- The Times of London has built “The retweeter” to get its journalists to push its stories in social media
- “Having compelling content is one thing, but if you provide that, the reader will have to pay more”
- “Does that worry you, about newspapers dying?”
- The Times of London, navigating audience with a strict paywall, retires its opinion Tumblr
- Know code, and want to know news? Apply for a Knight-Mozilla Fellowship
- Monday Q&A: Designer David Wright, departing NPR for Twitter, has just one favor to ask
- The newsonomics of Hearst Magazines’ one million new customers
- OpenData Latinoamérica: Ampliando la demanda de datos y recolectando transparencia
- Would you click a “Respect” button more than a “Like” button? Experiments in tweaking news reader behavior for democracy
- Wednesday Q&A: Susan Glasser on heading to Politico, the state of foreign reporting, and balancing blogs and longform
- How media companies can step up their ad sales game
- Privacy versus transparency: Connecticut bans access to many homicide records post-Newtown
- OpenData Latinoamérica: Driving the demand side of data and scraping towards transparency
- Now websites can send push notifications — not just apps
- Push notifications for news stories, better background downloads, and more of Apple’s new promises to news orgs
- ProPublica at five: How the nonprofit collaborates, builds apps, and measures impact
- Saving “The Wisconsin Idea”: How the battle in Madison threatens a century of innovation
- “In the news business, modernity no longer resides in the Western hemisphere”
- Nonprofit news sites are growing, but the search for a reliable business model continues
- Amazon automates visual storyboards of scripts
- Magazines see growth in iPad advertising
- On, Wisconsin! What happens when you try to kick a nonprofit journalism center off campus?
- The newsonomics of the Kochs: The impact on the L.A. news landscape
- This Week in Review: Bradley Manning and leak ethics, and the future of photojournalism
- WNYC relaunches its Hurricane Tracker
- The newsonomics of the Kochs rising — and uprising
- From Nieman Reports: Watchdog reporting is a social activity, not the work of lone wolves
- Meeting of the minds: Success with mobile
- The Washington Post’s paywall will rise on June 12
- A murder, a media frenzy, and the rise of a new form of local news
We posted a piece this morning on one way The Times of London tried, without much success, to get its (hard-paywalled) content noticed by the non-subscribing world. The paper's Ben Whitelaw just posted about another. The idea here is that, with the paywall, the newspaper's journalists have to do extra-heavy duty promoting stories in social media, because the general web audience can't be counted on to do it on their behalf. So The Times built a simple tool that, when an important story is published, sends an email to Times reporters asking them to please retweet it:
Owning an story can be hard on social media when you operate a subscription model…We thought about how we could change this and realised that our best weapon was our journalists, each with their own network of followers and fans. But we were asking a lot to expect them to keep track of stories breaking on social media (especially when on deadline) so we knew we needed a way of making it easy for them… [Developer Alex Muller] then created an HTML template to display a single tweet inside an email, and used Twitter’s Web Intents to add links to simplify the process for journalists and others to retweet — one click in the email, and then one confirmation click on twitter.com to complete the action… The result of using ‘The retweeter’ is that our big stories reach more people. For example, The Sunday Times Insight team had a big story on lobbying in Westminster which was retweeted by 30 people, most of whom were Sunday Times staff. Twitter analytics showed us that this tweet had reach three times greater than our usual tweets.Bravo for figuring out a tool to simplify the process, although (a) 30 retweets for the lead Page 1 story for The Sunday Times still seems a little underwhelming, and (b) I imagine promotion by your own journalists, while valuable, can only go so far when your story itself is stuck behind a paywall.
Today's front page: Top Tory in new Lobbygate row http://t.co/3gZHhosFXv #WestminsterforSale pic.twitter.com/0wqf5OuiqK -- The Sunday Times (@thesundaytimes) June 9, 2013
Paul Godfrey has been CEO of Canada's largest newspaper chain, the Postmedia Network, for three years. In that time he's cut more than 2,000 jobs, made two-thirds of content replicable across papers, hiked the cost of subscriptions, and rejiggered the business model toward earning roughly 50 percent of revenue from ads and 50 percent from circulation. In Canada's Marketing magazine, he discusses his plans for his next three years in charge.
“We will continue over the next three years to downsize the legacy costs [and] outsource where we can,” said Godfrey. “We are going to be a much smaller revenue company and a very much smaller expense company by living with a smaller number of staffers and people doing more. Hopefully we’ll be a more profitable company as a result.”Postmedia, which owns what used to be the Canwest chain of Canadian newspapers, owns major papers in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and other Canadian cities, along with the National Post.
The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner was hellbent on asking the the tough questions when he interviewed Politico founders John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei. There's a feisty exchange about the work environment at Politico, especially for their female employees, but the Beltway gentlemen also get into the site's role in the broader media landscape, as well as where they plan to head with their content.
IC: Is there a story that you are most proud of? JH: I think of us more in terms of reporters and our young staff, and I think about that in terms of the broader business. It’s crumbling! Carrie Budoff Brown came to us from the Philly Inquirer. It was a shell. The Washington Post is still a strong newspaper, but no one there would say it is providing the number of opportunities for young journalists that it was able to do when I was there. IC: Does that worry you, about newspapers dying? JH: Sure, and there are lots of implications there about the future: Who fills in the foreign coverage and local news as they retreat? I’m proud of the role we play in answering questions about the future of our own field. But let’s face it, most stories on any given day are perishable. IC: This interview will last. JH: I agree. This will be one for the ages.
When you bet on a strict, un-leaky paywall as The Times of London has, you're forced to get creative about how to put your work in front of new audiences — particularly if you're trying to influence their opinions. Unlike its fellow Times across the Atlantic, the U.K. paper has chosen not to allow a set number of articles per month or a number of free routes around the paywall. So a year ago, The Times set up a Tumblr for its opinion content, with the aim of giving "a flavour of what our columnists and leader writers do, how they think, and what influences their writing."
After initially posting 80 times or more a month, posting fell off, and earlier this month, the Times Opinion Tumblr was shut down, with editors announcing they would be moving all opinion content back to its original home on the newspaper’s main site. “We wanted to see if it attracted new readers to The Times and were very clear, with ourselves and our readers, that it was an experiment to see how it could work for us. It flourished in parts, but we’ve come to the conclusion that it wasn’t quite right for us,” communities editor Ben Whitelaw wrote in a post that also appeared on the Times Digital Development blog.
The Times reactivated its Comment Central opinion blog — behind the paywall — on the same day that the Tumblr blog was shuttered. Whitelaw wrote that posts to the blog would occasionally be free-to-access. Nick Petrie, The Times’ social media and campaigns editor, told me that the Tumblr page was part of an effort to draw in new digital subscribers to TheTimes.co.uk. Regular Times columnists like Oliver Kamm and Daniel Finkelstein posted shorter “off-the-cuff” pieces on the page, which were freely viewable to all visitors. Times Opinion had amassed 66,000 followers since its launch, Petrie said, “but it wasn’t driving traffic back to the site.” “Tumblr seemed like a good, light, easy-to-use platform that we could use to give people a taste of our comment and opinion, which is obviously the type of journalism that the Times is renowned for,” Petrie explained. “There was a hope that pushing out a small amount of original journalism, of original comment and opinion, would further enhance the idea of giving people a taste of what’s on offer if they became a subscriber.” REACHING AN AUDIENCE TO INFLUENCE What to do about opinion writing behind a paywall is a question newspapers have dealt with as long as there have been paywalls. Opinions, after all, are meant to influence, and influence would seem to grow along with the audience reading them. The Wall Street Journal, a paywall early adopter, committed early on to posting many of its opinion pieces online for free even while most news content was subscriber-only. Meanwhile, The New York Times took the opposite approach in the mid 2000s with TimesSelect, which kept the news free but put the newspaper's columnist behind a paywall. (The Wall Street Journal also began posting pieces from its editorial page on an Opinion Journal Tumblr, but back in 2007; like the U.K.'s Times, the Journal also stopped updating the page about a year after its debut.) Petrie said that The Times had not specifically set up analytics for the Times Opinion Tumblr, so the editors aren't sure what kind of traffic the page generated. According to comScore data, The Times has seen a substantial increase in traffic over the past year, from 748,000 unique worldwide visitors in April 2012 to nearly 1.5 million in April 2013 — but that's still far behind other British newspapers without strict paywalls such as The Guardian, which has over 18 million monthly uniques in the United States alone and well over 30 million worldwide. The Times, owned by the soon-to-split News Corp., remains on shaky financial ground; last week, acting editor John Witherow announced that the paper would be cutting 20 editorial jobs as a result of the parent company’s decision to separate its newspaper and entertainment holdings, The Guardian reported. The Times has seen a major decline in online readership since erecting the paywall in 2010. “The idea is that everything that we publish is worth being paid for,” Petrie said. Teaser pages, which allow readers to view the first 100 words of every article, were integrated into the Times site in October 2012 and may be a driver of The Times’ increased traffic. Only 881,000 unique visitors came to the site in October 2012 according to ComScore — a modest increase from the previous spring. After the 100-word previews became a standard part of the site, Petrie said that the opinion Tumblr “became slightly defunct in that moment…We’re pursuing a strategy that essentially, we want to bring people in to see our journalism, rather than take our journalism out of our space — that’s why we’ve relaunched the Comment Central blog, which had been incredibly popular before we started charging.” That blog will soon feature podcasts on opinion topics, and Petrie noted that the Times is developing new strategies to attract paying subscribers to the site. “That’s something we’re working on at the moment, but we’re not ready to talk about that yet,” he said.
My second favorite journalism fellowship program (behind only the Nieman Fellowships, of course) has opened up for applications again, and if you think you're qualified, you should apply. The Knight-Mozilla Fellowships, now in their third cycle, embed civic-minded coders into some of the world's top news organizations to do work that can reach big audiences and have a real impact on people to understand the world around them:
Knight-Mozilla Fellows spend 10 months embedded in partner newsrooms. They are paid to work with the community inside and outside of their newsroom to develop and share open-source projects that help to transform journalism on the web.This cycle, the newsrooms are The New York Times, ProPublica, the Texas Tribune, La Nacíon in Argentina, and, excitingly, a joint fellowship between Ushahidi and Internews Kenya in Nairobi. Knight-Mozilla boss Dan Sinker has some more detail in a blog post:
This year we wanted to partner with an array of newsrooms — from the very large to the very small — and place our fellows with development teams that are both well established and just starting to grow in order to capture a broad spectrum of journalistic experiences, ideas, and realities. These partners will each play host to a fellow (Ushahidi and Internnews will be sharing one fellow), who will be able to dive deeply into journalistic problemsets with some of the best practitioners in the world.I wrote about the last cycle a year ago if you want some more detail. The fellows who've moved through Knight-Mozilla in the past have done some inspiring work connecting journalistic values and a coder's instincts. I have a suspicion there's someone reading Nieman Lab today who'd make for a great fellow — if that's you, go for it.
David Wright is an award-winning designer who, in his time at NPR, worked on everything from their mobile music platform to NPR's homepage design. Wright has spent a lot of time sharing his design philosophy with the news world, trying to explain how he built what he built, but also trying to make news managers understand the importance of making design a priority early on. But now, Wright is leaving the news world behind — sort of. He'll be moving over to Twitter, to work with what he considers an all-star team of web platform designers. (He joins API whiz Daniel Jacobson, now at Netflix, as NPR talent to move to prominent positions in the technology world — not the most common path.) Though not entirely sure what projects he'll be working on, Wright says he has a lot of big ideas for simplifying Twitter and making it a bigger part of a variety of websites. And while he won't be working in a newsroom anymore, Wright predicts he'll learn a lot about how people are sharing and consuming information that could, down the road, be of great value to publishers. Days before his final departure, we chatted about building platforms for distribution of audio, narrowcasting, Twitter on steroids, and World War II-era telephone operators.
O'DONOVAN: So! Obviously, there's a lot of exciting stuff going on for you. How does it feel to be packing up and heading out of NPR?
WRIGHT: I think that I have not yet realized how hard it will be for me to walk out of this building on Friday afternoon. There's a lot of really amazing stuff going on here, and it's bittersweet because I've been really excited about what we've done here, and I don't know if I really realize what it will be like to leave some of this amazing work unfinished.
O'DONOVAN: What are some of the bigger projects that are hanging out there, that you're passing on? How do you and with whom do you hope to see them completed?
WRIGHT: Well, that they will be completed is not really a question. They will be. The big ones that are going on right now are — the most obvious one is we're in the midst of a fully responsive redesign of NPR.org that we began last fall and are picking away at, section by section. We've recently launched the small screen version of a redesigned and rethought homepage, and soon we'll be releasing that to more viewports and moving on to the rest of the important pages, not just NPR.org. So that's exciting. And I think in many ways the team is moving at a breakneck pace and I'll be excited when the whole site kind of is finally launched in this unified rethought visual vocabulary. It's amazing work, I"m super proud of it and the team that's in the trench right now. The other one that's cool is one we haven't really launched publicly yet, but we're thinking a lot about what a reimagined kind of radio experience would feel like — taking some of the best of on-demand pieces that we know and love from services like Rdio and Spotify and Pandora and thinking about how public radio fits into that picture. So a lot of experiments that we're taking small steps with. It'll make me sad to not really be as involved with those anymore.
O'DONOVAN: The last couple years, you've spoken a lot about how you think about design and the fact that it's different from storytelling. Can you talk a little about how — and I know it's obviously been a dynamic experience — how your philosophy there has changed over time and if there are any big elements of it that have changed since you started?
WRIGHT: I think that obviously the more that I've worked with what has become here, over the time that I've worked at NPR, the product team has really become a — I thought we were pretty high performing when I got here, but the kind of talent that we've been able to add to the team, and the methods and the processes that we use to create digital products has become more and more refined over time. I think that it's fair to say that any of my thoughts that I've shared publicly are certainly the synthesis of my ideas, but they're so greatly informed by the amazing people that I've worked with here. So I think as we've gotten better at making stuff, my thoughts and how we could refine the process has really gotten a bit more sharp. But I think what's most fascinating, and maybe what I'm most proud of leaving this building, is to be able to look back and see what an important part design has been able to play in the making of products here. I think it's easy for lots of people to recognize that it is an important ingredient, but sometimes it's hard to get an organization to understand why that is, and I'm really fortunate to have had a lot of really willing people here at NPR who've heard that message and have really embraced it. I think that's changed a lot as we've sort of matured on our own, and our own understanding of what makes good products, we've really been able to convince a lot of folks here that design is really at the core of helping us figure out what problems to solve and how to solve them and most importantly how to solve them well.
O'DONOVAN: One of the questions I had for you was: How do you explain to management or people who are really editorially focused the importance of design? You've said that it's the number one problem journalism is facing. Do you still feel that way? And for people who are struggling to make that clear, how would you advise them?
WRIGHT: I think without calling out any specific products that are out there, I think we can all say that we've used and experienced journalism on platforms and in different situations that were less than satisfying, and I think just being pretty unbiased about what we think makes a good experience and what we think makes a great experience and what we think makes a terrible experience. They're easy cases to show. Do we want to be more like _this_, or do we want to be like _this_? Nobody argues with the fact that everybody wants to create a good experience, but I think the most important thing that we as design thinkers can do is help explain how design is not really something that is an option. If you want to create a good product, it can't be a condition — it has to be something that is an absolute. You must include it, in order to create efficiencies, in your process, and make things that are fantastic and meaningful to people and beautiful and useful. It's really about calling out these examples and saying: Here's a perfect case where work design was involved from the beginning and it made this product better. And whether you're editorial, or you're a manager or a coder or a designer, you can look at those and from a pretty unbiased point of view say, Yes, you're right, that's better because design was involved.
O'DONOVAN: So, and you can explain to me the extent to which this is accurate, but assuming that you're taking a step away from designing for news, as you look farther down the road, for people who are still in it, what are the next major hurdles? If you were still working for NPR, what would be the next areas you wanted to tackle?
WRIGHT: I think NPR is a bit of an interesting animal, only because the kind of content that we deal with is a little bit different given how audio-centric much of what we do is. But I think it's going to be really interesting for organizations who are wrestling with really getting their content to appear how they want to on many different platforms. I think that's crucial. If a news organization is really not thinking beyond — I'm stating the obvious here — if a news organization is not thinking beyond the desktop browser, I think that's going to become much more problematic in the next coming years. We've been really good at building stories and trying to express what I like to call editorial intention in what viewport size on the desktop. We can go to any one of our home pages, anybody in the news business, you can go to a homepage when it's a papal conclave story or a Boston marathon or an election night, we know those patterns and we're good at them. We can reflect them well on the desktop. I think we have a harder time thinking about how to take what editors can do, what news professionals do, how they express themselves in other places, and separating them from the desktop page. So figuring out ways — news professionals need to express hierarchy and importance of stories and that this one is louder than this one — figuring out ways to make sure that works everywhere, I think is going to be a really big challenge for a lot of organizations, but a very important one to solve.
O'DONOVAN: You said at one point, I think, that you expected to see NPR rather quickly have a larger audience on mobile than they did for desktop. How close are you to that?
WRIGHT: I think, as far as numbers go, we're not there yet. But a little bit of that is from the hip and it will be interesting to see if history agrees with my proclamation there. I think there are actually more and more organizations who are being, and I can't really name any off the top of my head, that have definitely read anecdotally about how mobile traffic is something that is catching up for everyone a lot faster than anyone really would have thought. There's really no surprise in that. I think that should really be expected. If anyone's paying any attention to any of our competitors in this space, which they all should be, that's not a big surprise. But yeah, I think we're close — I think that every month we're really seeing traffic growth across the board and most of our platforms and, on the desktop for sure it's incremental, but it's really quite a bit more pronounced on the mobile web for us. And I think it can only continue, given the number of devices and potential people that we can reach.
O'DONOVAN: You mentioned how NPR has a unique situation because of being predominantly audio focused. But I've heard from at least a handful of people that there are people out there who really think that it's going to become a much more important part of everyone's strategy, in the same way that we talk about video. But there are definitely people who say that audio will become increasingly important. Do you think that there are in your mind any big design takeaways that people who might be looking to get more into the audio game would want to know about?
WRIGHT: Yeah! I think that. I would certainly not claim that NPR has solved every problem in this space, and in fact, I think if you asked a lot of people here, we still have some pretty major problems to solve in terms of how we distribute audio effectively. I think that SoundCloud is doing a great job of creating some really interesting innovations in the space. Anybody could look at them and say that seems like a really solid platform for audio distribution. I think, for us, the most important thing is to think about why — the distribution could be anybody's game and I think that, especially for organizations who aren't very well resourced, nobody wants to. Just like we don't all want to rebuild the exact same CMS at great expense and very little gain, I don't know that everybody just wants to invest in building audio delivery platforms. But I would say that I think it's so important ot understand why people gravitate toward audio, the same way they gravitate toward video or photography. What is the recipe, or the formula, that goes into creating compelling audio that matters? I think it has much less to do with design of the experience right now and much more to do with what makes great audio great audio. I think we've all been fans of podcasts that are amazing, and there are certainly lots and lots of things not produced by a public radio community that are amazing and that we love. There are lots of things that public radio creates that are amazing and we love. But that has a whole lot more to do with the content than the presentation and delivery. There's lots of room for innovation there. My best advice to anybody who wanted to get into that game, is to really think a lot about why people love it.
O'DONOVAN: I was looking over some presentations you've given in the past, and one of the things that you emphasize is that, while you haven't served as a storyteller or journalist at NPR, you have taken away from working around journalists not only the importance but the ease with which it is possible to ask questions and get out there and talk to people about the things you want to know about. So I want to move into talking about your next step at Twitter, and how you see that playing into the rest of your career.
WRIGHT: Anybody who wants to be successful at making products has to be able to draw on all of the places where we are when we're making things. Often the most important person whose voice is the most important part of your team is the user. We have a lot of really great ethnologists and design thinkers and people who are creating content, but the people who are consuming it are often absent from that conversation. So it's less about "is this a good idea" or not. I think it's almost always a good idea at some stage in the process to really incorporate users and listeners into what w'ere making. Journalists, if they're not doing it, they should be, because they're already really good at that. They're good at talking to people and asking hard questions and figuring out how to get somebody to say something meaningful, even if it's hard to coax it out of them. It's a natural fit. So if you're trying to convince journalists and news organizations that talking to people about what you make is a good idea, it's easy to tell them by saying, you've already done this. You already do this. As far as the next phase in my career, I've fortunately had the great pleasure of working shoulder to shoulder with some really amazing journalists and some really amazing storytellers and some really great reporters, and people who know how to chase stories, and I think I'll always feel in some way like I'd like to try to harness what I've witnessed, a lot of what these talented people do. In my own practice, whether it's outside of a newsroom or in newsroom, I'd always like to channel that as best I can. You know, _What would David Gilkey do in this scenario?_ He wouldn't be shy about approaching this curmudgeonly user? No, he wouldn't.
O'DONOVAN: How _do_ you approach the curmudgeonly user? How do you go about getting that opinion?
WRIGHT: At NPR — there's a million ways that organizations do it, but at NPR we use a mix of what I might really consider three major kinds of audience feedback. The first one is really kind of faceless and it's field surveys. We do this the most infrequently, but basically we'll say we really need to get a handle right now on how we think people are consuming digital news of this sort. We'll put together a fairly lengthy survey and field it with the understanding that by the time we process the results, they'll already be a little bit dated. But it gives us a really good snapshot of the time of how many people really listen to NPR, how many people are looking at news sites, how many people are reading newspapers, how many people are watching TV news — getting demographic information about that. We do that pretty infrequently, but it gives us pretty low resolution blocks of people we need to be thinking about and it helps us figure out where opportunities are. The second kind of testing or conversation that we have really has to do with our ability to have long-term conversations with people about stuff that we make. So existing users of products — we have opportunities that are much more regular than large surveys — opportunities to reach out to people that are on our listener panel, or other people that we can intercept or make callouts in social media and say, "Take five minutes and tell us what you think of this particular feature." We can ask questions that way. It certainly puts more of a face on things and we can get very specific about product features. And then the most specific thing we try to do is actually bring real life users into our world and sit down with them and lead them through testing that says, "Hey, we made this thing, it's kind of half baked, and we want you to use it and tell us what you think about it." Pretty standard user testing.
