Media industry news & commentary. Send tips.

Inside the upcoming life sciences newsroom from Boston Globe Media

Shortly after Rick Berke resigned from his post as executive editor of Politico in September, he was contacted by Boston Globe Media, which made him a compelling offer: Did he want to build a newsroom from the ground up?

“How often do you have an opportunity to pursue important, high-end journalism as well as create a new publication, a new news organization, from nothing?” Berke asked. “I couldn’t not do it.”

He talked to Boston Globe Media for months before he finally accepted the opportunity, becoming executive editor for an as-yet unnamed news organization focused on the life sciences. Since then, he’s been busy honing the vision and hiring for a newsroom he projects will have “dozens” of staffers and a presence in both Boston and Washington, D.C.

“We hope to become an indispensable and absorbing guide to the fascinating world of life sciences,” Berke told Poynter in an email interview. “In an insightful and provocative way, we’ll cover the discovery and inventions that could transform human health, and the personalities, money, politics and culture behind the research.”

The forthcoming publication is the latest initiative from Boston Globe Media, the parent company of The Boston Globe, which has spun off a few publications focused on specific coverage areas since the paper was bought by Boston businessman John Henry in 2013. Last March, the company launched BetaBoston, a free website dedicated to covering the startup scene in Beantown, followed several months later by Crux, a standalone site devoted to Catholicism.

Boston Globe Media decided to invest in life science coverage because Boston sits at a major nexus of bio technology innovation, Berke said. Kendall Square in the nearby city of Cambridge is a major hub for investment and research, and the Globe is a short distance away from major hospitals and prestigious research universities like MIT and Harvard.

“This really all stems from John Henry taking over the Globe and feeling passionate about the fact that there’s this amazing story in the backyard of the Globe of worldwide interest,” Berke said.

Although the publication isn’t slated to launch for many months, Berke has already begun building a team of editors, reporters and executives. So far, he’s recruited Politico alums Stephanie Simon and David Nather (who will run the D.C. bureau) in addition to New York Times alum Jeff DelViscio and former Harvard Crimson managing editor Rebecca Robbins. Gideon Gil, the health and science editor of the Globe who is currently finishing a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship, will be the publication’s enterprise editor. Angus Macaulay, formerly vice president of marketing and sales at Pace Communications, has already begun as chief revenue officer. Future hires will include a head of product, in addition to reporters, editors and multimedia staffers.

The publication will be headquartered in The Boston Globe building, but on a different floor from the Globe’s newsroom, with its own business staff. In addition to a Web presence, Berke and Boston Globe Media envision the publication having some kind of “print component,” but that product and its publication frequency hasn’t been finalized yet.

Smaller scooplets and step-back enterprise pieces will be a part of the publication’s news diet, which will consist of “urgent daily journalism” and “memorable stories that make a difference,” Berke said.

Berke says the publication hopes to begin by publishing a few stories in The Boston Globe by this fall. Berke said he and his team hope to debut a separate site sometime after that, but he did not want to peg the launch to a specific date.

“There’s a lot of major big questions that have to be answered,” Berke said. “And these things take time.” Read more


A new documentary celebrates muckraking journalist I.F. Stone

Screenshot of a new documentary called The Legacy of I.F. Stone, which is available on Vimeo and at

Screenshot of a new documentary called The Legacy of I.F. Stone, which is available on Vimeo and at

When you pick up the daily newspaper, I.F. Stone used to say, go to page 17 since that’s where the truth is.

That notion was part and parcel of the idiosyncratic and ravenous ways of Stone, one of great muckraking journalists, who’s subject of two new video tributes released Wednesday that could be a primer for anybody in the news business today.

Stone (1908-1989) was essentially a dazzling pre-Internet blogger, whose weapon was a manual typewriter, a two-finger peck-and-poke style of typing and a print newsletter that once claimed 70,000 subscribers.

But at the heart of work that made him both a hero to many and a pariah to the establishment, which could include parts of the journalism establishment, was an insistence that important truths can get buried, out of deceit, laziness or misunderstanding.

And when it came to government itself, his work life was animated by the driving notion that, by and large, it tends to lie, especially about important matters.

Whether it was during the Red-baiting of the McCarthy Era during the 1950s, the Vietnam War or the daily functioning of the federal government he observed, Stone continually broke big stories in his little four-page newsletter that proved that people in power were fudging. Those included his damning questions about how media reported on an 1964 incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, involving an alleged unprovoked attack against a U.S. destroyer, which would provide the dubious basis for President Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War.

He was not always heralded during his lifetime. But in 1999, a New York University journalism panel ranked his newsletter, “I.F Stone’s Weekly,” as the second most important print product of the 20th century.

Further, both Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism and Ithaca College present annual awards in his name that herald exemplars of great independent work.

