesday (Daily Beast)


NYT’s latest feature for converting readers into subscribers: A year of guides to a better life that are only available to subscribers (Nieman Lab)
“This is all about how we can provide subscribers with the type of content that makes them feel like they’re getting insight they’re not getting anywhere else,” NYT’s Sara Bremen Rabstenek says on its series of guides on how to live a better life. But unlike other guides NYT has published, these will be subscriber-only. “It’s valuable to be able to say to subscribers: ‘This is something we’re going to be working on over the course of the whole year. You should really stick around,’” executive director of customer experience and retention Ben Cotton explains.


Ahead of a contentious election, Brazil is trying to crack down on ‘fake news,’ without limiting free speech (New York Times)
Brazil is preparing for a critical presidential election — and along with it, the country is preparing for an influx of false information. At the same time, it’s trying to balance free speech with curbing content that might lead to an “illegitimate outcome.” Supreme Court justice Luiz Fux says: “It is necessary to consider which of these two principles must be sacrificed in the name of an election that is neutral and not tainted by deceitful news. … Sometimes the excessive concern with freedom of expression ends up violating a more important principle — the democratic principle.”

+ A team of European journalists, media experts and academics developed a game that lets people create and spread their own misinformation, which they say can be used to teach people how to spot fake news (Gizmodo)


Why you should let your second-newest people onboard your newest hires (Fast Company)
The best way to onboard new people onto your team might be a bit counterintuitive, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton write: Let your second-newest team members onboard the newest team members. Joining a new team can be nerve-wracking — and giving the newer team members this responsibility will give them a sense of ownership. Plus, it gives them an opportunity to clear up anything they may still be figuring out. And, “who understands the challenges of integrating into a new environment better than a fellow newbie does?”


Public radio’s harassment allegations could risk its listener relationships — which could in turn hurt its financial contributions (New York Times)
Public radio has seen some of its most popular figures come under scrutiny for allegations of sexual harassment in recent months. And with that attention, public radio’s relationship with its listeners might be at risk — which could lead to a decline in financial contributions from its most loyal listeners. “The relationships that people have with the presenters and reporters on NPR feels very personal,” Vivian Schiller says. “People make assumptions about who these people are based on their voice and what feels like an intimate, one-on-one relationship … so the potential for backlash is that much greater if you feel that you have been betrayed.”

+ Inside NPR, staffers talk about a "high level of distrust" of management, and a ”perception of a culture at NPR that favors men” and "can foster harassment and bullying” (NPR); Tavis Smiley is suing PBS, arguing it breached its contract and damaged his production company when he was fired in December for sexual harassment allegations (Washington Post)


Lax enforcement on the part of Facebook and Twitter allows imposter accounts to thrive (New York Times)
In the wake of last week’s school shooting in Florida, accounts cropped up on social media, impersonating reporters who were covering the story. Those accounts thrive in part, Nicholas Confessore and Gabriel J.X. Dance report, because of lax enforcement on the part of social networks. “These companies have, in a lot of ways, assigned themselves to be validators of your identity,” Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian York told NYT. “But the vast majority of users have no access to any due process, no access to any kind of customer service — and no means of appealing any kind of decision.”


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