O'DONOVAN: I do want to talk about what's coming up for you. How much do you know about what you're doing there, what are you really excited about, what do you hope to see come out of it?
WRIGHT: I wish that I had a lot more information — well, no, I'm fine having a vague sense of what's going on, but, you know, we know what Twitter is and what Twitter does and it was really exciting for me to be able to visit with that team and learn about the kinds of things that they're tackling and the things they've built and some of the plans they have for the future. To the extent that I can be specific about what I'll be working on, what I do know is that I'll be focused at first on a platform team. I'll be working with the Twitter for websites team, figuring out interesting ways to make Twitter appear in more places than it does today. The thing that I think I'm most excited about is that I feel like I work with a very talented team at NPR and I know it will be true about the team I'll be working with at Twitter — just a lot of really smart people that, as a designer, I've just really respected and followed a lot in my design career. To have so many of those people — like Doug Bowman and Mike Davidson, founder of Newsvine — just really smart, smart thinkers who, like I said, are respected web design heroes of mine. I'm really excited to be able to go and solve problems with them, to get up in the morning and go to work and try to figure out how to make Twitter better, which is great. I think that the other part that is a huge selling point for me is, there's lots of reasons that my family wanted to get to California and be there and be a part of the amazing community that's happening, and the amazing design community that is part and parcel of the Bay Area. But for me to leave news is hard. It's really hard. But what's interesting is that while I feel like I'll be leaving journalism, going to work at Twitter, I don't have to squint very hard to see how involved I still will be in news. I think it's a really fascinating platform for me to be able, as a user and an observer and a guy who spent a lot of time in newsrooms, who watch what I think this platform could do.
O'DONOVAN: In the future, how do you see people, specifically journalists but also more broadly, using Twitter differently than they do now? What would you like to build for, for what kind of usage?
WRIGHT: That's something I'm really looking forward to learning more about as a person on the inside, because I think that even though I've spent a considerable amount of time talking with folks there about what they're trying to build and what they need help building, I still don't think I have a full enough picture to really know what is even in the realm of possibility. I have lots of sort of fantastic dreams about what could happen, what sort of the Twitter-on-steroids might look like — and maybe even a simpler version of Twitter. I think there are many things. It's probably too much for me to speculate right now.
O'DONOVAN: Well, give us one fantasy. What's the craziest Twitter-on-steroids fantasy?
WRIGHT: Wow. I think that there's something fascinating to me about the range of information that you can get from Twitter. We often talk a lot at NPR about making sure that people get their vegetables and also get really delicious pieces of candy that we can distribute through the radio. What I love about Twitter is that, in a combined stream, I can see this heartbreaking story or updates from people who are literally fighting for their lives in Egypt as they are in the midst of the revolution, and then, you know, followed by an update from somebody who's, you know, explaining how hungover they are because they were at their favorite bar. I think that, as a medium, like, what else does that? That is never part of the presentation that happens on our broadcast news. This is certainly not a Twitter-on-steroids idea, but, in terms of being able to harness the ability for people be able to narrowcast to them in really specific ways, I think has such a reach potential. That my mom can find value in that, in a way that manifests itself very differently from the way that I would, but we can find the same value out of it with very different content. I think that the challenge of kind of wrestling with: How do you create an experience that will be as useful for my mom as it will be for me, using the same basic parts and concepts but obviously delivering very different content? That's a fascinating problem to solve, and I'm excited to roll my sleeves up and give it a go.
O'DONOVAN: Was it you who was tweeting about explaining Twitter to your grandmother recently?
WRIGHT: It was. Absolutely it was. I believe the thing I said after that was if she gets sudden onset dementia, I'm going to feel partially responsible. Yeah, the thing that's cool though, is, her story is great. She was a telephone operator back in the day, where, we've all seen the photos of people plugging all the lines into one of the boards. One of my favorite stories that she told me was she was manning a board the night that it was V-E Day, and as soon as the word got to the United States via the phones, that victory in Europe had happened, she said the board lit up! So I was trying to tell her: This is what we do now. We don't use phones anymore — this is what we do. The fact that Twitter would blow up with this information is how we know it. She said, "I think I understand." I said, "All right, well, it's the same thing."
O'DONOVAN: I guess it's not altogether entirely undigestible.
WRIGHT: Yeah, there was part of it she thought was pretty cool.
O'DONOVAN: We talked a little bit at the beginning about designing for audio, and I'd be curious to know if you think those skills will come into play.
WRIGHT: We haven't talked specifically about audio, but we had a lot of really great conversations about the experiences that I've had designing for news organizations and bringing with me information about how publishers specifically are using lots of different tools, Twitter included. I've built really — I wouldn't call them large muscles, I'd call them interesting muscles over the last 12 years, thinking a lot about these problems. I think it would be really hard for me to not apply some of those skills. It's become such a part of my DNA that I'm interested in seeing, How do those skills fit and work? How are those patterns applied out of a newsroom?
O'DONOVAN: I would imagine you also bring some insight about what publishers want or what they think they want from ads. I don't know if you have thoughts about Twitter's different advertising strategies lately, but you've said in the past that you think publishers need to be thinking really differently about advertising.
WRIGHT: What I said in my conversations with people at Twitter was, if you're looking for a client services manager to go to newsrooms and write down the requirements of what would make Twitter great on news websites — I've been pretty vocal about some of the things news organizations aren't doing as well as I wish they were, or things I wish they were doing differently — but I was pretty clear that I might not be the best guy to come in and take those kinds of requirements down. So I've been critical about some of the things publishers have done and ads are chief among them. I think display advertising as we know it is in many cases a race to the bottom and is in many ways unsustainable. What I'm excited to learn more about is advertising models that are so native to the platform — and Twitter is a good example of that, I think the best is obviously Google's AdWords, AdSense — and just feel like part of the experience. I won't have a ton of good things to bring along with me from the point of view of what I think digital news design is doing in general. I think it will be more of the other way around, where I eventually might be able to bring some of the information and things I've learned working with a company like Twitter to help publishers figure out how to think differently about how they're doing things. I expect it might go the other way.
O'DONOVAN: So, let's say you're leaving NPR and the whole news world throws you a party. And they say, What's the one thing we can do for you while you're gone? What would you want them to do?
WRIGHT: Oh! This is easy. My one wish is for every news org, to really understand the importance of having — it doesn't have to be a visual designer, but to have design thinkers have a seat at the table. It's not about deciding what work gets done or how it gets done but it's really about making design as important an ingredient in what we make as editorial, as reporters, writers, photographers, and technologists. Designers bring such a unique value to the table and can just help solve so many interesting problems in really thoughtful ways. The best presents the news community could give me is to say, Everybody, designers are always at the table._Photo by Casey Capachi via the ONA._
Take this quiz. The era of paying for digital access (a.k.a. digital circulation or paywalls) is about: * Getting more money out of core subscribers; * Getting new money out of new subscribers; or * Getting money any way you can. Okay, 3 is a gimme. But 1 and 2 are very different strategies. While most newspaper publishers are leaning heavily on their long-time core bases by promising and delivering all-access, Hearst Magazines is taking a contrarian turn in the market. It's a strategy that is largely at odds with peers Condé Nast, Time Inc., and Meredith, as well as most newspaper publishers. It's betting almost wholly on _new_ customers. "We want unique paying digital customers," says Chris Wilkes, VP for audience development and digital editions for Hearst Magazines. "We're not primarily interested in people reading print and digital together. We want people who are engaging with our digital products, and we're attracting people who want to read in the digital format." The company has experimented with a little bundling — at "fair" (higher) and not "ride-along" prices — Wilkes says, but that's a minor part of the business. He can now offer up one big seven-digit number to back up that strategy: One million paid digital subscribers. That's the number of new subscribers Hearst Magazines was able to announce in May. Hearst Magazines president David Carey met that magic number just a few months behind his target. At one million, it's still only about 3-4 percent of Hearst's total print circulation — but it's a milestone. The company is aiming to make 10 percent of its total circulation digital by 2016. It's not that Hearst is saying it won't do all-access ever. But its reason for zagging while others zig is clear. "It's easier for us to pivot out of a paid model to authenticated than it would be for others to go the other way," Carey explained to me earlier this year. In other words, Hearst can go all-access, but would do it at higher prices, reflecting dual value. Those million subscribers are spread unevenly among 21 digital magazines. The biggest title is Cosmopolitan, with 175,000 paying digital subscribers, or 6 percent of its total circ. O, Oprah's mag, is second at 108,000. The Food Network's is third. Carey's big digital push encompasses a lot more than digital editions. The Hearst Tower is seeing lots of shake ups, new hires, and new projects. At the top, longtime COO Steve Swartz has finally moved into the CEO's suite as Frank Bennack's remarkable three-decade tenure has drawn to a close. He now heads a well-diversified private media company reaching into magazines, TV, newspapers and business media. Hearst just hired digital native Troy Young as president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media. Young's digital business associations — xoJane, ReadWrite, Refinery29, Spinmedia, and CrowdSurge — lead to this job where he'll be responsible for "digital content, technology, operations, revenue, product, and business development strategies." The company has now made it possible for advertisers to buy across its digital titles through Totally Global Media. Its two-year-old App Lab is home to 40 staffers. Its embrace of native advertising is recent, warm, and wide; it has just announced five new products in the field, and raised some editorial eyebrows as its magazine staff is writing commercial copy as part of their jobs. Hearst's strategy here is one to watch. There are good reasons (more on that below) why daily newspapers have opted to go for door number one and get more money from long-time subscribers while making new subs a largely second priority. But they know that's a two- to three-year strategy. As 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day through 2031, the older-reader market inevitably winnows and must be refreshed with new, _paying_ customers. For daily newspapers, getting younger (yes, younger means under 55) readers to pay is mostly phase two. So let's see what Hearst learning, as it leads both newspaper companies in that quest and its fellow magazine chains as well. There's a lot to like about the demographics of the digital audience. According to the company’s data, the readers are 10-20 percent more affluent, 10 years younger, and more educated. Wilkes acknowledges that those good demographics may be skewed by early tablet demographics themselves, but they are directionally vital. Make no mistake: The tablet is the linchpin here. How much of the reading of these magazines happens on the tablet? An amazing 98 percent. For many, the tablet is a truly becoming a replacement for the print magazine. Wide distribution is key to gaining numbers; subscriber growth is now moving at about 10 percent a month. Hearst uses all the platforms out there, from the Apple, Amazon, and Android stores and beyond. It is also testing magazine aggregation: It's an owner of Next Issue ("The newsonomics of Next Issue magazine future"), which offers dozens of titles at two price points, and it partners with Zinio (which just debuted its first multi-title offer). The tablet, of course, has become the lifeline of the magazine, a bequest of Steve Jobs, soon to be refreshed by the changes coming in iOS 7. While the horizontal web page always proved an awkward fit for vertical magazines, the tablet is oh-so magazine like. "It was a small novelty business [on the pre-tablet web]," Wilkes says. "We knew when the iPad came out, we would finally be able to build our business." The iPad revolution completely changed the magazine industry's _potential_ trajectory. Newsstand sales continue to crash — down 8.2 percent in the second half of 2012, in part, of course, because of the millions of tablets that readers are carrying into airports and on trains. (And soon, when the FAA finally relaxes tablet reading on takeoff and landing, the necessity of having a print piece packed away will lessen further.) Hearst, while arguably leading the magazine pack, certainly has its own challenges. Its single copy sales lost 1.9 percent in 2012, even though its 2.3 percent overall circulation increase to 30.7 million stands out among its peers. For the first quarter, print ad pages were down 4.9 percent for U.S. consumer magazines, though only 0.1 percent in revenue due to price increases. Hearst Magazines was up 6.6 percent. Given the across-the-spectrum drop in print advertising, both Time Inc. and Meredith have recently laid hundreds of employees. Time Inc. is, of course, in turnaround — yet again. First up for sale and now to be spun off from Time Warner, it let CEO Laura Lang go after but a year of ongoing strategic review and seems significantly behind Hearst in digital innovation. It is now playing catch-up with notable hires for Time.com, but is climbing out of its indecisive recent past; ad pages were down 12.2 percent in 2012, though up 0.6 percent for Q1 2013. It's intriguing that Hearst has — so far — embraced a double-edged bundling philosophy. While it won't, largely, bundle print and digital subscriptions, advertising is mostly bundled. If you buy an ad in House Beautiful or HGTV Magazine, you are paying for the whole rate base, including that three percent of the readership that's tablet, says Wilkes. At this point, a buy is a buy, though, Hearst, like so many others, is going to town on all the new possibilities of customizing advertising for top brands. It's not just those latest buzzwords, content marketing. It's interactive ad creation. Advertisers who buy print can tweak their tablet ad to use its capabilities. Wilkes notes a real movement in the ad creation business. Last year, he says, 85 percent of the ad customization done for the e-edition ads were done by his App Lab staff, with only 15 percent of advertisers, or their agencies, doing the tweaking. This year, brands or their agencies have assumed the work in about 40 percent of the cases, with the App Labbers doing the rest. Wilkes anticipates the work will continue to migrate back to the advertiser. That's a big lesson for all the publishers jumping into the agency business: As traditional agencies step up, increasingly fearing their own obsolescence, the custom/content marketing units of publishers will get more competition. Many inevitably will fall back to doing what they've long done: sell space. Those — nationally or locally — who see riches in becoming agencies — may find the going a lot tougher than it may be in 2013. The pricing of the digital magazines is a big question and still a work in progress. Magazines, which long used token reader payments just to print hundreds of pages of lucrative advertising, have a price problem. As John Loughlin, GM of Hearst Magazines, recently put it at MPA Swipe 2.0, "a magazine subscription needs to be valued at more than two venti cappuccinos." Magazine publishers realize, just as their newspaper brethren do, that the challenges of digital advertising will only grow, as print ad pages decline — and that readers must pay more of the freight going forward. On average, Hearst's digital mags cost 30 percent more than their print equivalents, Typically, they are $19.99 for a year, $1.99 for a month. Buyers can pay for a single issue or per year, depending on the title. A majority opt for the annual sub. "It's not pricing up — it's pricing back," says Wilkes, meaning magazines need to regain value lost in the heavily discounted print subscriptions that can now be found in seconds simply by Googling. It's true that most of that 30 percent in higher prices never reaches Hearst, as it deals with Apple and others of its more than a dozen distribution points, many of whom take cuts in the 15-30 percent range as commission. Wilkes says that's not the reason for the 30 percent upcharge — it's meant to convey a new value for the tablet age. Might the price go higher? Early data says it could. A magazine's price isn't among the top reasons readers buy — or don't. As Hearst interacts with consumers and reads app reviews, it sees that customer satisfaction with the product is by far the key driver in gaining and keeping subscribers. "We're not seeing much price sensitivity," says Wilkes. The pricing conundrum is at least two-sided. Magazines have a greater ability to draw in new subscribers. Getting someone to one-click for $20 is one thing. Getting them to commit — after cheap trial subs — to $200 to $300 for a year's newspaper subscription is another. So here magazines may have an edge at gaining new customers — unless newspapers can figure out cheaper subset products that may provide more saleable price points. The Wall Street Journal's test with Pulse, on three cheaper products, may not be producing big results, but expect to see more such tests; The New York Times' first-quarter earnings announcement about new niche paid products is one to watch here. Yet newspapers' weakness is also their strength. Their all-access plans have been front and center for a reason. On average, those putting all-access plans into place have increased subscription prices 40 percent, according to Press+, the leading supplier of paywall technology to the U.S. industry. Forty percent of $250 is $100. Newspaper publishers will tell you they'd rather increase rates for readers across the board than expect "onesie or twosie" new sales to propel their businesses and make up for ad loss. The New York Times, now getting close to 700,000 digital subscribers and offering all-access to print readers is the best example of a daily having it both ways. The bigger money that newspaper publishers are taking in makes magazine publishers envious. It's important to acknowledge the differing cost bases of the newspaper and magazine industries — but still, the ability to yield significant new reader revenue has largely been a newspaper advantage. Hearst Magazines, in reaching the golden million number, is the leader in new consumer magazine reader revenue. It has added, we can extrapolate, about three to four percent of new reader revenue to the mix. That's impressive, but not world-beating. Literally, at $20 price points, or even $30 prices, they need _millions_ of new readers — which is David Carey's plan — to fundamentally alter publisher economics. One further hope may be niche paid products. Hearst Magazines' own experience with those may be cautionary. It has produced numerous standalone apps out of its shelter, food, and health properties, but is now de-emphasizing that development. Why? Too much noise in the marketplace, so too little return for the investment. Rather, it will concentrate on improving its digital editions. There's one more long-term business strategy playing out here. It's hard to see in 2013, but it will enjoy high visibility by 2020. Hearst's cost in printing and distributing magazines are 30-40 percent of its overall cost base, on a par with newspapers. As its readers cross over ("The newsonomics of crossover"), paying as much or more for digital as they do for print, profit increases markedly. At three percent of circulation today, or 10 percent in 2016, Hearst won't be at crossover. Expect, though, that crossover to move more quickly for Hearst than for other publishers. As it reaches 50 percent and more, it's a new business, and strategies, like Hearst's, may make even more sense in the rear-view mirror.
EDITOR'S NOTE: You may have seen our story yesterday on OpenData Latinoamérica, a new data-sharing platform launched recently by a group of Latin American journalists. So that it might be read more by journalists and others who might want to use the platform, here's a translation of the article into Spanish. The translation is done by our dear friend and Nieman Fellow, the Chilean radio journalist Paula Molina."Hay un dicho aquí que se relaciona con nuestro trabajo y que no implica que sea ilegal: _es mejor pedir disculpas que pedir permiso_", dice Miguel Paz desde Chile. Paz es un veterano en el negocio de las noticias digitales. Y el dicho tiene que ver con su postura ante la búsqueda de datos públicos gubernamentales que podría tomar mucho tiempo obtener de otra forma. Paz también es becario de la Fundación Knight para el Periodismo, fundador de Hacks/Hackers Chile, y reciente ganador del Knight News Challenge. Hace pocos años fundó Poderopedia, una base de datos de políticos chilenos y sus conexiones a organizaciones políticas, gobierno y empresas. Pero liberar, organizar y publicar datos en Chile no es suficiente para Paz y por eso su próximo proyecto — en colaboración con Mariano Blejman de la red argentina Argentina's Hacks/Hackers — está dirigido a liberar datos en toda América Latina a través del proyecto OpenData Latinoamérica. Paz y Blejman esperan armar una red centralizada donde almacenar y compartir los datos públicos de toda la región. La conexión a través de Hacks/Hackers es clave para el desarrollo de OpenData Latinoamérica. La red estará disponible para resolución de problemas y entrenamiento mientras el proyecto despega y hackers y medios aprenden tanto a subir datos como a usarlos. Otro socio clave para convertir OpenData Latinoamérica en una realidad es su conexión con el programa de Desarrollo Global del Banco Mundial World Bank Institute's Global Media Development dirigido por Craig Hammer. Hammer cree que la era de los datos está revolucionando a los gobiernos, a las organizaciones no gubernamentales y los procesos de toma de decisiones. "La pregunta para nosotros es ¿Qué vamos a hacer con los datos? ¿Datos para qué? Construir un puente entre los datos disponibles y su traducción en mejoras para la calidad de la vida de las personas es un proceso que necesita tiempo y dedicación. En eso se focaliza nuestro trabajo programático", dice Hammer. UN MODELO A TRAVéS DEL ATLáNTICO Bajo la dirección de Hammer, el Banco Mundial colaboró en la organización y financiamiento de Africa Open Data, un proyecto similar a OpenData Latinoamérica lanzado por otro becario de la fundación Knight, Justin Arenstein. "Las mismas políticas de acceso a la información del Banco Mundial permiten hacer públicos sus datos y en ese proceso, la institución provee un soporte para que los países de la región también publiquen sus datos" dice Hammer. Africa Open Data se encuentra todavía en etapa beta, pero está reuniendo información, hackers y periodistas en proyectos de entrenamiento que ya han generado cambios en el periodismo. En un posteo acerca de la importancia de equipar al público para navegar en una nueva era de acceso a los datos. Hammer cuenta la historia de Irene Choge, periodista de Kenia que asistió a una sesión de entrenamiento del Banco Mundial en conjunto con Africa Open Data.