What’s being released Wednesday are a 12-minute video biography and an accompanying 30-minute video of longer interviews with the likes of filmmaker Michael Moore and journalist Glenn Greenwald, who assisted former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in bringing to light his controversial disclosures of government spying.

It’s an effort of the non-profit called Catalytic Diplomacy, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and is produced by White Pine Pictures of Toronto. The hope is to parlay it into a larger documentary, perhaps akin to a strong documentary on him, “IF. Stone’s Weekly,” that was released in 1973 (and called “by turns angry, frightening and funny” by critic Roger Ebert).

Stone was indefatigable and nervy, with both respect for great journalists and suspicion of many, especially those who plied their trade in the nation’s capital.

“His great line was you have to wear a chastity belt to preserve your journalistic integrity since once the Secretary of State invites you to lunch you’re sunk,” recalls longtime capital journalist Myra MacPherson, (cq) who is interviewed in both videos and is author of “All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F Stone.”

Greenwald suggests in the longer video that Stone should be an inspiration in an Internet world, “where individuals can build a platform without the institutional limitations of a big corporation.”

He’s correct in noting how when it came to be isolated from those in both government and media power, “He viewed his exclusion from those circles as the minimum requirement that someone was doing his job as a journalist.”

It’s no surprise that he became a hero to some other journalists, including a young Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post and Seymour Hersh, who themselves would become associated with reporting on the Watergate and Vietnam War’s Mylai Massacre scandals, respectively.

His assistant for a period during the mid-1960s was Peter Osnos, who went on to distinguished careers as a reporter and editor at the Washington Post and in book publishing and recounted his experience in an engaging 2006 preface to a collection, “The Best of I.F. Stone.”

On Wednesday, I asked him why journalists today should care about Stone.

“In many significant ways, Izzy’s work is a model for what today’s best reporters can achieve. His I.F. Stone’s Weekly was a forerunner of the best of today blogs.”

“He did prodigious digging in the official documents of the day and read widely in global newspapers and magazines. He then put his findings into crisp opinionated writing that had revelations from his reporting combined with style and wit. By the standards of the time in the mid- 1960s, Izzy’s newsletter with 70,000 subscribers was a celebrated paragon of independent thinking and a pleasure to read.”

That nails it. But even better is perusal of an official site that includes lots of his work:

Take a look. It’s both humbling and an inspiration.

The Legacy of I.F. Stone Part 1:

The Legacy of I.F. Stone – Part 1 (master vimeo) from WhitePinePictures on Vimeo.

The Legacy of I.F. Stone Part 2:

The Legacy of I.F. Stone – Part 2 (master vimeo) from WhitePinePictures on Vimeo. Read more

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.23.41 AM

The Washington Post’s new Web experiment hopes to offer up some serendipity

Screen shot, The Washington Post

Screen shot of the pinch view of The Washington Post’s test Web experience

Climb up three steps from The Washington Post’s fifth-floor newsroom to the sixth floor, then head down two flights of steps via a wrought iron staircase. There, you’ll find Team Rainbow. It’s a collaborative place for development, news and tech, and it’s where the Post’s latest Web experiment came from.

Remember the office space in “Being John Malkovich?”

“Yeah, so we work there,” said Julia Beizer, director of mobile product at the Post. Beizer works in this weird part of the Post’s building with Cory Haik, executive producer and senior editor, digital news, with IOS developers, Web developers, Android developers, product designers, news designers, producers and editors.

The sign outside Rainbow Team's space at The Washington Post. (Photo by Cory Haik, The Washington Post)

The sign outside Rainbow Team’s space at The Washington Post. (Photo by Cory Haik, The Washington Post)

On Monday, the Post announced that it’s testing two versions of its Web and mobile site created by Team Rainbow. They’re targeting social and mobile users who represent a growing audience for the Post. The two versions include some features and lessons learned from designing the Post’s Kindle Fire app, Haik said. And they’re trying to offer readers something you don’t get with traditional article pages — serendipity.

Like the Kindle Fire app, there’s no homepage, Beizer said, no middleman to go through on the way to a story.

“When you’re looking at the social/mobile audience, that’s exactly what they do, too,” Beizer said.

The test sites have national news, nothing local, and the stories there are custom-selected by editors, given new headlines and special layouts. While the Fire app is what Haik calls a 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. lean back experience, the test sites have about 200 stories at any given time and they’re curated to offer a linear news experience.

“We want to give you a news bundle, if that makes sense,” Haik said. So when Marco Rubio announces a presidential run, the Post might have 15 stories up in the course of five hours that run in a range of sections. In the linear bundle, a few strong pieces are put together in a deliberate way, with hand-selected photos and video. That process also came from the philosophy developed while building the Kindle Fire app. Readers can still find their way into the maze of stories that exist, but they can also follow the linear bundle’s path that hopefully feels more satisfying than stumbling around the Web.