Choge…examinó los niveles de gasto público en infraestructura educacional, específicamente, en baños para escuelas primarias…El financiamiento para los baños había desaparecido, generando un aumento en la defecación al aire libre (en los mismos espacios donde los niños jugaban y comían), lo que a su vez había aumentando los riesgos de contraer cólera, giardiasis, hepatitis y rotavirus, y se traducía en menores niveles de asistencia escolar, especialmente para las niñas, que no contaban con instalaciones durante sus ciclos menstruales. Como resultado, el rendimiento en los exámenes escolares era bajo…A través del análisis que hizo Choge y la historia que escribió, los datos se convirtieron en inteligencia par a la acción. Como resultado, el gobierno está actuando: se dispusieron recursos ministeriales tanto para corregir la deficiencia de baños en las escuelas primarias más afectadas, como para identificar la fuente de la restricción en la asignación de fondos que constituía la raíz del problema.Hammer describe Africa Open Data como una prueba de stress útil para OpenData Latinoamérica, pero Miguel Paz dice que la base de datos para la región fue también un paso natural frente a la serie de frustraciones que él y Blejman encontraron en su trabajo. "Usualmente, el problema es que todo marcha bien antes y durante la hackathon" dice Paz. "Pero luego, ¿quiénes van a trabajar en los proyectos? ¿cuál es el status del proyecto? ¿cómo podemos seguirlo? ¿cómo pueden incorporarse otras personas?" La solución terminó siendo Hackdash, una creación de Blejman, y que constituye una interface que ayuda a los hackers a mantenerse al tanto de las respuestas para esas preguntas y por lo tanto, a reforzar el legado de varios proyectos. Pensar en formas de organización y comunicación para los hackers a través de América Latina no es algo nuevo para Paz y Blejman. "En una hackathon nosotros hacíamos algo y otra persona, sin saber nada del proyecto, hacía otro aporte. Así que cuando vimos la plataforma de Open Data Africa pensamos que OpenData Latinoamérica era una gran idea", dice. Blejman dice que los aportes del Banco Mundial han sido claves para la fundación de OpenData Latinoamérica, especialmente para la organización de los "training bootcamps". Hammer dice que él ve al Banco en el rol de construir un puente entre los hackers y los medios. "Más que una plataforma", dice Miguel Paz, "es una institución que por sí misma ayuda a conectar fuentes de información gubernamentales y ayuda en la transformación de esos datos en conocimiento y conocimiento dirigido a la acción". Dar a las personas las herramientas para comprender el poder de los datos es un principio importante de la filosofía de datos abiertos de Hammer, quien cree que la alfabetización en el manejo de datos es el próximo paso en el escenario creado por las grandes cantidades de datos públicos (Big Data). Hammer considera que este proceso de alfabetización es más inmediatamente importante para sectores específicos y estratégicos como el periodismo, los medios, los hackers cívicos y la sociedad civil". Uno de los objetivos de Hammer es conseguir que instituciones como los periódicos, en vez de confiar en intereses individuales, adopten la importancia de comprender el manejo de datos. “No me refiero a que todo el planeta aprenda a visualizar datos”, afirma, "lo que digo es que debería ser posible que estas habilidades las adquiriera cualquier persona interesada en ellas. Si pensamos en el acceso y manejo de datos públicos como el elemento democratizador real — como democratización sustantiva de la información — entonces los datos tienen que ser digeribles, accesibles y consumibles por cualquiera que quiera acceder a ellos". Aumentar el interés del público por acceder a mayor cantidad de datos es lo que Hammer describe como estimular la demanda de datos. Para Hammer, es magnífico que los gobiernos estén dispuestos a transparentar los datos públicos, pero para que esos datos sean útiles, las personas tienen que comprender y utilizar el poder de los datos. "Lo que es interesante en OpenData Latinoamérica es que es una iniciativa que afecta el lado de la demanda, donde el público está liberando datos, recolectándolos, limpiándolos. OpenData no opera sólo en la esfera gubernamental. Es algo que también pueden hacer otras entidades que operan en el ámbito de lo público". Como un ejemplo, en Argentina, donde el gobierno llegó tarde a la lógica de los datos abiertos, Blejman dice que vio cómo se desarrollaba una poderosa demanda por información pública entre los hackers y periodistas que lo rodeaban. "Cuando vieron lo que estaba pasando en otros países vecinos y las posibilidades que abría el acceso a los datos públicos, los argentinos pidieron lo mismo y el gobierno comenzó a entregar parte de sus datos". "Tenemos que pensar en los datos abiertos como un servicio, porque no importan cuánto trabajen las ONG: las personas no se van a preocupar de los datos per se" dice Paz. "Las personas se preocupan de los datos porque afectan su vida, para bien o para mal". Otra ventaja con la que contaron Blejman y Paz cuando decidieron inciar OpenData Latinoamérica fue la existencia de Junar, software chileno creado por Javier Pajaro, quien era un analista frustrado cuando decidió dedicarse a las plataformas de datos abiertos y ayudar a otros a hacer lo mismo. Según Blejman, mientras Africa Open Data optó por CKAN, el uso en OpenData Latinoamérica de una compañía local en español que ya era familiar para los integrantes de la red Hacks/Hackers ha fortalecido el proyecto, haciendo más fácil resolver los problemas cuando estos se presentan. También afirma que la habilidad de Junar para dar a las organizaciones involucradas mayor control sobre la plataforma se adapta muy bien con la visión de trabajo abierto y colaborativo que ellos visualizan para una futura operación diaria de la base de datos. ORGANIZANDO ESFUERZOS Paz y Blejman tienen altas expectativas para el crecimiento de OpenData Latinoamérica y las historias que surgirán del proyecto. "Lo que esperamos es que la gente empiece a usar los datos, a entusiasmar a los periódicos para que se organicen en torno a los temas de datos y tener un puerto central a partir del cual puedan consumir los datos que deseen", dice Blejman. Ambos esperan algún día reunir datos de cada país en Latinoamérica, pero reconocen que algunos serán más difíciles de alcanzar que otros. "En general, en los gobiernos federales es difícil estandarizar los datos. Así que en países como Argentina, que es un estado federado con distintas autoridades en distintos niveles, es más difícil estandarizar que en una república donde hay un estado", dice Paz. "Sin embargo, en Chile, tenemos gran cantidad de datos, un gobierno abierto y transparencia, pero no tenemos gran periodismo de datos". (Chile es una república.) En el futuro, también les gustaría ofrecer una manera segura de permitir que fuentes anónimas contribuyan con datos para el sitio. Paz dice que en su experiencia como editor, 20-25 por ciento de los golpes noticiosos provienen de fuentes anónimas. Pero a pesar de desarrollos como el reciente Strongbox de la revista The New Yorker's, OpenData Latinoamérica todavía está trabajando en un método seguro que no requiera descargar Tor, y que sea más seguro que el email. Blejman agrega que, por ahora, tienen un control mínimo sobre la calidad y la precisión de la datos original con la que están trabajando: "En última instancia, no podemos controlar las fuentes originales, y estamos confiando en las organizaciones". Pero sobre todas las cosas, lo que motiva a Paz es anticipar las historias que podrán contar. Paz planea usar documentos sobre compras públicas del Gobierno de Chile para construir una aplicación que permita a los ciudadanos hacer un seguimiento del gasto público, y de las compañías que beneficia. Otra historia en desarrollo ejemplifica en qué medida Paz tomó al pie de la letra los consejos de Craig Hammer en la construcción de una demanda de datos. En Chile, hay una significativa indignación estudiantil ante los crecientes costos de la educación y continuas protestas en favor de una educación gratuita. En respuesta, Paz decidió aprovechar esa energía y frustración en una #scrapaton que se realizará el 29 de junio en Santiago. Se focalizarán en conseguir datos de los dueños de las universidades, las compañías que tienen contratos con las universidades y los dueños de colegios privados y subsidiados. "Hay una broma que dice que si dejas a cinco gringos — y no digo gringo en una manera despectiva-, si dejas a cinco estadounidenses en una sala, probablemente van a inventar un cohete", dice Paz. "Si dejas a cinco chilenos en una sala, lo más probable es que se peleen entre ellos. Así que no sólo estamos construyendo herramientas, también estamos construyendo formas de trabajar juntos y de mejorar la confianza entre las personas". Blejman agrega que espera que la reciente publicación de una versión en español del Open Data Handbook (_El manual de Open Data_) facilitará aún más la colaboración entre los hackers Latinoamericanos. Con un proyecto de este tamaño y alcance, también hay un diseño ambicioso en torno a las métricas. Paz espera seguir cuántos proyectos se originan a partir de los datos de OpenData Latinoamérica. Craig Hammer quiere cuantificar el bien común que genera el acceso a los datos, un proyecto que ya está en camino a través de la Fundación World Wide Web (World Wide Web Foundation's) en colaboración con Open Data for Development Camp. "Si existe un lazo evidente, reconocible entre los datos abiertos y un aumento en el bienestar común, entonces creo que podría existir un momento catalizador para el manejo de datos abiertos, que permitiría un reconocimiento más amplio de por qué es importante y por qué vale la pena invertir en ellos, y se podría generar un aumento explosivo en la difusión de la alfabetización en el manejo de datos". Hammer quiere que la gente haga propios los datos y se dé cuenta de que pueden ayudar en la toma de decisiones en distintos niveles, incluso individual o familiar. Una vez que esas ventajas sean claras para la mayoría, la demanda aumentará y todo tipo de organizaciones se sentirá presionada a compartir su información". "Hay una sensación visceral de que los datos son importantes y eso es bueno. Hay un reconocimiento de que abrir la información y hacer accesible los datos es un bien público en sí mismo. Pero eso no es todo, ¿no?", dice Hammer: "eso no es el fin de un proceso, sino su inicio". _Foto de estudiantes marchando en la ciudad de Santiago entre gases lacrimógenos mientras la policía dispara cañones de agua, 8 de agosto, 2012. AP/Luis Hidalgo_
Talia Stroud of the University of Texas says she first became interested in how people choose their news sources in 2004. She was beginning to sense the rise of media polarization, so she started doing some research on why people seek out news from sources that are likely to confirm their own views — and what the implications are for American democracy. In 2011, Stroud published _Niche News: The Politics of News Choice_, which confirms the idea of "partisan selective exposure" and seeks to use this tendency toward self-selecting polarization to explain the interrelated workings of the media and the American political system. "The finding that makes me the most afraid," says Stroud, "is the people who are most likely to polarize and look at like-minded media and exhibit some of these behaviors that I don't think are pro-democratic are those who are most politically knowledgeable." So what to do? One strategy, taken up by some journalists, is shaming: complaining loudly about how awful it is that conservatives only watch Fox News and read Drudge or that liberals only watch MSNBC and read Daily Kos. But while that may feel nice to the complainer, it doesn't do much good to change behavior. Stroud wanted to try for something more actionable. The result is the Engaging News Project at UT, which received funding from The Democracy Fund, a project of the Omidyar Network via the New America Foundation, and which Stroud presented at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York last week. From the outset, Stroud resisted the temptation to come at the problem with a mind to create a newsroom revolution. Instead, she was looking for practical, easily implemented, small-scale solutions that local media partners could begin using and testing right away. "I wanted to develop something that would have two goals — one of which is a democratic goal and a second which is a business goal," she said. "That's quite doable in today's media environment." Stroud and her team started brainstorming tools that would not only encourage readers to engage in more diverse discourse online and expose themselves to new viewpoints, but which also had a chance of enhancing revenue for news outlets who already spend lots of time worrying about how to get more eyes on their pages for longer periods of time. "Before I started this project, I talked with a lot of people in a lot of newsrooms, from editors down to those who were like, 'Hey, I'm a social media intern.' There are some people who are only interested in the business angle, and there are some that are truly passionate about a democratic angle," says Stroud. "I think the Engaging News Project is well positioned, because it can actually speak to both of those."
The team located four different features of online news sites that they wanted to experiment with — comments, polls, link framing, and buttons. The results of the comments experiment — which looks at the role journalists play in guiding conversation through questions and interaction — aren't in yet, but the other three yielded provocative findings. A lot of news sites out there are using polls on their homepages to increase user engagement. Stroud asked whether there was a way to modify this trick to both make the polls both more informative to the reader and more interesting, so that they'd stay longer. Instead of asking questions about policy preferences — the results of which are likely unrepresentative of the broader public, anyway — she found readers learned more from being asked questions about existing poll data. In other words, asking "What percentage of the public approves of gay marriage, according to a recent Gallup poll?" generated more learning than just asking "Do you approve of gay marriage?" The Engaging News Project also discovered that readers were more likely to engage with slider polls than other designs, and that they were actually willing to answer a series of poll questions, which is good business news for local media. The Engaging News Project's other two areas of focus were based on the differences a subtle change in language could make when trying to get readers to think about consuming a different kind of news. One idea was to eschew the "Like" button — which Stroud says news orgs adopted from Facebook with little contemplation — and try to come up with a word that allows for greater breadth of meaning. After a bomb scare at UTAustin a few years ago, one of Stroud's students saw a local TV channel encouraging viewers to 'Like' their coverage online, saying, "We know this doesn't mean you like the bomb scare." Stroud, acknowledging at the limitations of the Like button, decided to test a "Respect" button:
From a business angle, respondents seeing a “Respect” button clicked on more comments in a comment section. From a democratic angle, respondents seeing a “Respect” button clicked on more comments from another political perspective in comparison to the “Recommend” or "Like" buttons.
Unfortunately, the feature Stroud was most excited about experimenting with turned out to be the greatest disappointment. After combing through the political science, communications studies, and psychology literature on motivating language, she came up with phrases meant to encourage people to click news links over entertainment links, and also to click links with which they might not agree. They tested a number of phrases. The most successful: "Form accurate positions by reading different viewpoints" and "Thanks for keeping up with the news. Be proud of protecting your democracy." But none of the lines produced replicable or reliable results. "Some of these phrases led site visitors to evaluate a site more positively, but also decreased the number of clicks on a site," Stroud wrote. "Others encouraged some visitors to spend less time with counter-attitudinal editorial content." Ultimately, she said the takeaway is that the effects of language can be highly variable, so it's best to plan carefully and test thoroughly. Stroud says she's planning more link-framing experiments in the future in hopes of nailing down more tangible results. "My hope is that novel tools and novel buttons can shake people out of their habits," says Stroud. Soon, the Engaging News Project hopes to make all of these tests available as a front-end plugin for news sites, so that lots of outlets can contribute data from A/B testing without hands-on engagement with university researchers. Stroud says a WordPress plugin for a Respect button is already available. While Stroud is hopeful that ongoing research will yield further approaches to news design that serves democracy and business equally, she's also begun to notice an inverse relationship between passion for a cause and thoughtful conversation. For newspaper owners, the tension is between a dislike of comment-section screeds and the knowledge that publishing them will get the outlets the clicks they need. But Stroud sense another problem as well. "Diana Mutz says there's either participatory democracy or deliberative democracy, and you kind of have to choose," she says. "Some people have critiqued that and said maybe we don't have to choose. But I think she's on to something. It's energizing to get people to feel passionately about a cause, to go out and do anything for it. But to get them to sit back and think about all the arguments of the other side takes some of the passion out of it. It's a tricky thing to break through." The Engaging News Project's findings will be published as white papers and presented at conferences throughout the summer. _Image by Sean MacEntree used under a Creative Commons license._
Susan Glasser always welcomes a new challenge. As editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy, Glasser led the effort to bring the magazine into the modern era of online reporting and to use the web to revitalize the debate around international news. Now she's moving on to Politico, where she will be editor of a new long form journalism and opinion project, including managing Politico's new magazine. It's a project that could be just as ambitious, as Politico tries to reorient its fast-paced news-breaking apparatus toward deeper dives and diverging viewpoints. In our conversation, Glasser and I talked about her new role at Politico, how blogs play a role in foreign policy debates, her approach to finding new writers, and whether longform journalism ever went away. Below is an edited transcript of the discussion.
JUSTIN ELLIS: First off — Politico! What was it that made you want to take on that job now?
SUSAN GLASSER: I should say I love Foreign Policy. This has been an incredible project and something I've really immersed myself in for pretty much the last five years, day and night. I really have loved the chance to reimagine a venerable brand for the digital era, and the chance to create a whole different kind of international affairs conversation online at ForeignPolicy.com, as well as rethinking how the print magazine fits into that. It's been an amazing project — I've never had a job where I learn so much every single day from so many people. The team at Politico, John Harris and Jim VandeHei, are old friends of mine, and I've long been an admirer from the sidelines of what they've done building something literally from scratch into an extremely dominant news organization here in Washington. Over the years we've had conversations, so when they came to me this time, there was such an exciting proposal on the table — to create something from scratch — that the part of me that likes to create things really felt like it was an ambitious and exciting proposal. Especially harnessed to this very successful, pulsing, news-driven organization they've created.
ELLIS: That seems to be a theme with you. When you joined Foreign Policy, from what I've read, they posted one story a day and had one blog. What was the situation, and the challenge facing you, when you started there?
GLASSER: Starting in the summer of 2008 — The Washington Post Company decided to buy Foreign Policy. That happened in the late fall of 2008. As Don [Graham] and I had talked about what we thought was the opportunity there, we both were very well aware there just wasn't something in this space on the web — that there was a huge opportunity out there for a smart, daily, vibrant, web magazine and conversation around international affairs and the world. It just didn't exist at the time. This is back when people did blogs — and I know there's been a big conversation now about whether blogs matter anymore — but back then the idea of taking someone like Tom Ricks, a guy on two different Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, a New York Times best-selling author, a longform guy, with high-impact enterprise reporting, and saying he was going to be a blogger? This was at a time when I think people, especially in the more fancy-pants rarified world of foreign policy circles, still viewed bloggers as slightly dubious graduate students in their underpants in their basement. Our idea was: Don't blame the medium. There's nothing inherently bad or stupid about blogs. Why don't you get some really brilliant bloggers on Foreign Policy? Why don't you create the vibrant conversation and use the web in the way we knew it could be used to connect people and create a community around this, as well as a bunch of new journalism. That was another significant change, I think, just in the mindset of this publication. The idea that it could support, for the first time in its 40 years, original reporting and breaking news and scoops. Being the convener of first order — not just offering a new kind of great insight and analysis of the news, but actually leading the conversation when it came to the making of foreign policy in the Obama era and that intersection of Washington and the world.
ELLIS: In your memo about leaving the magazine, jumping back to ForeignPolicy.com's relaunch, you called it a "guerrilla launch." Why'd it take a guerrilla undertaking to bring the magazine up to speed?
GLASSER: We bought the magazine, but we didn't have a big budget, or plan, or technical team behind us or anything. We had very little resources. People plan news sites and relaunches for months, even years, but it seemed so urgent that we get ourselves out there and start to be seen in the way that we wanted the new ForeignPolicy.com to be. I was there for about a month, trying to figure things out and putting a print issue out. We were sitting around, and I'm not a technical person myself at all, and I was trying to describe what I hoped for in this website and somebody said, "You know, we could just do that. We could just design a new homepage and sit it on the top of the existing site. We already have one blog on Drupal, we could build a new network of blogs, all these new blogs you're talking about." It was like this light went off, and I was so excited — I said, "Of course we should do that! We'll just do it!" The key insight was they said we could design the homepage to anything we want — it's okay. So that's what we did. In six weeks, we designed and built a new homepage, which is still more or less that same homepage we have now. We created the homepage, and this new, very visually driven sort of magazine-y homepage with a real sensibility to it, and we created this network of Drupal blogs.
ELLIS: You mentioned before the notion of blogs being viewed as lesser than "serious journalism." How has that changed in your time at Foreign Policy? How do you think blogs can contribute to a discussion on international news and policy?
GLASSER: First of all, I've always been a believer in the idea that it's about the content and the subject matter, the kind of journalism you're producing, rather than software. Often people use blogs as a real umbrella term. To me, some blogs are very reported and there's not much difference between a traditional news story in a newspaper. We've always treated our reported blogs in that way. They're editing and handled in that way. Then there's opinion-y, quick takes on the news kind of blogs, which is often what people refer to. There are link blogs like Andrew Sullivan's. So I feel like that term tends to conflate a lot of different things. It carries a lot of baggage. Adding original reporting was what I wanted to do more than adding "blogs" to the mix of Foreign Policy. Finding ways to deepen and engage readers in more of a conversation was another goal of the site. We also found that there was a "If you build it, they will come" quality to the experiment. People didn't know Foreign Policy was open for business on the web. One of my first weeks there, Peter Bergen, a colleague who I had gotten to know in Afghanistan, sent me a piece and said, "It's great you're at Foreign Policy, would you like to run this piece today?" And it was on some newsy subject. And I remember going into Blake Hounshell's office next door to me and saying "Here's this piece from Peter Bergen, but we'd need to do this right now." When we set up shop, we just found we had unlocked so much more conversation and discussion, and that people saw us immediately as a different kind of venue. It's really snowballed from there.
ELLIS: Is that what led to traffic increasing? Since you've been there, traffic has continued to go up. What do you attribute it to?
GLASSER: There's just been an explosion in the ambition and reach of the website, and the kinds of contributors we have. And that's definitely been reflected in the traffic. I'll give you a few numbers to give you a sense of it. We saw a dramatic jump right away when we added the network of blogs in January 2009 and became a daily site. The first year, we had about 50 million pageviews. Last year was by far our biggest — in 2012 we had 200 million pageviews. We had basically about a few hundred thousand unique visitors, on the eve of the relaunch. We just had out biggest month ever in terms of unique visitors, with about 4.5 million. There's a big constituency of people who are interested and engaged with the world. There are many stakeholders. About 60 percent of our audience is in the U.S., the rest in pretty much every single country in the world. That's the amazing thing about the distribution networks that already exist on the Internet: We were able to really quickly and effectively, basically with no cost, get the word out about this new project. Our ability to do this was a product of all the tools that have been developed on the wider Internet.
ELLIS: With international news online, you can often go directly to the source. If you're looking for news about China and read Chinese, you can read Chinese websites. Do you think your readers are doing this, or do they still rely on places like Foreign Policy or others that can do the analysis and put context behind stories?
GLASSER: Initially maybe there was a wrong assumption that we'll just cut out the middleman now, and the future of news is that everyone can access everything in real time from the point of origin. Of course, that doesn't make sense, right? The way that an Israeli newspaper covers something in Israel, it's a local story. The way that the Georgian war is covered in Georgia or Russia, it means something completely different. Not only are the politics different, but it's a local story. It's that village being invaded by Russian troops. The needs of a reader in a globalized capital, whether it's Washington or London or Brussels or Beijing, is very different. You want to have context. You want to have some dramatic reportage. You probably want to know the best of what the local media is saying in a way that's accessible to you. So I think that actually the role of mediators, and people who can apply what somebody needs to know from a distance, or a leading policy maker or decision maker, a business person, it's a totally different thing that they need to know. They need the context to understand the event much more than they need the kind of breaking news coverage.
ELLIS: How has foreign reporting and reporting on policy has changed in the time you've been with the magazine? Have there been significant changes?
GLASSER: Absolutely. It's changed really dramatically. I was a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post based in the Moscow bureau with my husband for Vladmir Putin's first term — basically the end of 2000 to the end of 2004. That was the period of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq, which we covered as well. Every single news organization whose reporters I traveled with around Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2002 and 2003 more or less are entirely out of the foreign correspondent business — except for The Washington Post, which has significantly scaled back the number of correspondents it has. I went around Afghanistan with someone from The Boston Globe. I drove as an unembedded reporter into southern Iraq in 2003 with someone from Newsday. Zero foreign correspondents in both cases today. From Newsweek — which no longer exists. You could go on and on. So it's been a dramatic change. At the Pulitzer Prizes, the number of international reporting entries has gone down fairly dramatically. I was on the jury for that over a couple of years recently, and The New York Times won both years. It's getting stronger and stronger — it's something they already dominated just because the numbers are disappearing so quickly.
ELLIS: People like to describe outlets like Foreign Policy and Politico as niche publications, but sometimes to me that seems like a nice way of saying they have smaller audiences. Do you think that's the case? Even if the audiences aren't that large, what should publications do to get the most out of their audience?
GLASSER: First of all, if your niche is the world, as we like to say, it's not a very limiting or confining space to be in. That's part of what made Foreign Policy so much fun as a project, actually, because it was such an incredible range of journalists, and contributors, and subjects that we could cover on a given day. It's an incredibly rich space to be in. I think that's true of Politico too, by the way. The subject of American politics, power, policy, writ large, is a fairly grand canvas on which to work. I think it's great from the point of view of a journalist in not feeling limiting. Jim VandeHei, the executive editor of Politico, is really smart on this subject about why, actually, being a niche publication is a real advantage to something like Politico. Because you have the ability to build, potentially, a really solid business foundation around it. This is something that a core number of people need to do their professional work.
I think that's something that both Foreign Policy and Politico have in common, and they don't suffer some of the more existential questions surrounded by a more traditional metropolitan daily newspaper, which was designed to serve a vast array of disparate audiences. Everybody from the proverbial bus driver in Prince Georges County outside of Washington to the president of the United States was, in theory, reading The Washington Post of old. It's really hard to serve all those different constituencies well. It was the old department store model. The great 19th-century department store in which everybody could buy something at their price level. This is a much more boutique-y era, and we've been given an incredibly array of tools to serve particular audiences much more deeply, and thoroughly, and immediately than ever before.
ELLIS: One of the jobs you've had while with Foreign Policy is to try to find more bloggers and other contributors. That sounds like that's something you might also be doing for Politico. How do you try to find new talent? How do you pitch them on the idea of writing for you?
GLASSER: The amazing thing about this project has been the chance to meet and get to know incredibly brilliant and interesting people who have a lot to contribute. I found that to be probably one of the most rewarding and interesting parts of building up Foreign Policy over the last few years, the diverse array of contributors. It's the kind of website where you have everybody from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign minster of Turkey, but also presenting them along side this fearless, brave reportage by a 28-year-old who went to Syria as a freelancer. And you're putting that next to incredible, historical photography of Afghanistan in the 1960s. And you're putting that next to this great column by Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor who went and served as a high-ranking defense department official in the Pentagon for the first few years of the Obama administration and has come back out to write about it. That's the part I think was so rewarding, to see the incredible range of people who had something to contribute. And in many ways I have felt that the project was about opening up the foreign policy conversation of old. Too often in the past, you could find these very learned, foreign policy conversations in which it really seemed like it was by and for a hundred guys in gray pinstripe suits. If you look at the diversity and range of contributors we have now, I feel like that old world has been exploded and we're just expanding the range of voices that are part of the conversation. There's a lot more work to be done, I should say. But that to me is really the fun part of the job.
ELLIS: Since you're moving on to a job that will involve long-form journalism, I wonder about your thoughts about this idea that there is a resurgence of longform. Do you think that's the case? Is it really coming back, or did it ever leave? Does this have more to do with the metabolism of news online right now?
GLASSER: I guess I'm one those people who believes that it's just a good thing for journalism if people are embracing this idea of long-form journalism. We've certainly found at Foreign Policy that old conventional wisdom was wrong, and I never believed it, that people only read piece of X number of words on the Internet. There are a lot of people who had pronouncements like that. We definitely found that people could get excited about a great piece of writing or journalism of varied lengths. My old friend, Leon Aron, who's a beautiful writer, a thoughtful writer about Russia and the biographer of Yeltsin, did a cover story for us a couple of years go about "Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union is Wrong." It was a 4,000-word essay about that. And it got hundreds of thousands of readers. I always saw that as a positive sign. Not all of these things have a huge audience, certainly, but in general I'm a believer that quality does rise to the top on the Internet, and that ambitious journalism, narratives telling stories, and long-form investigative accountability reporting, tends to be a way that a news organization can differentiate itself. Right now, we are competing for people's time and attention, to be the convening power for our subjects. It's a great way for a news organization to stand out and to own the story in a way. News has become increasingly commodified — Twitter is so incredibly good at getting the word out on anything so quickly. I think it has left an opening for the kind of original, high-value reporting and investigations that means so much to me and that I love to work on.
A Swedish media consultant Otto Sjöberg writes for INMA about Amazon's quick rise up the rungs of the ad sales business. CEO Jeff Bezos is apparently hyper-attuned to the value of the data Amazon owns about shoppers.
“Key to further growth will be the plethora of consumer purchasing data Amazon gathers through its core business, retail sales. Ad-selling competitors such as Google and Facebook lack such data — and therefore its targeting potential,” eMarketer concludes. The key takeaway from the story of Amazon is for news media companies to be experts at gathering not only information but data, and to use that data to venture into new revenue streams.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Our friends at Harvard's Digital Media Law Project wrote this interesting post on the new, Newtown-inspired limits on public access to information about homicides in Connecticut. We thought it was worth amplifying, so we're republishing it here.At a time when citizens increasingly call for government transparency, the Connecticut legislature recently passed a bill to withhold graphic information depicting homicides from the public in response to records from last December's devastation at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Though secret discussions drafting this bill reportedly date back to at least early April, the bill did not become public knowledge until an email was leaked to the Hartford Courant on May 21. The initial draft of what became Senate Bill 1149 offered wide protection specifically for families of victims of the December 14 shootings, preventing disclosure of public photographs, videos, 911 audio recordings, death certificates, and more. Since then, there has been a whirlwind of activity in Connecticut. After a Fox reporter brought to the attention of Newtown families a blog post by Michael Moore suggesting the gruesome photos should be released, parents of children lost in the terrible shooting banded together to write a petition to "keep Sandy Hook crime scene information private." The petition, which received over 100,000 signatures in a matter of days, aimed to "urge the Connecticut legislature to pass a law that would keep sensitive information, including photos and audio, about this tragic day private and out of the hands of people who'd like to misuse it for political gain."
As this petition was clearly concerned about exploitation by Moore and others, Moore later clarified his position, emphasizing that the photos should not be released without the parents' permission. Rather, he spoke about the potential significance of these photos if used voluntarily to resolve the gun control debate, in the same manner that Emmet Till's mother releasing a photo of her son killed by the KKK influenced the civil rights movement. Like the petitioners, members of the Connecticut legislature responded with overwhelming support for SB 1149. Working into the early hours of June 4, the last day of the legislative session, the state Senate and House approved the bill 33-2 and 130-2, respectively. The bill as approved exempts photographs, film, video, digital or other images depicting a homicide victim from being part of the public record "to the extent that such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of the victim or the victim's surviving family members." The bill particularly protects child victims, exempting from disclosure the names of victims and witnesses under 18 years old. It would also limit disclosure of audio records of emergency and other law enforcement calls as public records, such that portions describing the homicide victim's condition would not have to be released, though this provision will be reevaluated by a 17-member task force by May 2014. Though more limited in scope than the original draft with respect of the types of materials that may not be disclosed, this final bill addresses all homicides committed in the state, not only the massacre in Newtown. It was signed by Governor Dannel Malloy within twelve hours of the legislature's vote and took effect immediately. From the beginning, this topic has raised concerns with respect to Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act and government transparency. In addition to being drafted in secrecy, the bill was not subjected to the traditional public hearing process. All four representatives who voted against SB 1149 raised these democratic concerns, challenging the process and scope of this FOI exemption. This blogger agrees that in its rush to appropriately protect the grieving families of Newtown before the session ended, Connecticut's legislature went too far in promoting privacy over public access to records, namely with respect to the broad extension of the bill to all homicides and limitations on releasing 911 calls. Though influenced primarily by the plight of those in Newtown, SB 1149 makes no distinction based on the gravity or brutality of the homicide, or any other factor that may relate to the strength of the privacy interest. Instead, it restricts access to traditionally public records for all homicides in the state, reaching far beyond the massacre at Sandy Hook. As the Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane said with respect to photographs depicting injuries to victims and recordings of their distress, "it seems to me that the intrusion of the privacy of the individuals outweighs any public interest in seeing these." Pressure to expand the bill as Kane desired came primarily from advocates of the legislature's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. They criticized the fairness of differentiating between the protection owed to Newtown families and that due the families of homicide victims in urban areas, where homicides occur more frequently. This fairness and equality based argument raises valid concerns about how the legislature is drawing the line between protected and unprotected records: If limited to the shootings at Sandy Hook, then in the future, what level of severity would make visual records of a killing "worthy" of exemption from disclosure? But an all-inclusive exemption like the one Connecticut passed goes too far in restricting the public's access to important public records. It restricts public access to information so long as a minimal privacy interest is established, regardless of the strength of the interest in disclosure. While restricting the release of photos of the young children who lost their lives this past December is based in a strong privacy interest that far outweighs the public or governmental interest, the same cannot be said for every homicide that has occurred or will occur in the state. The potential lasting consequences of this substantial exemption from the FOIA should not be overlooked or minimized in the face of today's tragedy. SB1149 is also problematic in that it extends to recordings of emergency calls. While there is some precedent for restricting access to gruesome photos and video after a tragedy, this is far more limited with respect to audio recordings. Recordings have been made available to the public after many of our nation's tragic shootings, including the recordings from the first responders to Aurora, 911 calls and surveillance video footage from Columbine, as well as 911 calls from the Hartford Distributors and Trayvon Martin shootings. While a compromise was reached in permitting the general release of these recordings, the bill includes a provision that prevents disclosure of audio segments describing the victim's condition. Although there is a stronger interest in limiting access to the full descriptions of the child victims at Sandy Hook, weighing in favor of nondisclosure in that limited circumstance, emergency response recordings should be released in their entirety in the majority of homicide cases. This aspect of the law in particular may have grave consequences for the future of the state's transparency. Records of emergency calls traditionally become public records and are used by the media and ordinary citizens alike to evaluate law enforcement and their response to emergencies. The condition of the victim is an essential element of evaluating law enforcement response. As the president of the Society of Professional Journalists, Sonny Albarado, noted, "If you hide away documents from the public, then the public has no way of knowing whether police…have done their jobs correctly." In other words, these calls serve as an essential check on government. As a nation which strives for an informed and engaged citizenry, making otherwise public records unavailable is rarely a good thing and should be done with more public discussion and caution than recently afforded by Connecticut's legislature. Connecticut's bill demonstrates a frightening trend away from access and transparency. Colleen Murphy, the executive director of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, has observed a gradual change in "toward more people asking questions about why should the public have access to information instead of why shouldn't they." It has never been easy to balance privacy rights with the freedom of information, and this is undoubtedly more difficult in today's digital age where materials uploaded to the Internet exist forever. Still, our commitment to self-regulation, progress, and the First Amendment weighs in favor of disclosure. Exceptions should be limited to circumstances, like the Newtown shooting, where the privacy interest strongly outweighs the public's interest in accessing information. As the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information wrote in a letter to Governor Malloy, "History has demonstrated repeatedly that governments must favor disclosure. Only an informed society can make informed judgments on issues of great moment."
Kristin Bergman is an intern at the Digital Media Law Project and a rising 3L at William & Mary Law School. Republished from the Digital Media Law Project blog._Photo of Connecticut state capitol by Jimmy Emerson used under a Creative Commons license._
En español aquí."There's a saying here, and I'll translate, because it's very much how we work," Miguel Paz said to me over a Skype call from Chile. "But that doesn't mean that it's illegal. Here, it's 'It's better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission."" Paz is a veteran of the digital news business. The saying has to do with his approach to scraping public data from governments that may be slow to share it. He's also a Knight International Journalism Fellow, the founder of Hacks/Hackers Chile, and a recent Knight News Challenge winner. A few years ago, he founded Poderopedia, a database of Chilean politicians and their many connections to political organizations, government offices, and businesses. But freeing, organizing, and publishing data in Chile alone is not enough for Paz, which is why his next project, in partnership with Mariano Blejman of Argentina's Hacks/Hackers network, is aimed at freeing data from across Latin America. Their project is called OpenData Latinoamérica. Paz and Blejman hope to build a centralized home where all regional public data can be stored and shared. Their mutual connection through Hacks/Hackers is key to the development of OpenData Latinoamérica. The network will make itself, to whatever extent possible, available for trouble shooting and training as the project gets off the ground and civic hackers and media types learn both how to upload data sets as well as make use of the information they find there. Another key partnership helping make OpenData Latinoamérica possible is with the World Bank Institute's Global Media Development program, which is run by Craig Hammer. Hammer believes the data age is revolutionizing government, non-government social projects, and how we make decisions about everyday life. "The question for us, is, What are we gonna do with the data? Data for what? Bridging that space between opening the data and how it translates into improving the quality of people's lives around the world requires a lot of time and attention," he says. "That's really where the World Bank Institute and our programmatic work is focused." A MODEL ACROSS THE ATLANTIC Under Hammer, the World Bank helped organize and fund Africa Open Data, a similar project launched by another Knight fellow, Justin Arenstein. "The bank's own access-to-information policy provides for a really robust opportunity to open its own data," Hammer says, "and in so doing, provide support to countries across regions to open their own data." Africa Open Data is still in beta, but bringing together hackers, journalists, and information in training bootcamps has already led to reform-producing journalism. In a post about the importance of equipping the public for the data age, Hammer tells the story of Irene Choge, a journalist from Kenya who attended a training session hosted by the World Bank in conjunction with Africa Open Data.
She…examined county-level expenditures on education infrastructure — specifically, on the number of toilets per primary school…Funding allocated for children's toilet facilities had disappeared, resulting in high levels of open defecation (in the same spaces where they played and ate). This increased their risk of contracting cholera, giardiasis, hepatitis, and rotavirus, and accounted for low attendance, in particular among girls, who also had no facilities during their menstruation cycles. The end result: poor student performance on exams…Through Choge's analysis and story, open data became actionable intelligence. As a result, government is acting: ministry resources are being allocated to correct the toilet deficiency across the most underserved primary schools and to identify the source of the misallocation at the root of the problem.Hammer calls Africa Open Data a useful "stress test" for OpenData Latinoamérica, but Paz says the database was also a natural next step in a series of frustrations he and Blejman had encountered in their other work. "Usually, the problem you have is: Everything is cool before the hackathon, and during the hackathon," says Paz. "But after, it's like, who are the people who are working on the project? What's the status of the project? Can I follow the project? Can I be a part of the project?" The solution to this problem ended up being Hackdash, which was actually Blejman's brainchild — an interface that helps hackers keep abreast of the answers to those questions and thereby shore up the legacy of various projects. So thinking about ways that international hackers can organize and communicate across the region is nothing new to Paz and Blejman. "One hackathon, we would do something, and another person who didn't know about that would do something else. So when we saw the Open Data Africa platform, we thought it was a really great idea to do in Latin America," he says. Blejman says the contributions of the World Bank have been essential to the founding of OpenData Latinoamérica, especially in organizing the data bootcamps. Hammer says he sees the role of the bank as building a bridge between civic hackers and media. "More than a platform," he says it's, "an institution in and of itself to help connect sources of information to government and help transform that data into knowledge and that knowledge into action." Giving people the tools to understand the power of data is an important tenet of Hammer's open data philosophy. He believes the next step for Big Data is global data literacy, which he says is most immediately important for "very specific and arguably strategic public constituencies — journalists, media, civic hackers, and civil society." Getting institutions, like newspapers, to embrace the importance of data literacy rather than relying on individual interest is just one goal Hammer has in mind. "I'm not talking about data visualization skills for planet Earth," he says. "I'm saying, it's possible — or it should be possible — for anybody that wants to have these skills to have them. If we're talking about data as the real democratizer — open data as meaningful democratization of information — then it has to be digestible and accessible and consumable by everyone and everybody who wants to access and digest and consume it." Increasing the desire of the public for more, freer data is what Hammer calls stoking the demand side. He says it's great if governments are willingly making information accessible, but for it to be useful, people have to understand its power and seek to unleash it. "What's great about OpenData Latinoamérica is it's in every way a demand-side initiative, where the public is liberating its own data — it's scraping data, it's cleaning it," he says. "Open data is not solely the purview of the government. It's something that can be inaugurated by public constituencies." For example, in Argentina, where the government came late to the open data game, Blejman says he saw a powerful demand for information spring up in hackers and journalists around him. When they saw what other neighboring countries had and what they could do with that information, they demanded the same, and Argentina's government began to release some of that data. "We need to think about open data as a service, because no matter how much advocacy from NGOs, people don't care about 'open data'" per se, Paz says. "They care about data because it affects their life, in a good or bad way." Another advantage Bleman and Paz had when heading into OpenData Latinoamérica was the existence of Junar, a Chilean software platform founded by Javier Pajaro, who was a frustrated analyst when he decided to embrace open data platforms and help others do the same. Blejman said that, while Africa Open Data opted for CKAN, using a local, Spanish-language company that was already familiar to members of the Hacks/Hackers network has strengthened the project, making it easier to troubleshoot problems as they arise. He also said Junar's ability to give participating organizations more control fit nicely into their hands-off, crowd-managed vision for future day-to-day operation of the database. ORGANIZING EFFORTS Paz and Blejman have high hopes for the stories and growth that will come from OpenData Latinoamérica. "What we expect from these events is for people to start using data, encourage newspapers to organize around data themes, and have the central hub for what they want to consume," Blejman said. They hope to one day bring in data from every country in Latin America, but they acknowledge that some will be harder to reach than others. "Usually, the federated governments, it's harder to get standardized data. So, in a country like Argentina, which is a federated state with different authorities on different levels, it's harder to get standardized data than in a republic where there's one state and no federated government," says Paz. "But then again, in Chile, we have a really great open data and open government and transparency allows, but we don't have great data journalism." (Chile is a republic.) Down the road, they'd also like to provide a secure way for anonymous sources to dump data to the site. Paz says in his experience as a news editor, 20-25 percent of scoops come from anonymous tips. But despite developments like The New Yorker's recent release of Strongbox, OpenData Latinoamérica is still working out a secure method that doesn't require downloading Tor, but is more secure than email. Blejman also added that, for now, whatever oversight they have over the quality and accuracy of the original data they're working with is minimal: "At the end, we cannot control the original sources, and we are just trusting the organizations." But more than anything, Paz is excited about seeing the beginnings of the stories they'll be able to tell. He plans to use documents about public purchases made by Chile's government to build an app that allows citizens to track what their government is spending money on, and what companies are being contracted those dollars. Another budding story exemplifies the extent to which Paz has taken to heart Craig Hammer's emphasis on building demand. In Chile, there is currently a significant outcry from students over the rising cost of education. Protests in favor of free education are ongoing. In response, Paz decided to harness this focus, energy, and frustration into a scrape-a-thon (or #scrapaton) to be held June 29 in Santiago. They will focus on scraping data on the owners of universities, companies that contract with universities, and who owns private and subsidized schools. "There's a joke that says if you put five gringos — and I don't mean gringos in a disrespectful way — if you put five U.S. people in a room, they're probably going to invent a rocket," says Paz. "If you put five Chileans in a room, they're probably going to fight each other. So one of the things — we're not just building tools, we're also building ways of working together, and making people trust each other." Blejman added that he hopes the recent release of a Spanish-language version of the Open Data Handbook (_El manual de Open Data_) will further facilitate collaboration between hackers in various Latin American countries. With a project of this size and scope, there are also some ambitious designs around measurement. Paz hopes to track how many stories and projects originate with datasets from OpenData Latinoamérica. Craig Hammer wants to quantify the social good of open data, a project he says is already underway via the World Wide Web Foundation's collaboration with the Open Data for Development Camp. "If there is a cognizable and evidentiary link between open data and boosting shared prosperity," Hammer says, "then I think that would be, in many cases, the catalytic moment for open data, and would enable broad recognition of why it's important and why it's a worthwhile investment, and broad diffusion of data literacy would really explode." Hammer wants people to take ownership of data and realize it can help inform decisions at all levels, even for individuals and families. Once that advantage is made clear to the majority of the population, he says, the demand will kick in, and all kinds of organizations will feel pressured to share their information. "There's this visceral sense that data is important, and that it's good. There's recognition that opening information and making it broadly accessible is in and of itself a global public good. But it doesn't stop there, right? That's not the end," he says. "That's the beginning." _Photo of Santiago student protesters walking as police fire water canons and tear gas fills the air, Aug. 8, 2012 by AP/Luis Hidalgo._
In OS X v10.9 and later, you can dispatch OS X Website Push Notifications from your web server directly to OS X users by using the Apple Push Notification service (APNs). Not to be confused with local notifications, push notifications can reach your users regardless of whether your website or their web browser is open… To integrate push notifications in your website, you first present an interface that allows the user to opt in to receive notifications. If the user consents, Safari contacts your website requesting its credentials in the form of a file called a push package. The push package also contains notification assets used throughout OS X and data used to communicate to a web service you configure. If the push package is valid, you receive a unique identifier for the user on the device known as a device token. The user receives the notification when you send the combination of this device token and your message, or payload, to APNs. Upon receiving the notification, the user can click on it to open a webpage of your choosing in the user’s default browser. Note: If you need a refresher on APNs, read the “Apple Push Notification Service” chapter in Local and Push Notification Programming Guide. Although the document is specific to iOS and OS X push notifications, paradigms of the push notification service still apply.So it seems like a process similar to the one used to send regular ol' iPhone push notifications. That probably makes it beyond the technical level of your average blogger to set up him or herself. But there are push providers like Push IO who will probably be able to serve them up, at pretty reasonable prices. And untying it from app development (still too costly or not useful for many publishers) could open up a new, more granular kind of alert: — See, I'd let The Times-Picayune alert me if a New Orleans Saints player gets injured. — I'd let The Dallas Morning News alert me if there's a front-page education story. — I'd let The Verge alert me when they publish another one of their long features. — I'd let FiveThirtyEight alert me whenever Nate Silver publishes a post within the last two months of a presidential campaign. — I'd let New York magazine alert me whenever Vanessa Grigoriadis writes a feature. — I'd let HitFix alert me when Alan Sepinwall writes a new Mad Men recap. My point is that what I want from alerts is _granularity_ — a little bit from here, a little bit from there, tied to my interests. The New York Times, for instance, used to send out news alerts about both issues of major national and international import…and maneuverings in the New York state senate. I don't care about the New York state senate. But there was no good way to tell the Times that — it was all or nothing. There are lots of reasons that granularity is hard to get — primary among them the fact that most news orgs don't have the kind of story metadata, user behavior data, or tech chops to be able to connect specific kinds of content to specific users. But one big reason why is that push notifications have been primarily tied to apps — these big, undifferentiated piles of content lying behind a single icon. Even when news organizations have good metadata on their content, it's unlikely that level of information carries over into the app's packaging. Moving push notifications usably to _websites_ — while keeping them persistent even when the website isn't loaded on a computer — aligns the delivery mechanism with where the technology assets are, the web. Realistically, this dream has no real chance of success if it's limited to just the newest version of Mac OS X. It's a small slice of the news-consuming market, and one that will only get smaller as mobile devices continue their surge. But Apple's announcement today is a small, incremental step toward an alert system that is more useful, more customizable, and better at connecting news to readers. Effective, useful push has been a dream for a long time. This might take us a half-step closer.
Apple just finished its semi-annual extravaganza of new product announcements, this time at its Worldwide Developers Conference, and it was an eventful one: new MacBook Airs promising 12 hours of battery life, a crazy space-bullet-looking new Mac Pro, the long-rumored iTunes Radio, and a new version of OS X. It's the new iOS 7 that attracted the most attention, though. Video of the whole shebang is already posted. I try to watch these events from the perspective of news organizations developing for the iPhone and iPad, and while most of the action was elsewhere, there were a few new developments worth noting. And that's beyond the aethetic refresh that Newsstand is getting (right). MORE RELIABLE CONTENT DOWNLOADING iOS 7 promises SUBSTANTIALLY BETTER BACKGROUND UPDATING, a key issue for news apps. Apple promises that updates will be more frequent, and tied to app usage:
Because iOS 7 learns when you like to use your apps and can update your content before you launch them. So if you tend to check your favorite social app at 9:00 a.m. every day, your feed will be ready and waiting for you. That’s multitasking in iOS 7. It knows what you want to do before you do.The keynote highlighted CNN's app as an example of the sort that would benefit from this invisible background downloading of new content. It didn't specifically cite Newsstand apps, which are the ones that typically have much bigger payloads to download — I'm looking at you, iPad magazines — but one hopes they'll be able to benefit too. Too many iOS news apps suffer from a lengthy delay from when tapping the icon to seeing the full content downloaded. As an aside, automated downloading of content is one of the key appeals of having a Newsstand app, as opposed to a generic iOS app. If frequent regular downloading is now available outside of Newsstand, it may push some news orgs to switch back to a "traditional" app. (UPDATE, 5:45 P.M.: Benedict Evans points out another small point in this direction: Newsstand's icon used to show tiny icons of the covers of the publications within. Now it's just a generic icon with generic publications. A lot of publishers weren't too keen on Newsstand taking away their allotted space on user's iPhone screens and burying it in something else. If you can get in-app subscriptions outside Newsstand, and you can get background downloading outside Newsstand, what exactly is Newsstand good for? An auto-updating icon?) MOVING PUSH NOTIFICATIONS TO THE DESKTOP Our phones have gotten us used to the idea of push notifications, and while news orgs haven't used them to their fullest extent in my judgment, they're a great way to usefully attract attention to content people find valuable. In the new version of OS X, push notifications from your iPhone will also show up on your Mac. So WHEN A NEWS APP ON YOUR PHONE SENDS AN ALERT, IT'LL SHOW UP ON YOUR DESKTOP TOO. Needless to say, this is potentially really powerful — although, as with phone push notifications, hitting the right balance between useful and annoying interruptions will be key. There's one other piece that sounds _really_ interesting that I don't remember being mentioned in the keynote — and we won't know the details until we can play with the software. But check out this language from Apple's website:
Now when you choose to receive updates from a website, your breaking news, sports scores, auction alerts, and more appear as notifications — even when Safari isn’t running.That language has a footnote: "Requires adoption by third-party websites." _That's_ really interesting — the idea that you might not even have to have an iOS app to send push notifications to the Mac desktop. Individual _websites_ could do it. We'll have to see what that means — and what websites will have to do to send these pushes — but it could be a reasonably big deal. (UPDATE: See more details about this here.) A WAY INTO SIRI Siri still doesn't have an open API for developers, which is disappointing. It would be great if you could ask your phone "What's the latest from Syria?" and have a news app provide an answer. But THERE'S A NEW, SEMI-HACKY WAY TO GET YOU 20 PERCENT THERE: Siri will now show the most recent tweets from a Twitter feed the phone's user follows in answer to "What is [Twitter user] saying?" So you really could ask your phone "What is The Guardian saying?" and it should pull up the latest tweets from @guardian. Small steps. LOCATION, LOCATION, ETC. The new version of the App Store highlights APPS THAT ARE POPULAR NEAR YOUR LOCATION. So if you're at Fenway Park, it should highlight Red Sox, baseball, or Boston tourist apps; if you're in Paris, it'll show you apps about the Louvre or French translation apps. That might provide a small boost for local news organizations; one presumes that The Dallas Morning News app would be popular in Dealey Plaza, the L.A. Times app in Chavez Ravine, and so on. Could be a useful discovery tool for local-driven news orgs with apps. IBOOKS ON THE DESKTOP Apple's ebook platform now comes to OS X too. A laptop screen is a much worse place to read paginated ebooks than a tablet (or even a phone), but for note-taking and the like, the physical keyboard will be a boon. For the many news organizations who are now selling ebooks, it's nice to have even a small bump in addressable market. Finally, one inside-baseball update. For years, Apple liked to feature The New York Times' website when it showed off a new version of its browser Safari, and it gave the Times' pre-release access to the iPad to develop a news app to show off at its unveiling. But last fall, it was CNN that took over Apple's most-favored-news-org status. This time around, CNN got some quality screen time, but it was The Washington Post that got showed off in Safari. Apple still holds a grudge, apparently.
ProPublica has become a significant enough part of the journalism firmament that it's hard to think of it as a startup. But five years ago today, when the investigative journalism site first began publishing, there were a lot of question marks surrounding the venture. This was a new news organization launching during a terrible recession that was destroying journalists' jobs across the country. It was relying on foundation dollars, not advertising, to stay afloat. And it was making a bet on the Internet and partnerships — not its own printing press or broadcast tower — to deliver their reporting. "I don't think to those people who were joining in May, June, July of 2008, that any of them could feel entirely certain this was going to be a sort of thriving concern five years later," ProPublica editor Stephen Engelberg told me. It's obviously a different story today, as ProPublica has grown its staff, broadened its funding sources, and forged partnerships with many dozens of news organizations. It took less than five years for ProPublica to win two Pulitzer Prizes. Today ProPublica is known as much for its investigations as it is for the use of data for news applications and experiments with reader engagement through channels like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. But in the beginning, it was tough to imagine any of that. I spoke with Engelberg and ProPublica president Richard Tofel about the early days of the website, how they've incorporated the use of data and social media into their reporting, how to measure the impact of investigations, and the health of nonprofit journalism. Here's an edited transcript of our conversation.
JUSTIN ELLIS: Congratulations on turning five. How have things changed since those early days? What's one of the biggest differences?
STEPHEN ENGELBERG: The single biggest thing that's changed is we went from, five years ago, a fairly large and intriguing question mark to something that clearly really works and is established. When we started this thing, when we posted our first story five years ago, we really could not be certain that other organizations, partnerships, would work, or that people would take our material. Since then we've published all over the place, from The New York Times and Washington Post to The Atlantic magazine, NPR, This American Life, Frontline, Los Angeles Times. I think that was a significant step that was unclear when we started. We had barely assembled a staff five years ago. It was kind of unclear to us to what extent being a new brand would get our calls returned and questions answered. I had the joy of calling from The New York Times and the larger challenge of calling from The Oregonian, which is a respected regional newspaper, and that was a big difference. I kind of imagined our reporters would be spending many years of their lives explaining what ProPublica meant, who we were and what we did. It didn't turn out that way. Interestingly, it turns out that in a world where any blogger can bring down a CEO, people pay attention to inquiries from all sorts of people. I think we were very fortunate in being able to establish a reputation for fair and hard-hitting reporting very early on. The other big surprise, we didn't really imagine when we started was the power, and journalistic value of data applications. We had the very good fortune to hire Scott Klein from The Nation to be our chief of development. He had a vision, which I don't think any of us fully understood when we started, that you could use the new technologies to create these massive data applications like Dollars for Docs, or our dialysis app, or what we're doing now with doctors prescribing drugs. I don't think any of us imagined how powerful, popular, and important journalistically that could be. One of the things that resulted from that, which has been fascinating, is that those applications turned out to be a way to leverage our journalism. We always wondered: With 18 reporters, how much of a dent could we make in a problem that was obviously many times larger than that? One of the things that's happened is you have a lot of local, regional, and sometimes national publications using our data to do their own stories.
RICHARD TOFEL: Dollars for Docs — now more than 170 separate news organizations have done local stories based on that data around the country. The database has been tapped into the tune of 5.74 million pageviews.
ENGELBERG: I think none of us could have imagined that, first of all, we could even have gathered that data. Remember, it was scrapped from the websites of 14 different pharma companies, and having to write 14 different scrapers. That's a phrase, frankly, when we started five years ago, I had never even heard. I don't think any of us could imagine that it could be done, how it could be done, or we could do it with the kind of lean staff that we have. But Scott and his team had a tremendous commitment to this work, which I think has paid off very handsomely for us. The other thing that I think was a question mark is we had begun to assemble a staff, but these days it's easy to forget what a kind of leap in the dark it was to leave a struggling, but established, news organization for a startup like ProPublica. Today, people talk about ProPublica and it's obvious it's going to survive and it fills this niche and we're out raising money. But I don't think to those people who were joining in May, June, July of 2008 that any of them could feel entirely certain this was going to be a sort of thriving concern five years later. They did something that was courageous, visionary, and were very grateful for it.
We went out and felt from the very beginning we had to have a staff publication. There was a lot of talk back in '08 that you could do this by hiring a network of freelancers around the country. We didn't think that suited investigative reporting. You needed people that would take risks and have something of a safety net under them in the form of a staff job. And we wanted to recruit some of the best in the country. In order to do that we had to persuade them that this would work. Which was very much a question.
TOFEL: The only two things I would add are, first, social media. We looked the other day — at the end of June 2008, we had 58 followers on Twitter. Today, we have 217,000. That sort of gives you a sense. I'm not sure I had personally heard of Twitter, honestly, in June 2008. That's a big change, not just for us, but for the news business as a whole. And as Steve indicated, diversifying our funding has obviously been a big thing. We had a number of early supporters in addition to the Sandler foundation, particularly the McArthur Foundation. But the Sandler Foundation was the vast majority of the funding. Last year, they were down to 39 percent of the funding, and this year it'll be below a third, we think. That's a very, very big difference.
ELLIS: But the other side of that is there's more competition for those dollars today. There's a growing number of nonprofit news organizations. Does it become easy to get funding as you mature and people can see the work you've done?
TOFEL: I suppose it's more competitive in some sense — particularly, for instance, some of the institutional foundations have started in the last year or two to give grants to some of the struggling for-profits. So in that sense, we're competing for those funds with a wider circle. On the other hand, and I think outweighing that, there's a much greater recognition in philanthropy, both in institutional and families, of the need. Yes, there are more people going for a slice of the pie, but I think the pie in this area is growing, and I think the research suggests that's the case. With individual and grassroots in general, I think the better known you are, and the more of a track record you have, where you can demonstrate particular impact from the work — sure, that makes it easier. As you're better known, you've got the opportunity to get the message to more people.
ELLIS: You said that collaborating with other news outlets seemed risky at the time. But one of the interesting things to come out of that is that your national stories get turned into local stories. Was that a surprise or planned? How does that give the investigations ongoing life?
ENGELBERG: I don't think I anticipated the power of that. To tell a brief story: Paul [Steiger] had the insight originally of this collaboration model built upon the notion the original story would be exclusive, but then would be available on the web to all. I had been at The New York Times 18 years and The Oregonian for six — I was very skeptical that major news organizations, for reasons of ego, pride, or whatever, would be willing to take controversial work from outsiders. These aren't just stories — they're investigative stories, they're hard-hitting stories. And Paul said to me, I remember it quite vividly, "Things have changed a little since you've been away." In those six years, things had changed.
We were founded in January of '08. We opened our doors to an empty building and hired staff in the March, April, May, June, July period. By September, we had the economic meltdown. The world continued to change very radically in journalism. News organizations were far more willing, first of all, to directly collaborate, and second of all, to use material that was not their own. I had a conversation with an editor at a top regional newspaper yesterday, and she basically said, "Couldn't you just produce thousand-word stories, or a thousand-word versions of every story you do so that we could run them in our Sunday section?" The underlying thing here is that a lot of these people are cutting back supplemental wire services, cutting back on staff. So content from outside, far from being a radical thought, is now very helpful. I think this notion that you can get ideas for investigations of your own, from organizations like us, might have been seen as a point of pride. I think people now realize that you need all the help you can get. And if you can get it from a nonprofit, if we are creating a database that no one regional newspaper can possibly create on its own, and it has applicability for all 50 states, why wouldn't you help yourself? I don't think that was something that we entirely foresaw, but it's been fantastic. It's turned out to be a major part of how we have impact.
ELLIS: You've found a kind of alchemy of being able to do the long-term investigations, which can be slow-moving, and having persistent news on the website. How did you get to that? When a lot of journalists think about investigative reporting, they think of disappearing for two or three months and then a story appears.
ENGELBERG: To be honest, it has been a constant daily and ongoing struggle. As you quite correctly point out, there's a real tension between the needs of the web for dynamic and constantly changing output and the needs of investigative reporting, which is to dive very deeply into things in a kind of obsessive and immersive way. We have tried to balance these two things. We have constant conversations on our staff. Deputy editor Eric Umansky, who kind of heads up our web operation, is very good at prodding and pushing to get stories of some value.
We always knew we wanted stories, and initially we would start with a kind of aggregation thing. We would do stories that had minimal additional heft to them. We would simply pull together what others had done. We thought that would work well on our site. It didn't turn out to. Turns out that if you want to do stories, even of a short form, on a site like ours, you need to add value. You have people, like say, Justin Elliot, who manages fairly routinely and in much shorter form than our deep dives, to break news and bring to light things you don't know. I think that remains the key. It's very difficult. I don't want to say we've entirely cut the Gordian Knot here, because we are constantly talking about this and try to strike a balance.
TOFEL: I do think, however, that aggregation has been our friend. I think the nonprofit form encourages this. We did one yesterday. All of a sudden everyone wants to talk about the surveillance programs the government has been running. We pulled together the best stories that have been written on this over the last 10 years by other people. That was a very relevant thing, and a lot of people went immediately to look at it. It circulated quite widely on social media. It is remarkable, even now, how few news organizations are willing to suggest to readers that they might want to read something published by somebody else.
ELLIS: In that same vein, ProPublica has made a point of trying to use new platforms, whether it's Twitter, Reddit, or the patient harm group on Facebook. What have you learned about making reader engagement work?
ENGELBERG: If you start, as we did, as a web-based publication with no printing presses, from the beginning one of the questions we had was, "Okay, what are the advantages of that we might glean from that?" Both Paul and I came out of legacy newsrooms, which was often like carrying a piano on your back as you tried to walk into the next century. We've been very fortunate to have, first in Amanda Michel and now in Amanda Zamora, people working for us who had a sense where the cutting edge was and wanted to push beyond it. I have, myself, always dreamed, when I was at a newspaper, of really trying to harness the potential of the crowd. It's very challenging. We've done a number of experiments on this. I think we're finding a way to do it. When you give people discrete tasks, like we did with Free the Files — clear things that can benefit an investigation — or when you really create from scratch a community, as we have with this patient harm Facebook group, I think you can begin to get things of real journalistic value. People look at Wikipedia and say, "Look at that, we've created an encyclopedia with the wisdom of the hive, can't we do investigative journalism that way?" I wish it were that simple. Some of the refinements we've come to over the last few years have made real progress in this direction. It's very exciting. When you can engage a large group of people in furthering your journalism, your journalism is better and deeper, more interesting and more informed.
ELLIS: A lot of organizations are doing news applications now. It seems like ProPublica was doing that earlier than most — specifically trying to collect data and make the data understandable and usable by the audience. How did you get from the idea of doing long-term investigations to what Scott has talked about, that news applications can be investigations themselves?
TOFEL: I think a big part of it is we hired — first in Scott and then he has hired in his team — people who are both developers and journalists. Every one of them is both. So it was not "create new gee-whiz tools because they're cool new tools." It was create new tools to tell new stories, see new stories, and think of how we could create a tool to tell them. I think we were a little ahead of the curve on that. Columbia now has, just in the last year or two, an academic program designed to turn out more such people. Our current grant from the Knight Foundation was designed to help train such people who are already in the business. I think that is the critical insight of it. You want people who go both ways.
ELLIS: How do you see the health of the nonprofit sector of journalism? Do you guys ever provide guidance or assistance to these newer nonprofits?
TOFEL: We talk to a lot of them. I think the field is very exciting, with a lot of terrific new entrants. Not all of them are going to succeed — not all of them have. But there's a lot of great work being done in a lot of places. In addition to good journalism, I think there's some sensible business thinking being done. The models are different — some are more investigative, some are more local. Some are more data-oriented. Some are more traditional-story oriented. It varies a lot. But I think the field is in a very good place.
ENGELBERG: One of the things people said five years ago, which was interesting but completely incorrect, is not only would investigative reporting wither at the mainstream institutions because it was expensive, which is true, but it would wither because people weren't interested. Nobody cared! Short! Short! Short! Celebrity news, that's what drives traffic and drives people's interest! We have a public of people who only want to read little nuggets! We now know that's not true. We now know there is an important audience for news that's reported in depth and done well. I think the rise in the interest of long form, the rise of various new formats like Kindle Singles, is a harbinger of something more. If you look around the field of journalism writ large, it's true you do see a lot of decay and decline in certain sectors, like traditional print. But if you also look around you see new entrants that are coming in and following in the principles of quality and in-depth journalism. Look at the Al Jazeera English business plan, or what Univision is trying to do, and they're talking about doing quality journalism and pouring money into it. We remain optimistic about the potential for audience interest in investigative journalism, and really the possibilities of continuing to publish stories that make a difference, that people care about. I think people are more engaged than a lot of the cynics would have anticipated.
ELLIS: I know one of the things ProPublica has been interested in is impact. That's something all journalists are looking for with their work, but it's difficult to measure. Have you found a way to measure the work you've done and the impact it's had over the last five years?
TOFEL: This is a critical question for us. You're exactly right — our mission is very specifically to spur change and reform through journalistic means. I actually wrote a paper about this with support by the Gates Foundation over the winter.
ENGELBERG: The bottom line is we track impact closely. We can't exactly turn it into a words-per-impact or months-per-impact metric that some people might like. But subjectively, you can have a pretty good idea. Sometimes it's pretty darn clear, like when we published with the Los Angeles Times our piece on California nurses, and Governor Schwarzenegger fired the entire nursing board — that was impact. It's always going to be a mix of things. I don't think our reporting on New Orleans was solely responsible for each and every prosecution. But it certainly played a role in a number of them. And ultimately, putting the New Orleans Police Department in receivership of the federal government happened, I think in some measure, because of the work A.C. Thompson did. We can sort of track these things. It's never going to be as perfect a metric as some might like, but I think it is actually quite measurable and trackable._Image by Andrew Eick used under a Creative Commons license._
The Wisconsin state legislature's attempt last week to evict the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the campus on which it operates poses a threat to one hopeful model for the future of journalism, and suggests that a long history of journalistic innovation at American universities may be in trouble. In case you missed it, the story so far is that a committee of the legislature wrote a provision into the state budget that would remove the center from the University of Wisconsin campus, and prevent university employees from working there as part of their duties. The provision still faces legislative hoops before becoming law. Republicans, who control the state Senate, House of Representatives and governorship, have indicated they intend to pass the budget wholesale; the center and university hope the hue and cry about the provision will change that. A host of concerns have been raised by the center's supporters, resting mostly on arguments of academic freedom and the valuable job training the center offers student interns. Those are certainly the issues of the moment. But when the dust clears on this episode, we will be left with the larger question of what all of this means for the future of journalism and of journalistic innovation. "THE WISCONSIN IDEA" One of the most exciting things about living in 2013 and imagining what the future of journalism looks like is that there is no single answer. We all know that traditional journalistic enterprises like newspapers are in trouble. This, combined with the ease of experimentation afforded by the Internet, has led to a rich and rapidly evolving media ecology. There's no telling which of the new experiments will survive to become part of our 21st century media sphere; it is clear, though, that the center is the most recent in a long trajectory of successful journalistic innovation at universities, and in particular at the University of Wisconsin. Early administrators at the University of Wisconsin came up with the Wisconsin Idea — a notion that the university should reach to the very edges of this largely rural state. That inspired what many argue is the oldest continually operating radio station in the country, run out of the university. The first regular broadcasts began in 1921 and were meant to provide information to isolated farming communities, offering weather forecasts and the news from markets. Soon the station added lectures by university professors, put on the air so that people in farflung corners of the state had access to their state institution. The Great Depression brought with it concerns about a generation of young people who couldn't afford to go to college — and WHA launched the Wisconsin College of the Air ("The school in your home"). That program offered a robust collection of courses starting in the 1930s, and by the 1960s had begun offering credit for these courses — the MOOCs of their day. The university was the ideal home for these journalistic experiments. There's little money to be made in offering high-quality information to the sparsely populated areas at the edges of the state. As a public institution operating for the public good rather than for profit, the university was able to develop the technology and offer content driven by fulfilling the needs of Wisconsinites. Today, American journalism is full of innovative experiments, any of which may form important planks in the future of journalism. The center comfortably occupies a space in the historic trajectory of university-based journalistic innovation, while testing out an important new model that may yet become a mainstay of an evolving, 21st-century journalistic institution: the so-called teaching hospital model of doing journalism. In this model, students work in vibrant newsrooms within universities and under the direction of skilled journalists. These newsrooms offer important training for students and produce journalism for the communities in which they reside. Ideally, they also interact with the university, benefiting from and inspiring journalistic research. The number of such organizations has grown, and they came to occupy an important space in the conversation about the future of journalism last summer, when the heads of several foundations that fund journalism got together to petition university presidents accommodate this type of journalism on their campuses. SHARING CONTENT AROUND THE STATE Many incarnations of the teaching hospital model exist; the Wisconsin center is particularly interesting because it addresses many of the critiques of the model. The center operates independently from the university. It maintains its own funding stream, largely from foundations. It employs professional journalists who work intensively with students, often for months on a single story, digging for data and developing the narrative. Concerns that the center would be unable to criticize the university appear unfounded; early on, it collaborated on a project with the national Center for Public Integrity, itself an important experiment in journalism, on a series of stories about the vast underreporting of sexual assaults of college campuses. At a time when the future of journalism is in flux, and when investigative journalism in particular is in serious trouble, the center's staff of four permanent employees works with a handful of interns every semester to create the kind of deep-dig, investigative pieces that are increasingly rare in American journalism today. This kind of journalism is essential to the health of our democracy, but as news organizations suffer, it is often the first to go. "The reason investigative journalism isn't commercially viable is that it takes a lot of money and time to produce it," center founder and director Andy Hall told me. The center's student interns learn more than how to be good journalists — they learn how to be good investigative journalists. One of the hopes is that these students take these skills with them, and advocate for and produce this kind of journalism throughout their careers. Finally, the center continues the Wisconsin Idea tradition of seeing its boundaries as extending to the edges of the state. From the beginning, the center decided to give its stories away to any news organization that would publish them rather than building its own distribution networks. Hall, the center's director, runs through the numbers when he talks publicly about their work: the center has produced 90 major stories since 2009, which have been picked up by 230 news organizations and read by 25 million people. This includes the big state newspapers and organizations such as USA Today and The Washington Post. Perhaps more importantly, though, it also includes publications such as the Chippewa Herald and the Ashland Current, newspapers without the resources to do the kind of reporting the center does. Following a recent story about the systematic failure of nursing homes around the state to report deaths and injuries, for instance, one newspaper editor told the center that while his reporters did cover the local home, they would never have been able to contextualize the problem the way the center did. That particular story was based on state documents the center had to doggedly pursue through freedom of information requests — something small newspapers rarely have the luxury of doing. In some senses, the center is a small version of ProPublica, producing high-quality content that is published by other news organizations. In other ways, though, the center's work is not scalable. ProPublica's stories are typically carried by news organizations whose readers are used to this kind of reporting, though they perhaps see less of it today as newsrooms shrink. The Wisconsin center, though, gets its journalism in front of readers all over the state through newspapers that have never produced this kind of journalism before. For these reasons — its independence, training and production of investigative journalism, and a model that gets quality journalism to the most sparsely populated corners of this state — the center is a fascinating experiment in the journalism of the future. And so the state legislature's affront on the center is more than a problem of academic freedom and student teaching. The center is one hopeful model of the journalistic institution of the future. But journalism needs to be independent, and the state legislature's desire — and apparent ability — to reach into the university poses a particularly tricky problem for those who have felt hopeful about this model of doing journalism. It also violates a century of innovation and collaboration between journalism and the university, one that helped form the character of both institutions in this state. The center's successes, in journalism and in fundraising, suggest that it would survive and thrive off campus. Pushing it out, though, would mean a loss for everyone involved in this particular experiment, and for the future of journalism.
Magda Konieczna is a PhD candidate at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison._Photo of the Wisconsin capitol in the rain by Clarissa Richardson used under a Creative Commons license._
A good summary from Frédéric Filloux of the World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok, just concluded:
The transition is now mostly led by emerging countries seemingly eager to get rid themselves as quickly as possible of the weight of the past. At a much faster pace than in the West, Latin America and Asia publishers take advantage of their relatively healthy print business to accelerate the online transition. These many simultaneous changes involve spectacular newsroom transformations where the notion of publication gives way to massive information factories equally producing print, web and mobile content. In these new structures, journalists, multimedia producers, developers (a Costa-Rican daily has one computer wizard for five journalists…) are blended together. They all serve a vigorous form of journalism focused on the trade’s primary mission: exposing abuses of power and public or private failures (the polar opposite of the aggregation disease.) To secure and to boost the conversion, publishers rethink the newsroom architecture, eliminate walls (physical as well as mental ones), overhaul long established hierarchies and desk arrangements (often an inheritance of the paper’s sections structure.)
Even as the number of nonprofit news outlets continues to grow, many organizations are still struggling to find a model for long-term success. A new study from the Pew Research Center found that tending to the business of running a news nonprofit is among the chief concerns from journalists inside those organizations. More than half of the nonprofits surveyed by Pew said business activities like advertising, fundraising, and marketing represented their greatest staffing need. The report represents one of the more nuanced examinations of the operations of nonprofit news outlets. Finding and generating new dollars is all the more important because the majority of the groups surveyed indicated they raised $500,000 or less in revenue in 2011, the last year with the most complete data. More than half the groups that provided financial data reported having at least three revenue streams. But digging deeper into the finances of those organization, Pew found that half the groups with multiple revenue streams are generating 75 percent of their income from grants — a revenue source whose longevity is still unproven. Pew surveyed more than 170 online nonprofit news organizations on their business practices, editorial focus, and overall health. The organizations included sites with a national reporting focus and those interested in state and hyperlocal reporting, as well as nonprofits concerned with topic-based reporting like investigative journalism, political reporting, and environmental news. "At one level we wanted to be able to examine these as a collective unit, as people have begun talking about them as a more longer-term element of the news landscape," said Amy Mitchell, acting director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "The other was to examine very closely their financial structure and the degree to which they seem to be situated for long-term sustainability." The financial outlook painted by the report is decidedly mixed. Even as nonprofit news sites flourish, many feel starved of the resources necessary to grow their operation and ensure some kind of financial security. Interestingly, 81 percent of the nonprofits said they believe they'll be solvent in five years. The reason for that may be that most told Pew they had a steady cash reserve and that they brought in more money than they spent for 2011. "There's a sense of optimism saying 'hey, we're going to get through this to figure it out,'" she said. That enthusiasm is likely tempered by reality. According to the report, 62 percent of the nonprofits said "finding time for business operations" was a major challenge, with the second largest challenge being the increased competition for grant money. Unsurprisingly, most of the nonprofits told Pew that producing stories consumed at least half of their staff's time. None of the organizations reported dedicating more than 49 percent of their time to business, with most saying they spend 10-24 percent of their time on business. Looking at the budgets of the nonprofit groups explains some of the anxiety around paying more attention to fundraising and business operations. According to the report, 61 percent of the nonprofits said grant dollars made up a third of their initial funding. But at the time of the survey, 28 percent of the nonprofits said those funders agreed to renew those grants. Overall, three-quarters of the organizations said they currently receive funding from foundations. Outside of foundation dollars, many nonprofits have settled into a combination of donations, advertising (or sponsorships as some like to call it), events, and media partnerships. But those slices of the revenue pie are still slim compared to grant funding. The growth of nonprofit news organizations has brought increased attention to the IRS process for granting tax-exempt status. But according to the study, only 11 percent of the organizations surveyed by Pew said dealing with IRS tax status issues was a major challenge. That number is interesting within the context of the report because Pew's research suggests some groups who have achieved 501(c)(3) status from the IRS are faring better than some of their peers. Pew found that groups with 501(c)(3) status tended to launch with funding from multiple sources, have larger operating budgets, and overall had larger staffs than those groups dependent on other organizations. These are places like Texas Tribune, the St. Louis Beacon, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, among others. According to Pew, independent groups tended to be more financially stable than news outlets sponsored by another nonprofit organization.
About three-quarters (25 out of 32) reported that they have at least three revenue streams. That compares with less than half (10 out of 23) of those sponsored by non-news organizations and a third (nine out of 27) of those sponsored by universities.One thing the report makes clear is that building a nonprofit news site is a lean endeavor. According to Pew, the majority of the nonprofits surveyed (78 percent) said they have five or fewer full-time employees. As Pew found in this survey, many of today's nonprofit news sites and other organizations were launched during or shortly after the recession. Those economic conditions contributed to a number of local journalists losing their jobs. The report confirms anecdotal proof that many of those reporters launched nonprofit enterprises; more than a third of the nonprofit groups surveyed by Pew said they focus on state news, followed by metro-level news, then national news. While 26 percent of the outlets covered general interest news, the report found that coverage areas ranged from investigative reporting to health care, environmental news, and government reporting. As far as the output of most of the sites, Pew says straight news reporting made up the bulk of the content, with stories in the range of 500 words or less. Because of the size of the sites, the report says the number of published pieces falls far short of traditional news organizations. Over a two-week period, almost half of the nonprofits published 10 stories or fewer. One encouraging sign for the future, the report says that many of the sites continue to see audience growth. Seventy-nine percent of the nonprofit outlets said their traffic has grown in the last year, with a quarter of the sites reporting an increase of more than 75 percent. _Image from 401(K)2012 used under a Creative Commons license._
John Koetsier at VentureBeat has played with the new tool that ingests scripts and turns out visual storytelling:
I think this could be useful for a lot of people in situations far beyond movies and scripts. You need a visual story? Storyteller can help. You want to create a quick overview of your long, in-depth essay or paper? Storyteller can help. You want to make your business report come to life? Storyteller would be an interesting way to create a graphic novel approach to communicating the dry facts.
A Publishers Information Bureau survey finds strength in iPad advertising (h/t Lauren Indvik):
A first-round study of 58 titles that have measured print and iPad advertising shows that print advertising pages and iPad ad units grew +7.5% in the first quarter of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012, it was announced today by Mary G. Berner, President and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media. For the same set of titles during the same period, print advertising pages showed an uptick of +0.2%, WHILE IPAD AD UNITS INCREASED +23.6%.That said, it's odd to equate a print page of advertising and an iPad unit of advertising and treat them as if they can be logically summed; that print ad still generates a lot more money.
And once again there is a nation full of journalists wondering what's going on in Wisconsin's state legislature. This week, a legislative committee approved a measure that would not only evict the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from its offices on the University of Wisconsin campus, but also bar any university staff from working with the center. The center is like many nonprofit news outlets that have sprung up in recent years to help fill the vacuum left by downsizing at local newspapers. Created in 2009, it is staffed by four full-time journalists and a collection of student interns and focuses on investigative reporting, with a particular interest in the workings of state government. The nonprofit isn't in immediate danger of being kicked out of their offices at Wisconsin's School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The motion to extract the group from campus is part of a larger budget bill that will be voted on by the full legislature. It's unclear what may have motivated the proposal, but State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "he didn't want taxpayer support going to the investigative center, since he believed it had a bias." The center has had no shortage of scoops or analysis originating from the halls of government. In 2011, they were the first organization to report on a physical altercation between members of the state's supreme court. The sudden spotlight, and potential eviction, came as a shock, said Andy Hall, the center's director. "We really don't know why this happened," Hall told me Thursday. The why-it-happened is as much a mystery as the who, Hall said: "It does seem a little odd that no one is willing to put their name behind this measure. You would think they would be proud of the idea." Though the center operates on campus, it receives no funding from the school or the state. In exchange for using two offices, the center takes on a number of students as staff members. The center also reimburses the university for its utilities bills, Hall said. The organization's $400,000 annual budget is supplied by foundation funding and donations from individuals. "Could the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism survive if it wasn't occupying two small offices in Vilas Hall? Yes. We would survive and thrive," Hall said. But Hall said that would come at the expense of the student journalists who receive training and experience through working at the center. In the event the center relocated, the law would still make it difficult to work with the journalism school. "If a professor invites the center in to work with students during class hours, that would become illegal under state law," Hall said. That would also mean that students who are employed as teaching assistants would also be prohibited from working with the organization. The University of Wisconsin has came out in support of the center. Gary Sandefur, dean of the university's College of Letters & Science, which is home to the journalism school, said in a statement: "Arbitrarily prohibiting UW-Madison employees from doing any work related to the Center for Investigative Journalism is a direct assault on our academic freedom; simply, it is legislative micromanagement and overreach at its worst." At the moment, Hall and his staff are in limbo as the measure heads before the full legislature. Even if the budget bill is passed, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker could use his line-item veto to strike the section regarding the nonprofit. Though the center has not received its walking papers yet, at the moment it's hard to see a scenario where they stay on campus, Hall said. "We have heard from some sources that there's a possibility the legislature will remove this measure from the budget," he said. "Our sense right now is that it's not likely to happen. Yes, it's possible, but it's not likely." Nonprofit news organizations around the country have joined the university and journalists within the state in supporting the investigative center. Many tax-exempt journalism groups are also paying close attention because they, similar to the Wisconsin center, are based on college campuses. The reason for that collaboration is simple, said Kevin Davis, executive director of the Investigative News Network: "Students get real hands-on work on news that actually makes a difference, and these centers get volunteers and interns." Most nonprofit news organizations operate on lean budgets, which means looking for beneficial partnerships that can help with their mission. Colleges and universities have long been the home to public radio stations, and newer nonprofit news sites are following in that tradition, Davis said.
But along with that connection comes benefits and drawbacks. While nonprofit organizations receive a home and eager talent in the form of students, operating under a university can bring additional layers of scrutiny. Philantropic groups are sometimes wary of funding news nonprofits attached to universities for fear that their dollars will be swallowed up by the institution. And as the case with the Wisconsin center shows, being attached to a public university can bring extra attention from lawmakers. Davis points to a law proposed earlier this year in the the Texas state legislature that sought to define who is a journalist and whether they could be covered by shield laws. Under the proposal individuals working for nonprofits would fall outside the laws protecting the work of journalists. "This is not the first time we've seen attempts to stop nonprofit newsrooms from doing their job of educating the public," Davis said. While the ranks of nonprofit news organizations have grown, most still face a high level of uncertainty, with small staffs and smaller budgets. Funding from philanthropic groups remains competitive, and it's unclear how sustainable a funding source they can be. And the process for achieving tax-exempt status from the IRS largely remains a problematic mystery. "The concern is that other legislatures or other government officials don't take this as inspiration to try to stifle free speech or limit centers ability to work with educators," said Brant Houston, the Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois. Houston, who sits on the boards of both INN and the Wisconsin center, said nonprofit outlets are filling two important needs in journalism at the moment by filling gaps in reporting as well as training for future journalists. Students at Wisconsin's journalism school would stand to lose the most in a potential breakup between the center and the university, Houston said. While the nonprofit could easily relocate, it would prove more difficult to replicate the working experience the center provided students, Houston said. "We've had a tremendous loss of jobs and internships in the industry," he said. "These nonprofit centers are providing a lot of opportunities for practical experience." Despite all the challenges nonprofit news organizations face, Houston said the number of organizations continues to grow. While some are playing the waiting game with the IRS, others are using groups like the INN as fiscal sponsors to begin operations and start reporting, Houston said. Even though nonprofit journalism has been around for decades, each new test today's organizations face provides useful lessons for others, Houston said. "The state of play right now is extraordinarily vibrant, it continues to evolve," said Houston. _Photo by Adam Fagen used under a Creative Commons license._
For more background on a potential Koch purchase of Tribune Company newspapers, see Part 1 of this piece.Let's say that Charles and David Koch are successful in their now-announced quest ("The newsonomics of the Kochs rising — and uprising") to take ownership of the L.A. Times and other Tribune papers. What would a Koch-owned Times look like? How would the competition respond? What difference would it make on the U.S. press landscape? Expect that the Kochs would borrow a couple of pages from Rupert Murdoch's playbook. The Murdoch style: Promise the world to the sellers, in terms of editorial standards and independence. Then, post-closing, install your own people at the top of the newsroom — and the opinion pages as necessary, though The Wall Street Journal's came tailor-made for Rupert. As long as those new top editors have respectable resumes, their abilities to change, in broad and subtle fashion, coverage priorities will go largely uncontested. That's the experience of The Wall Street Journal. Rupert Murdoch's 2007 acquisition of the Journal unleashed many fears and theories as to what he would do with it. Most of them were wrong. He invested in the newsroom and in the product, and if the Kochs are smart, expect to hear promises of such funding. (One fact not to be overlooked in the sales process: the L.A. Times and all the Tribune papers require deep pockets both for re-investment and just to stay the course as advertising slips further south. Left, right, or center, readers and staff better hope owners both have the resources and are willing to spend them over the next several years.) Yet the Journal is a different beast than what it was a decade ago. Look at the Journal and the Times in any given week, and you can see the differences — some subtle, some less so — in what gets covered, how it gets covered and how it gets played and headlined. The Journal bears little relation to Fox News, despite the fears of Foxification. Foxification, though, is a real phenomenon, and we can see its print effects at UT San Diego, formerly known as the San Diego Union-Tribune. That's the nightmare scenario for the L.A. Times and other newspapers under the Kochs: the naked use of a paper as a political and business weapon. As climate change deniers, the Kochs' editorial control may have far wider consequences. Editorials pooh-poohing climate change science would be one thing; shifts in global warming coverage and tone there would be expected. But it's hard to imagine the Kochs reading their own paper's coverage without wincing and, as people used to running their businesses in ways that make sense to them, making changes. The global warming question isn't an abstract one. If San Diego offers one cautionary lesson about Koch ownership, look Down Under to another. There the global warming debate has been one in which the press itself is a key player. The controversy: the denier slant brought to climate change coverage in the major press. News Corp.'s News Limited, which owns 70 percent of the Australian press, has been a particular cause of that controversy, as illustrated on this well done Australian "Watching the Deniers" site. Let's say it's not the Kochs, but the Broad-Burkle-Beutner team. With their Democratic leanings and funding, their ownership would further roil the credibility waters, even if they bring Republicans into the ownership group and operate the paper in an above-board fashion. Even The Huffington Post, sharing much of B-B-B's political leanings, points out how problematic such ownership could be, given the coverage devoted to those principals' many business and political activities. Credibility is the surest loser in a Koch win — even if the Kochs should invest in the product and operate it within generally accepted news principles of fairness. Why? The _suspicion_ of unfairness, based on their political history. That may fair or unfair, but it's a reality, and one that is spreading to the press as a whole. A survey of Pew Research studies on newspaper credibility shows a downward slope parallel to newspaper's financial movement. As the press has grown weakened financially, and weakened itself further through staff and staff experience cuts, the public has lowered its own confidence in the press. As an example. Take these three measures: 1) "stories are often inaccurate"; 2) "tend to favor one side"; 3) "often influenced by powerful people and organizations." On each of these, the percentage of Americans who believed they are true has increased at least 24 percentage points since 1985. Credibility is in free fall; perceived greater politicization of the press will only make it worse. Despite that declining credibility, reader and staff loss and _perhaps_ a loss in civic clout, the interest of powerful people in the L.A. Times offers a quite timely lesson. Critics can say what they want about the diminishment about the L.A. Times. Its news presence and ability to set agendas, through its reporting and opinion pages, is certainly reduced, but it's still got the only megaphone of its kind in town. As Gabriel Kahn, a University of Southern California journalism professor and WSJ alum pointed out to me this week, even newsletters that aggregate local news — from such sources as the L.A. Business Journal and KPCC's Maven's Morning Coffee, rely heavily on the Times for their citations. Consider that an indication that the next generation of rip 'n read — dailies' long-standing complain against local radio news stations — uses the same raw resource as the first one, the daily newspaper's vast newsroom. What lesson we're seeing reinforced: No matter how much anyone may pre-bury the legacy daily, some people understand the huge and remaining value of media today. So maybe a different question needs to be asked. Not the almost trite one — "When will dailies disappear?" — but a new one: "_Who_ will own and steer these old titles into the heart of the 21st Century?" In L.A., there's a diversity of voices, but none comes close to the Times' impact. What would indeed happen if the Koch brothers take title to the Times? Certainly, we'd see a boycott organized, and that would have some (probably minor) impact on the Times circulation, which, of course, has declined with that of the rest of its peers. We could see attempts to replace the Times as a habit in readers' lives, a reach that the Times says is still in the millions. Among the traditional press, MediaNews properties, now managed by Digital First Media, really only compete on the margins, both geographically and in terms of coverage; major owner Alden Global Capital is unlikely to double-down on its investment to get into a newspaper war. If you were the Kochs and wanted to solidify your print presence, in fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to buy out the Los Angeles Newspaper Group's nine dailies. To the south, the re-born Orange County Register has its hands full re-building its home market after the destructive impacts of cost-cutting and bankruptcy. If Aaron Kushner doesn't win the L.A. Times in the auction, he's unlikely to move into the L.A. market, as The Advocate in Baton Rouge is now doing in its battle with the slim-sized Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Then there's KPCC, which is still staffing up its news resources ("The newsonomics of the death and life of California news"). Those will total 100 people by year's end, pushing more strongly into arts and entertainment, health care, and the environment, fueled by local funding that has _already_ picked up. While a Koch ownership will provide adrenaline to KPCC's foundation- and individual-giving campaigns and to its news growth, KPCC itself knows it's no L.A. Times — in reach, in voice, in coverage, or in impact. With the right kind of additional partnerships, it could position itself, though, as the Pepsi to the Times' Koch. Add it up. When the boycotts spend their themselves, there won't be any big, single alternative to the Times for civic-minded readers. How about the journalists, in L.A. — or around the country? For the staff of the Times, don't expect an _aux-barricades-mes-freres (-et-soeurs)_ moment. Yes, dozens of newsroom staffers raised their hands when columnist Steve Lopez asked them if they would quit the paper should the Kochs buy it? With a dearth of full-time journalism jobs in L.A. and elsewhere, a hand raise is far easier than a signature on a letter of resignation. Even in Europe — including France — where labor solidarity among journalists is more the norm than in the U.S., staff revolts have have largely failed to stop rich conservatives from taking over news properties. Sensing their real choices, journalists have stayed in place, aiming to ride out whatever new pains dumb, _or smart,_ new ownership may bring. _Photo of May 29, 2013 protest by the "Save Our News" coalition in Los Angeles by AP/Damian Dovarganes._
AIDING A PUBLISHER AS AIDING THE ENEMY?: There were quite a few developments on the leaks/government surveillance front this week, led by the revelation that the U.S. National Security Agency is collecting phone records and Internet data from millions of Americans on a daily basis. There are tons of places to read up on the implications of the former story (I'd encourage you to start at Memeorandum), and we'll probably find out more about the latter one today. I'll focus here on two other stories with more direct connections to journalism — the Bradley Manning trial and the Department of Justice's seizure of journalists' records in leak investigations — but first, a few notes on yesterday's news about the PRISM Internet data collection program. According to The Washington Post, which broke the story, the program was launched in 2007 and is designed with a focus on foreign data. The Post reported a who's-who of tech giants involved — Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple (though, notably, not Twitter). Several of those companies issued denials of their involvement last night, though The New Republic's Lydia Depillis noted that tech companies seem to be better at protecting privacy than phone companies. Christopher Mims of Quartz wondered whether foreign users will drop their U.S. tech services as a result of this disclosure. Now for the other two stories: First, Manning, the U.S. Army private who was the source behind WikiLeaks' biggest publications in 2010, went on trial this week. As The New York Times explained in its coverage of the trial's first day, Manning has already acknowledged that he gave the classified information in question to WikiLeaks; the question is whether that constituted espionage and aiding the enemy. The Guardian's Ed Pilkington also has some helpful primers on the issues at play and the key people involved. Adrian Lamo, the hacker who initially alerted authorities to Manning's identity, testified that Manning did not express any desire to aid the enemy, while The New Yorker's Amy Davidson explored the prosecution's troubling definition of aiding the enemy — essentially, helping WikiLeaks publish information that might be viewed by enemies. At Reuters, Ari Melber made a similar point, stating that "HISTORY SHOWS WE SHOULD BE WARY ANY TIME OUR GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES THAT WORKING WITH A NEWS PUBLISHER, TO CRITICIZE THE GOVERNMENT, IS EQUIVALENT TO WORKING WITH AN OPERATIONAL ENEMY." At The Nation, Chase Madar argued against some misconceptions about Manning, and Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi ridiculed the "hero or traitor?" framing of coverage of Manning's trial. The Associated Press addressed the unusually secretive nature of the trial, parts of which will be closed to the public, with many of its documents redacted as well. Some of that secrecy is common to military court-martials, while some of it can be attributed to a judge who may want to keep the intense civilian interest in the case in check. The Freedom of the Press Foundation raised $57,000 to hire two stenographers to create daily transcripts of the trial, but their press credentials were rejected, prompting a letter of protest signed by numerous news organizations. The Columbia Journalism Review's Susan Armitage gave some more background on that situation. DOJ PLEDGES CHANGES TO SEIZURES: The other big media-centric leaking story had its biggest development late last week, when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with representatives from news organizations about his department's seizure of journalists' phone and email records. The New York Times reported that Holder is looking at tightening rules on when and how prosecutors can seek such records, and Reuters had a more media-focused account of the meetings. Poynter's Andrew Beaujon had a good roundup of perspectives on the meetings, and Reuters' Jack Shafer analyzed the power dynamics at play between Holder and the press. Holder also told Congress this week he won't prosecute journalists and is directing his leak investigations at leakers, not journalists. The New York Times reported on what this all means for Holder's future as attorney general, and The Washington Post's Erik Wemple looked at the implications of Holder surviving this episode, noting that "THE CRITICAL INGREDIENT IN THE RESPECT OF PRESS FREEDOMS IS PRECISELY WHAT IT HAS LONG BEEN: THE SELF-RESTRAINT OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE." Wemple also dove into the background behind the question of the legality of the government's seizures, as some journalists continued to decry the DOJ's actions, with The New York Times' Jill Abramson saying that journalism is being criminalized and Bill Keller calling for a stronger shield law. But Politico's Dylan Byers summarized the case against the media regarding these leaks, while Wemple also questioned whether Fox News gave the government advance notice on James Rosen's stories (the investigation into which involved the seizure of Rosen's phone and email records), and whether it should have. CAN PHOTOJOURNALISTS BE REPLACED?: We've seen a lot of movement toward freelancers and away from full-time staff at traditional news organizations, but the Chicago Sun-Times took one of the most drastic steps yet in that direction late last week when it laid off its entire photo staff in favor of freelance photographers and reporters' photos, which for the latter entails mandatory training in iPhone photography basics. The Chicago News Guild picketed the Sun-Times building, and legendary Sun-Times photojournalist John White lamented the culture that was lost in interviews with Poynter and CNN, telling the former that "Humanity is being robbed by people with money on their minds." Another Sun-Times photographer, Rob Hart, who created a Tumblr about being laid off, talked to The Daily Dot about it, saying that what makes photojournalists valuable isn't their tools: "REPORTERS USE A DIFFERENT PART OF THE BRAIN. THEY SHOW UP AND ASK, 'WHAT HAPPENED?' PHOTOJOURNALISTS SHOW UP BEFORE SOMETHING HAPPENS." ReadWrite's Dan Rowinski did say the tools matter, though, and argued that smartphones aren't enough to equip reporters to take consistently good photos. Chicago Tribune photojournalist Alex Garcia ripped the Sun-Times' plan, arguing that not only is the equipment insufficient, using freelancers is a logistical nightmare and an untenable situation long-term, and reporters' photo quality will suffer. Mathew Ingram of paidContent countered that outsourcing to freelancers is a logical approach to the hard reality that professional journalists no longer have a monopoly on journalistic skills, and the cost structure that supports them isn't sustainable. CUNY's Jeff Jarvis struck a middle ground, mourning what's given up with the loss of professional photographers, but suggesting that their jobs be retooled into a combination of crowd coordination and expert photojournalism. Allen Murabayashi of PetaPixel looked at some big-picture factors in the decline of professional photojournalism, pinning it on the web's glut of images on the supply side and shrunken attention spans on the demand side. The New York Times' Lawrence Downes made a similar argument about cheap content online, though a bit more sarcastically. THE POST'S METERED MODEL PLANS: A few bigger stories floated by this week on the never-ending stream of paywall news. The Washington Post announced the details of its paywall, which will go into effect next week. The Post's metered model will look a lot like many of others put in at American newspapers over the past few years, with 20 free stories a month available before users have to pay $9.99 per month for unlimited web access or $14.99 for web and app access. (Visits from search or social links won't cause people to bump up against the cap.) As the Lab's Justin Ellis noted, two areas interestingly exempt from the paywall are video content (as at The New York Times) and any student, educator, government employees, and military employees signing in from school or work. Blogs like Ezra Klein's Wonkblog will be behind the "pay meter," too. Sarah Marshall of Journalism.co.uk summarized the advice of John Stackhouse, editor-in-chief of the Toronto daily The Globe and Mail, from his experience implementing a paywall — paying readers are more engaged and demanding, papers should promoted both metered and free content, and other nuggets. The Lab's Joshua Benton noted the unusual complexity of The Globe and Mail's paywall. Finally, NYU's Jay Rosen took New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson to task for mischaracterizing the conventional wisdom around The Times' paywall launch in 2011, arguing that there was no consensus warning against it, as Thompson claimed. READING ROUNDUP: A few other interesting stories floating around this week: — A Wisconsin Legislature finance committee voted this week to kick the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism off the University of Wisconsin campus. They wouldn't say who proposed it or precisely why, but vague complaints about "bias," stories looking into legislators' bills and donors, and some funding from George Soros' Open Society Institute (the center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan entity that has received funding from a variety of foundations) have been suggested as possible reasons. The center vowed an "aggressive response," and the decision was bashed by commentators, legislators, and journalists. — Billionaire conservative Charles Koch confirmed that he's interested in buying newspapers, though he wouldn't specify anything regarding any papers from the Tribune Co., which they are rumored to be pursuing. He also said he sees a need for "real news," as opposed to news with an agenda. Here at the Lab, Ken Doctor gauged the Kochs' political and financial interest in the papers. — News Corp. announced its Wall Street Journal will be launching a new business-oriented social network, and Bloomberg is retooling one of its own as well. Mathew Ingram of paidContent was skeptical of their ability to add any real value for users. — Two interesting pieces published here at the Lab: Jan Schaffer of J-Lab laid out the course for a new kind of solution-oriented activist journalism, and Northeastern University professor Dan Kennedy wrote some reflections on his new book on changes in local journalism. — Finally, a few great pieces from around the web: A thought-provoking Twitter conversation on newsroom innovation Storified by the University of Florida's Mindy McAdams, some ideas from The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf on why the American media screws up big stories, and an analysis of social media-fueled protest by sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, inspired by the current protests in Turkey. _Photo of Bradley Manning being escorted out of a Fort Meade courthouse June 4 by AP/Patrick Semansky. Photo of Eric Holder at Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing June 6 by AP/J. Scott Applewhite. Photo of June 6 pro-photog protest outside the Chicago Sun-Times by AP/M. Spencer Green._
It's official. Charles and David Koch think Warren Buffett may be right. After only sideways confirmation of their interest in buying the Tribune papers, Charles Koch on Wednesday explained the brothers' newfound interest in newspapering to one of his favorite outlets, The Wall Street Journal. "We wouldn't be interested in putting huge amounts of money in it on the bet that we can have a miraculous [newspaper] turnaround," he told the Journal. "We see it continuing to decline, the print media." That's an echo of what Warren Buffett recently told his annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting shareholders. "We're in parts of the paper industry [Kochs Georgia-Pacific unit, acquired in 2005] that are declining," Koch said, "and because we have a big enough competitive advantage and we've innovated enough, we've been able to continue to be commercially viable." Beyond the investment rationale, Koch played the editorial card: "There is a need for focus on real news, not news with an agenda or not news that is really editorializing." It's the editorial page that would be re-energized, said Koch, saying that those pages of papers he acquired "would be a marketplace of ideas where all sorts of approaches to public-policy issues are vetted and contrasted, and there could be ongoing debate." This public confirmation will only fuel the fire of anti-Koch protest. The people who funded the Tea Party (vintage pre-Veep Frank Rich on the Koch/Tea Party connection here) are seeding citizen protests of their own. Those protests are numerous and noisy, the second indication of readers-in-the-streets outrage, which we first saw as New Orleans' Times-Picayune cut days of print and home delivery. Mostly, they've been centered in L.A., though we've now see small crowds in a dozen cities around the country, and even a notion of a crowdsourced Tribune buyout fund. The shouts have even been taken to Tribune board chairman Bruce Karsh's L.A. home; David Freedlander describes the nuances of applying such pressure in his Daily Beast story. The Kochs are clearly a top potential buyer in a Tribune company sweepstakes, the likely sale of the fourth largest U.S. newspaper company (by revenue) and 11th largest in the world. We must still say _likely_ because the Tribune Company has not yet formally committed itself to a sale, nor has it issued the "data books" that would-be buyers can comb through. Tribune has noted that 40 parties have expressed interest in its properties. Will the company actually open up an auction? It probably couldn't ask for better timing. The board has the possibility of competitive bidding, the ability to cite Buffettonian investment wisdom — and they know that the further crashing of print advertising in metro markets will only _further_ decrease values if they wait too long. And as financiers, they're short-term holders, not operators. There's one big complication of the moment. Two of Tribune's three owners — Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co. — each invest lots of labor pension money; for detail, check out Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece. The burgeoning union protest, which will now grow with the Koch statements, poses conflicting pressure points, points that may lead to a non-Koch deal if the competitive offer is good enough. The papers involved are mainly big ones ("The newsonomics of Tribune's metro agony"). Naming some of them — the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel — gives you an idea of why voices are rising. In America, a land of traditionally strong regional newspapers with only three national ones, such nameplates have dominated their regions for decades. So let's look at the newsonomics of the Kochs walking further into the public limelight — and of the uprising opposing it. Let's doing a little sorting out of the money and the power here, and the intertwining of the two. There are some certainties involved in a would-be takeover, and then some good guesswork we can add as well. THE PLAYERS Let's start by putting the now-public Koch interest in perspective. As the Tribune board finalizes its selling options, what are its alternatives? Responding to the Koch protests, new Tribune CEO Peter Liguori has said that speculation on who might buy the papers is "premature." It's premature until data is released and orders taken, but by then, the decision could come quickly. The new board's mandate, of course, is to maximize its take on the sale. Tribune newspaper profits run at the roughly $200 million level, maybe a third of which comes out of L.A. So, take the market multiple of 3 or 4 times that number as a price — or $600 million-plus — for the eight papers, even though underfunded newspaper pensions put a drag on that number. Then, if the inflamed passions, stoked by the Koch bid, produce a higher selling price, so much the better. The board clearly is aiming for a single deal. One deal reduces transaction costs and deal risk, and speeds closing. So who's likeliest to play in a single auction for the eight Tribune papers, which also include two non-metros in Newport News, Va., and Allentown, Penn.? The likeliest four: the Brothers Koch, Rupert Murdoch, the B group from L.A. (Eli Broad, Ron Burkle, and Austin Beutner, a well-connected trio of moneyed liberal lineage), and Aaron Kushner's 2100 Trust. Both the L.A. group and Murdoch are most interested in the L.A. Times, but have sent signals they might take all the papers — at least temporarily — to get the Times. As in some sales, there's the usual question: Is Rupert Murdoch really a serious bidder? The old press lion still can cat-and-mouse with the best of them. Rupert, _no_: Explaining that his ownership of two L.A. TV stations would get in the way of an L.A. Times buy, because of FCC cross-ownership rules: "It won't get through with the Democratic administration in place." Rupert, _sí_: Explaining the spin-off of his company's newspaper assets, as of June 30, into a standalone News Corp.: It's an "extraordinary opportunity that most people don't get in their lifetime to do it all over again." Bolstering the opportunity: the new News Corp. starts its engines with $2 billion in the bank — and no debt. The mature business decider vs. the young "bet the company" buck. At 82, Murdoch is unlikely to get another shot at the Times. It's both a fitting crown and platform for the man who is becoming chairman and CEO of the other News Corp. split-off entertainment conglomerate 21st Century Fox. In Hollywood, the talk is more about the head of a major studio heading one of the top media companies covering the film and TV businesses than it is about the L.A. Times' news credibility going forward. Murdoch's L.A. TV licenses come up in 2014, so the cross-ownership issue is immediate and real, and with the FCC in appointment limbo, he'll not get the waiver relief his lobbyists had hoped to win by now. Flip a coin and I say Rupert goes with his gut and bids.
An anti-Koch brothers rally in 2011. CC/Jessica Randolph.If he indeed goes for the Times (and other titles, if necessary), consider that Murdoch couldn't ask for a better competitor than the Koch Brothers. No one's out in the streets protesting a Murdoch takeover of the L.A. Times or Chicago Tribune. Even Koch opponents whisper that Murdoch would be better — the gray, if not white, knight, to the black hats of the Kochs. It's a new parsing in the post-Sam Zell era: How do you judge potential ownership these days, except on a _relative_ basis? At least, goes this thinking, Murdoch is a newspaperman. The only other newspaperman in that group is newbie Kushner. His company bought Freedom Communications and the Orange County Register last year and has initiated the most ambitious and contrarian, turnaround in the nation. Kushner differentiates current newspaper owners from potential buyers like the Kochs. Noting that they've been in businesses like paper and natural gas that few people pay much attention to, he wonders whether they really want to take on the quite public glare of newspaper ownership. "There's a big difference in writing check [for acquisition] and accepting responsibility for a community institution," he told me this week. BEYOND L.A. Though the Kochs' interest seems to be for the papers as a whole, _whoever_ wins the papers overall could then turn around and sell whatever pieces they didn't want. While so much attention has focused on the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune's brand and pedigree would seem to be of next interest. While the Sun-Times ownership has been named as a possible buyer, and consolidator, of the Tribune, its recent travails seem to indicate that potential is overblown. Having had some issue with paying the Tribune for its own printing, which it outsourced two years ago, and then making news last week that it laid off its entire photo staff, where would it find the money to buy the Tribune? Perhaps out of another financial pocket — but the deepening metro print ad loss has to give any financiers pause. The Baltimore Sun — a prime rebuilding job given that it has been hollowed out by cost-cutting, would interest several local buyers — including the Abell family, one-time Sun owners and operators of the Baltimore's leading local foundation. The Allentown and Newport News papers are properties in the sweet spot of the Warren Buffett-redefined market. Which would leave the two Florida papers — both major outlets in one of the most swingy of electoral swing states. If you're the Kochs, or someone else with a political agenda, you might think that the ability to swing some tens of thousands of Florida voters in a presidential or Senate election could be more than worth the small price of operating a struggling newspaper or two. We're hearing the expected debate about what kind of investment, financial or otherwise, this would be for the Koch Brothers. That's silly. They didn't get to the sixth and seventh places on the Forbes 400 list by betting on business models with more seeming downside than upside. The only way to read the Kochs' interest is "civic" from their own perspcetive or "political" from those of their opponents. Even Warren Buffett, in defending his purchase of daily newspapers at the April annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting put it bluntly: "It's not going to move the needle at Berkshire. _We wouldn't have done it in any other businesses._ There's no doubt about that." For the Kochs, the purchase would be a seem to be an extension of their political wars by other means. Of course they protest that notion, and the only track record we have to go on is their profound influence on conservative activist American politics over the last several years. On the face of it, and a reason we've seen the modest uprising opposing the Koch bid, political buyers pose a larger problem for the American press. The post-World War II press has been trained and self-taught to report straightforwardly, without political intent. The press itself has always had a devil of time explaining its penchant for accuracy to the general public — witness its continuing credibility woes. It depends on such satirists and media critics as Stephen Colbert to sum it up in stunningly simple form:
Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don't mean the argument over who came up with the word. I don't know whether it's a new thing, but it's certainly a current thing, in that it doesn't seem to matter what facts are. It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything.So, in our topsy-turvy world where the jesters are the best ones able to easily spell out the truth(iness), we have this strange phenomenon of Colbertian facts — with the Koch Brothers perhaps now claiming a piece of the fact business.
TOMORROW: What Koch ownership might look like in the real world._Photo of May 29, 2013 protest by the "Save Our News" coalition in Los Angeles by AP/Damian Dovarganes._
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our colleagues at our sister publication Nieman Reports are out with their new issue, and there’s a lot of great stuff in there for any journalist to check out. Over the next few days, we’ll share excerpts from a few of the stories that we think would be of most interest to Nieman Lab readers. Be sure to check out the entire issue. Here, Stuart Watson of WCNC-TV in Charlotte (and a 2008 Nieman Fellow) argues we should think of watchdog reporting as a social activity, not the work of a solitary individual.Once upon a time I was feeling rather smug having produced a series of reports that won a few trophies. Me? I’ll crawl across cut glass for a plastic trophy and a smattering of applause. There’s an entire economy propped up by insecure journalists like me spending hundreds of dollars each on award entry fees and hundreds more on trophies themselves, not to mention paying for travel to distant ballrooms and black tie dinners devoted to singing our own praises. Then it occurred to me that before I added my thin voice to the particular issue I had reported (Medicaid dollars misspent on dentistry), I had come across similar earlier reporting in The Houston Post and on Dateline NBC. And after my reporting my friends Roberta Baskin, then at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., and Byron Harris with WFAA-TV in Dallas produced more substantive reporting on the same issue. There’s a fiction perpetuated by narcissists like me that investigative reporting is the province of a few heroic lone wolves who use their superpowers to single-handedly expose and topple evildoers. Nonsense. Joe McCarthy didn’t fall by Edward R. Murrow alone — or by Murrey Marder, alone. KEEP READING AT NIEMAN REPORTS &RAQUO;
The International News Media Association held its annual conference recently, and a major theme was how publishers are looking forward with mobile strategies. A summary highlights the comments of Mark Challinor of the Telegraph Media Group, a man who speaks "with the flush of success of a publisher who believes he's cracked the code."
The most interesting insights however came from examining the behaviour of the Telegraph’s audience: 44% of the audience during the Olympics used more than one platform to connect to its content. Mobile and print access peaked between 7-9 a.m., the Web spiked at lunchtime, and iPad activity was most prevalent in the evening. The audience demographics were also telling. The average age of a weekday print reader is 61, 50 for an iPad reader, 44 for the Web site, and 35 for smartphone readers. “That gives us extraordinary insights into what to do with our content,” Challinor said. “This is about audience connection, not just broadcast. You can't just publish everything everywhere and think that will do. It needs to be tailored and targeted both for the device and the audience.”Other advice included "embrace the cloud," building journalism as a digital network, and increasing awareness of technologies like augmented reality and quick response codes.
The Washington Post released more details about its forthcoming digital subscription plan, which will go into effect on June 12. Digital-only access to the Post's desktop and mobile site will be $9.99 a month. For $14.99 digital-only subscribers can get access to mobile, desktop, and all of the Post's apps. Non-subscribers will get 20 free views on the site, and "visitors who come to The Post through search engines or shared links will still be able to access the linked page regardless of the number of articles they have previously viewed." As at The New York Times, there'll be no paywall around the Post's videos, since video advertising is one of the bright spots in newspapers' revenue mix. One interesting part of the Post's plan is that it leaves the door wide open for certain groups of people beyond print subscribers:
The plan will not affect substantial numbers of The Post’s readers, who will continue to have unlimited free access online. They include people who subscribe to home delivery of the print edition as well as students, teachers, school administrators, government employees and military personnel who sign on from their schools or workplaces.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Our friend Dan Kennedy has a new book out, and it's right up Nieman Lab's alley. _The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post-Newspaper Age_ takes as its subject local journalism in cities where new online outlets — some for-profit, some not — have set up shop. His primary focus is New Haven, Connecticut, where the New Haven Independent has been one of the new world's biggest successes. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 1. Yesterday, we published a piece from Dan on what he learned reporting and writing the book.Paul Bass felt uneasy. It was a Friday — Sept. 11, 2009. He was getting ready to leave the office for Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. And he was beginning to wonder if he had blown a big story. Two days before, Bass had received an email from someone at Yale University telling him that a 24-year-old graduate student named Annie Le was missing. Could Bass post something on his community website, the New Haven Independent? Sure thing, Bass replied. So he wrote a one-sentence item with a link to a Yale Daily News account. As he recalled later, he didn’t think much about it after that. Now Bass was facing a dilemma. Annie Le was still missing, and the media were starting to swarm. He was off until Saturday night; as an observant Jew, he does not work on Saturdays until after sundown. On top of this, his managing editor, Melissa Bailey, was leaving town for a few days. Bass remembered reading somewhere that Le had once written a story about students and crime for a magazine affiliated with Yale. He found it, linked to it, and wrote an article beginning: “A graduate pharmacology student asked Yale’s police chief a question: ‘What can one do to avoid becoming another unnamed victim?’ Seven months after she printed the answer in a campus publication, the student may have become a crime victim herself.” It was a start — nothing special, but enough to get the Independent into the chase. Then Bass went home. As it turned out, the Annie Le saga — soon to become a murder story — developed into one of the most heavily publicized news events to hit New Haven in many years. Her body was discovered inside a laboratory wall at Yale Medical School on Sunday, Sept. 13, the day she was to be married. The grisly fate of the beautiful young Yale student proved irresistible to the national media. From The New York Times to the New York Post, from the Today show to Nancy Grace, reporters, producers, and photographers besieged city and university officials. The story proved significant to the New Haven Independent as well. The Le case was exactly the sort of story Bass would normally have been reluctant to pursue. The Independent’s focus was on the city’s neighborhoods and quality-of-life issues, not Yale, which Bass believed got plenty of coverage elsewhere. “I was an idiot about the whole thing,” Bass told me at La Voz Hispana de Connecticut, the Spanish-language newspaper in downtown New Haven where the Independent rents a cramped office. “We don’t want to overdo Yale. That’s not our community. You don’t want to say one life is more important than another. But by Friday it’s hitting me. ’Cause now it’s been a bunch of days, and it’s feeling creepy. People were writing about it, and we were resisting writing about it. And then I said, you know what? I might be really missing it here.” Once Bass overcame his misgivings, the Independent’s dogged coverage earned the site national attention. Readership, which Bass said was generally around 70,000 unique visitors a month at the time, more than doubled in September to about 197,000. But the Le case was more than a way to garner attention and build an audience. It also became an opportunity for an online-only news outlet with a tiny staff to prove that it could keep up with — and, in a few instances, surpass — far larger and better-established media organizations. Among other developments, the Independent broke the news that the police had identified a possible suspect. And it was the first to report on what the suspect’s fiancée and a former girlfriend who claimed that he had sexually assaulted her had written about him on social-networking sites. The Annie Le story brought new readers to the Independent, but those who stayed soon learned that its day-to-day mission had little to do with covering high-profile murder cases. Since 2005 the Independent, a nonprofit online-only news organization supported by local and national foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, and reader donations, had been building its reputation by paying close attention to more quotidian matters: efforts to reform New Haven’s troubled public schools; development proposals large and small; retail-level politics; traffic; and issues involving the city’s police department, ranging from a “Cop of the Week” feature that highlighted the good work being performed by New Haven police officers to multiple stories looking into why citizens were being harassed and arrested for video-recording officers doing their jobs. No one else was covering those issues — certainly not in the detail and comprehensiveness offered by the Independent. Through close attention to the daily life of New Haven and its people, and through a commitment to an ongoing conversation with its readers aimed at sparking civic engagement, the Independent had placed itself in the vanguard of a new wave of online news organizations. WHY THE INDEPENDENT MATTERS The Independent is one of about a half-dozen local and regional nonprofit online-only news sites that are large enough and ambitious enough to have established themselves as a significant new journalistic genre. With the newspaper business having shrunk dramatically in recent years, it is fair to wonder whether anything will arise in its stead. The likely answer is that a wide variety of projects will be tried. Some will be better than others, and many cities and regions will be underserved. Thus, it matters to the future of journalism whether the Independent can survive and thrive. And so, too, in the case of large nonprofit projects such as Voice of San Diego, which covers that city as well as surrounding communities; Minnesota’s MinnPost; the St. Louis Beacon; The Texas Tribune and The Connecticut Mirror, both of which cover state government and politics; and a handful of others. These local and regional nonprofits have emerged as examples of how technology and a move away from the traditional advertising-based model of paying for newspaper journalism can provide vital watchdog coverage of government and local issues. On the face of it, the nonprofit route might sound unpromising. Under some circumstances, though, it has emerged as a more reliable method of funding journalism than depending on the advertising priorities of commercial interests. At the national level, nonprofits such as ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity have become respected sources of investigative reporting. At the regional and local levels, too, nonprofits are distinguishing themselves. In fact, it is the operators of for-profit online news sites who have had difficulty gaining traction. In Connecticut, CT News Junkie, a for-profit operation that also serves as the Independent’s capitol bureau, has been operating for several years longer than The Connecticut Mirror, covering state politics from the pressroom annex at the state house in Hartford. But News Junkie was quickly surpassed in staff size by its well-funded nonprofit competitor. Well-known for-profits such as The Batavian in western New York, Baristanet in the affluent New Jersey suburbs just beyond New York City, and the West Seattle Blog are making money. But in contrast to nonprofit sites, their staffs are tiny. Though the for-profits have become essential resources in their communities, they are rarely able to provide the sort of in-depth reporting that the Independent and its five full-time journalists are able to carry out in New Haven. At this historical moment in the technological and cultural revolution that has turned the news business upside down, there is more money for local start-up ventures in nonprofits than in for-profits. The rapidity with which the newspaper advertising model collapsed is startling. From the 1830s, when the modern daily-newspaper industry got under way with the launch of “penny press” papers such as New York’s Sun and The New York Herald, to around 2005, when the long, slow decline of the newspaper industry turned into a rout, advertisers paid most of the bills. It was often said that readers paid for printing and distribution, but the news itself was free, supported entirely by advertising. And suddenly that revenue source was in free fall. Advertising revenue from newspaper print editions dropped from $47.4 billion in 2005 to $22.8 billion in 2010, a decline that $3 billion in online advertising revenues did not come close to offsetting, according to figures compiled by the Newspaper Association of America. Classified advertising melted away as users turned to free and mostly free services such as Craigslist and Monster.com for selling a car, finding a job, or doing any of the other things that newspaper classifieds had once helped them do. Vibrant downtowns gave way to big-box stores on the outskirts of town whose advertising priorities often did not include local newspapers. As the New York University professor Clay Shirky, a well-known Internet analyst, has said, “Best Buy was not willing to support the Baghdad bureau because Best Buy cared about news from Baghdad. They just didn’t have any other good choices.” Now they do, since the Internet provides businesses with any number of ways to reach their customers directly. In that new world, professional news organizations are exploring a variety of ways to lessen their dependence on advertising. In 2011, general-interest newspapers such as The New York Times and The Boston Globe began asking readers to pay for at least some of their online content, joining specialty business publications that had long charged their readers for Internet access, most prominently The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Whether those and other newspapers will be able to make enough money from readers to offset their advertising losses remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the nonprofit model is already working. Public radio and its crown jewel, NPR, are among our most comprehensive and reliable news sources. Nonprofit community news sites should, at least in theory, be able to follow a similar path. But though the New Haven Independent is far cheaper to run than a radio station (its 2011 budget of $450,000 covered not just New Haven but a satellite site in the nearby suburbs employing three more full-time journalists), it is also reaching a much smaller — and poorer — audience. Like virtually all community news sites, for-profit and nonprofit, the Independent does not charge for access, though it does ask its readers for voluntary contributions. The nonprofit community-news movement remains small. The sites I’ve mentioned were all founded within roughly the same time period, from 2004 to 2009. In the years immediately following, the rise of nonprofit journalism slowed — perhaps because the sense of crisis in for-profit journalism that peaked in 2009 had eased somewhat, perhaps because there was a finite quantity of nonprofit money available to be tapped for media ventures. In addition, the government made it more difficult to launch a nonprofit news organization than ought to be the case, a problem that may require federal legislation to solve. “There was an initial bubble of nonprofit start-ups, but you haven’t seen that great wave spreading across the country,” Voice of San Diego’s editor, Andrew Donohue, told me. Donohue saw that as a good thing. What was needed, in his view, was “more diversity of business models, so we’re not so dependent on one should one collapse.” Still, Voice, like the Independent, was doing better than some of its for-profit competitors. Even though Donohue had to shrink his staff at the end of 2011 after the site received less funding than he had hoped for, he still had more reporting resources available than the smaller of the city’s two for-profit alternative weeklies, San Diego CityBeat. (The city’s larger alt-weekly, the San Diego Reader, is written mainly by freelancers.) The same was true in New Haven, where the Advocate had been stripped to the bone by corporate chain ownership. If the nonprofit model has not proved to be the salvation of journalism, it nevertheless is a vital part of the mix at a time when for-profit news organizations continue to struggle. Nonprofit online news should be seen not as the overarching model for the future of professional journalism but as one model that is working reasonably well in a few places. And it should not be viewed as a replacement for traditional newspapers but as a complement to them. In New Haven, for instance, the Independent has operated from its first day in the shadow of the New Haven Register, a large, middling-quality daily long run by cost-cutting chain owners. When I began visiting New Haven in 2009, the Register’s owner, the Journal Register Company (JRC), was in bankruptcy. But by 2011 the company was being run by a forward-looking, widely admired chief executive, and the Register itself had been turned over to a young editor determined to reach out to the community. (Since then, JRC has gone into and come out of bankruptcy once again.) Thus even in New Haven, where Paul Bass, through several career incarnations, has functioned since the 1980s as the city’s principal alternative to the Register, the media scene can change very quickly. It is not likely that a reinvigorated Register would make the Independent obsolete. But New Haveners who gave up on the Register in favor of the Independent may find themselves reading two daily news sources instead of just one. Still, given the Register’s related goals of reaching affluent readers in the suburbs and turning a profit, the Independent’s relentless focus on the city and its neighborhoods will almost certainly remain unmatched by any other news organization. All Bass has to figure out is how to keep his news site alive. A CONNECTICUT MEDIA LEGEND Bass is something of a legend in Connecticut media, and the Independent’s tiny office is festooned with awards he has won. Born in White Plains, N.Y., he came to New Haven as a Yale freshman and has spent his entire adult life reporting on his adopted city: as the cofounder of a weekly newspaper in the 1980s named, not coincidentally, the New Haven Independent; as a reporter and editor for the New Haven Advocate in the 1990s and 2000s; and as the coauthor of _Murder in the Model City_ (2006), a book about the redemption of a New Haven member of the Black Panthers who had been convicted of murder. It was in 2004 and 2005, while finishing his book on the Black Panthers, that Bass started to ponder the idea of entering the nascent world of online community journalism. The thought of returning to the Advocate didn’t appeal to him. Under the ownership of Tribune Company — a Chicago-based national conglomerate that also owns Connecticut’s largest daily newspaper, the Hartford Courant — the Advocate, he said, had become increasingly corporate, with a shrinking staff and diminished ambitions. At the same time, he had been looking at the nascent blogosphere with a mixture of contempt and fascination. “I was probably unfairly disdainful of blogs. I didn’t like that they didn’t do reporting. But I was excited at the way that they were engaging with the readers in new ways and telling stories in new ways,” he told me. In June 2009, when Bass and I first met, he was 49, speaking in a rapid-fire manner, and bubbling over with enthusiasm as he spread peanut butter on a bagel in a downtown coffee shop, Brū Café, which doubles as an auxiliary newsroom — it is at Brū, a short walk from La Voz and City Hall, that he holds staff meetings, puts together televised panel discussions, and conducts interviews. Atop his short-cropped red hair he wore a yarmulke. He had a red beard, wire-rimmed glasses, and on this particular day was wearing a loud-but-not-too-loud buttoned shirt, jeans, and sandals with socks. Youthful in appearance, he looked more like a graduate engineering student — earnest, intense, geeky — than someone who was helping to redefine local news coverage. After a few inquiries convinced him that it would be too difficult to support himself and his family with a for-profit venture, Bass started investigating the possibility of a nonprofit site, inspired by NPR and by a discussion he had read on the New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen’s blog, PressThink. He received a $50,000 grant from the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut and dove in, raising another $35,000 before the actual launch. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005, the day after Labor Day, the New Haven Independent slipped into view when Bass posted two stories about Kenny Hill, a retired National Football League cornerback turned New Haven developer. Hill was suing the city over a subcontractor whom he claimed he had been pressured to hire in order to remove lead paint from an apartment building he was renovating. Hill said the subcontractor had not done the work. The city said he had. It was a story about one building in one neighborhood, but Bass used it to make a larger point. He wrote: “The saga of 235 Winchester Ave. is more than a spat between a builder and a bureaucrat. It jeopardizes both economic and neighborhood development in New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood. Decent affordable housing is hard to find in a gentrifying city. This decrepit building stands across the street from 25 Science Park, a refurbished cornerstone of a crucial high-tech project. Also across the street are new homes built for working families.” The Hill stories served as a pretty good blueprint for what the Independent would become: a voice of the city’s neighborhoods and an advocate for the idea that New Haven should be a livable city for all of its residents — not just those few who were fortunate enough to be white, well-educated, and affluent. ON NAMING (AND NOT NAMING) NAMES On Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009, Shabbat having ended at sunset, Paul Bass went back to work on the Annie Le story — pulling an all-nighter, as Melissa Bailey learned at a brunch held the next morning to celebrate the Independent’s fourth anniversary. On Saturday night Bass posted an update on the investigation. Late Sunday morning, he ran a piece largely reported by Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie. According to Stuart’s sources, the authorities had searched an incinerator in Hartford for Le’s body — but contrary to some stories in the national media, there were no suspicions that it had deliberately been dumped there. Rather, trash from New Haven was routinely trucked to the facility, and police thought there was a chance that the body might turn up. That night, however, police announced that Le’s body had been discovered inside a wall at the laboratory where she had worked. On Monday, Sept. 14, six days after Le had been reported missing, the Independent became the first to reveal that police had identified a 24-year-old laboratory technician who had worked with Le as a “person of interest.” The New Haven Register’s website followed shortly thereafter. And so began one of the more curious side stories of the Annie Le case. As law enforcement officials continued with their investigation on Tuesday, neither the Independent nor the Register released the name of Le’s coworker. On Tuesday night, though, the police department held a news conference and announced that the “person of interest” was Raymond Clark, whose name was included in a press release. Because the news conference was covered live by a number of television stations, Clark’s identity immediately became public. On Wednesday, the Register named Clark and interviewed people who knew him. “I’m in total shock,” an unidentified high school classmate was quoted as saying. “He was the nicest kid — very quiet, but everyone liked him. I can’t believe he could do this. I’m sick to my stomach.” But the Independent continued to withhold Clark’s name. Melissa Bailey was at the news conference too. She took notes and shot some video of New Haven Police Chief James Lewis speaking to reporters. But neither her story nor her video used Clark’s name. Bailey wrote, somewhat cryptically, “Police named the target of the search, calling him a ‘person of interest.’” Nor did the Independent identify Clark on Wednesday — and not even in a story posted early on Thursday morning reporting that police had staked out a motel where Clark was staying the night before, although it did link to a Register story that identified Clark in its lead paragraph. It wasn’t until later on Thursday morning that the Independent finally named Raymond Clark as the person police believed had murdered Annie Le. The reason: by then Clark had been arrested and charged, and was being taken into court for a formal arraignment. The Independent’s refusal to name Clark until he had been formally charged was an admirable exercise in journalistic restraint. The decision derived in part from Bass’s institutional memory. In 1998, police had mistakenly identified a Yale professor as a “person of interest” in the murder of a student named Suzanne Jovin. No evidence against the professor was ever made public, and the murder was never solved. _[Editors note: On Monday, Yale and the city of New Haven announced a settlement with that wrongly accused professor.]_ Essentially, though, this restraint was a statement of Bass’s sense of how a news organization ought to serve the community Judging by comments posted to the Independent, many readers appreciated Bass’s decision. “Thank you for the good sense to not publish his name at this time,” wrote “asdf” on Tuesday evening, after Clark’s name had begun to leak out but before the police had named him. The commenter added: “I really don’t understand what there is to gain by releasing his name — if you don’t have enough evidence to arrest him, then you don’t have enough evidence to smear him in the media.” Then there was this, from “LOOLY,” posted on Wednesday morning, after Clark’s name had been widely reported: “It should really be very simple. Unless he is being charged his name should not be used.” Bass also had to make several other difficult decisions about identifying people connected to the Annie Le story. On Sept. 14, as Clark’s name was leaking out, the media converged on his apartment in Middletown, northeast of New Haven. Christine Stuart noticed the name of a woman along with that of Raymond Clark. She passed it along, and Melissa Bailey started plugging it into various social-networking sites. It didn’t take long before she found a public MySpace page for the woman, who turned out to be Clark’s 23-year-old fiancée. Bailey captured a screen image before the page could be taken down — which it soon was. Bailey wrote a story that began, “The target in the slaying of Yale graduate student Annie Le had something in common with the victim — he, too, was engaged.” And she quoted the young woman as writing of Clark: “He has a big heart and tries to see the best in people ALL THE TIME! even when everyone else is telling him that the person is a psycho or that the person can’t be trusted. he thinks everyone deserves a second chance.” The woman’s name and photograph wound up being published by other news outlets, but it never appeared in the Independent. That was not the Independent’s only social-networking scoop. In nearby Branford, Marcia Chambers of the Branford Eagle, a community news site that is affiliated with the Independent, was working her sources. Somehow she obtained a 2003 police report about an ex-girlfriend of Raymond Clark who claimed he had forced her to have sex when they were both students at Branford High School. As a condition of receiving the report, Chambers promised not to publish it until after an arrest had been made. But that didn’t mean there were not other uses to which the report could be put. Bailey typed the woman’s name into Facebook, discovered that she had an account, and friended her, letting her know she was a reporter covering the murder. After Clark’s arrest, Bailey and Chambers wrote a story without using the woman’s name. “I can’t believe this is true,” they quoted the woman as writing on her Facebook page. “I feel like im 16 all over again. Its jsut bringing back everything.” The revelation that the Independent had the police report created a media stampede, Bailey said later. “People were calling us, begging us for this police report,” she told a researcher for Columbia University. “The New York Times came in and practically tried to arm-wrestle Paul.” The Independent withheld the fiancée’s name, a decision Bailey wrote that she had no misgivings about even though the woman later appeared on network television and identified herself. By declining to name Raymond Clark until he had actually been charged with a crime, and by withholding the identities of the two women, Paul Bass had made a statement about what kind of news organization he wanted the Independent to be and what kind of journalism his community could expect from the site. Protecting the two women at a time when only the Independent knew who they were was the more straightforward of the two decisions. Any news executive who cares about journalistic ethics — or, for that matter, basic human decency — might have made the same call. But keeping Clark’s name off the site even after the New Haven police had put it in a press release, and even after the police chief had freely discussed it at a news conference — well, that was an extraordinary decision. Many journalists would argue that a news organization has an obligation to report the name of someone who might soon be charged with murder when the police have very publicly placed that name on the record. But Bass clearly has a different way of looking at such matters. Weeks later, in a conversation at his office, Bass wondered if he had done the right thing while simultaneously defending his decision. “I still believe it’s a complicated question. I still believe we could definitely be wrong,” he said. Yet, as he continued, he didn’t sound like someone who thought he might be wrong, even as I suggested to him that his decision to withhold Clark’s name could be seen as something of an exercise in futility. “I’m in no way moving toward the idea that we should have run the name. I see no reason for putting the name out sooner. Nothing served,” he said. “I agree with you that it was futile. The name was out there. But we are still a news organization with standards.” Those standards, I came to realize, are rooted not just in Bass’s view of journalism but in his sense of place, and even in his spiritual beliefs. The Independent is a news site, but it’s not just a news site. It is also a gathering place, a forum for civil discussion of local issues, and a spark for civic engagement. It is a mixture that reflects Bass’s interests: a multifaceted approach to community journalism — to community and journalism — that has been visible in his life and work from the time he began writing about New Haven. _Photo of Sept. 14, 2009 Yale vigil for Annie Le by AP/Douglas Healey._