In both versions of the test site, readers will find two stories: one peeking out (that’s the peek view), and one adjacent to another story (that’s the pinch view).

“Serendipity in adjacency worked for news companies for years,” Beizer said, “but it hasn’t translated to digital.”

With the Post’s new experience, they’re testing to see if people respond to a return to that adjacency, which, she said, is a challenge to translate to a mobile view.

With both versions, the question is this — “Do either one of these get at that delight in the serendipity of seeing something you want to read right next to the article you’re on?”

Screen shot, The Washington Post

Screen shot of the peek view of The Washington Post’s trial design

‘Every day is quite different and it shapes the next one.’

Beizer and Haik have worked together for four years and this is how they’ve always worked — trying to get the minimum viable product out as quickly as they can but also making sure they’ve made something worth people’s time.

Haik came to the Post four years ago. Before that, she worked at The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune and the Seattle Times.

“My career is digital newspapering,” Haik said. “I don’t know if that’s a word.”

Beizer has worked at the Post for 10 years this summer, and, like Haik, has always on the digital side of things.

The two have tried similar experiments with smaller products, getting something out to readers quickly to see how they react and how they’re adapting to different forms of storytelling. They tested this on the mobile Web in 2012 when they added an Instagram feed curated from a hashtag to the mobile homepage.

“It was like this huge coup,” Haik said. “We were ecstatic about that.”

In their time together, the new test sites are their biggest experiment so far. But the concept is the same.

“It’s just very iterative and that’s just the beauty of it,” Haik said. “Every day is quite different and it shapes the next one.”

They’ve also paired news designers with UX designers “and that’s been a really cool marriage to see happen,” Beizer said. The two said they’ve spent their careers in digital jobs where the CMS dictated where things went. Haik hired news designers with print backgrounds, though, and brought them onto the digital side.

“They know how to tell stories,” Beizer said. “The product designers, their strength is ‘how do I move someone through this experience in the easiest way possible? Those are both design skills but they’re very, very different. The combination of those different kinds of design thinking have really lit up our products in a different way.”

Haik agreed.

“I think the combination of these two are the secret sauce.”

‘Somebody said that they did not hate it on the Internet.’

The Post will get feedback on the test sites in a number of ways, including heavily monitoring social media and customer service channels, but the majority of feedback comes via analytics, Beizer said. The Post uses Chartbeat for day-to-day metrics so editors can help optimize presentation. They use Adobe’s Omniture to see how long people are staying and how many pages they consume. They use Splunk to measure things including how long it takes pages to load, and the Post has a homegrown A/B testing platform called Darwin that serves different sites to different people.

Screen shot, mobile peek view, The Washington Post

Screen shot, mobile peek view, The Washington Post

“The great thing about tests like this is you launch and you are buried, buried in data, and that’s a good thing,” she said. It can be hard to tell stories out of the data right away, but within a few days, stories should emerge that show how readers react to the two versions. If there’s not enough of a differential, they’ll add more tweaks.

And they have gotten some immediate feedback already.

“Somebody said that they did not hate it on the Internet,” Haik said.

Another user, through customer service, didn’t love it thanks to the experience of clicking the test site with a mouse. That feedback sparked a conversation with the product team, who’d been focusing on the mobile and social experience, Beizer said, “and we thought, is there something else we can do there to make that a better experience for her?”

“We also have a ‘do we love it?’ test,” Haik said.

In the beginning, the team didn’t love how the two-column presentation worked on mobile, and they’re still not sure if it will last there, but the more they use the things they’re creating and develop a relationship with them, the more the team can decide if they love it.

“Does Julia love it? Does Cory love it? Does the newsroom love it? Do users love it?” Haik asked. It’s hard to quantify, but the actual relationship with something created across departments is a factor.

“If people love it, it matters, actually, because we’re all working on it together,” Haik said.

So. Does she love it?


‘…Invent ourselves out of tight corners’

Screen shot, single mobile view, The Washington Post

Screen shot, single mobile view, The Washington Post

So when will the Post’s experiment be done? Read more


At cable convention, news is not a focus

intxA Tribune Publishing official was explaining Tuesday why quality journalism will win out and make money online, especially when one has “authority” and a close relationship to your community.

When finished, Joyce Winnecke, who oversees Tribune Content Agency, the company’s syndication arm, asked the panel moderator, “Does that make sense?”

“I don’t believe you,” said Dan Miller, a longtime Chicago business reporter who now runs an annual awards program that recognizes Chicago business innovation.

If Miller was unconvinced, at least he, the long-ago reporter Winnecke and two other news executives were mentioning the word “journalism.”

That is decidedly rare at the Internet & Television Expo, a giant media gathering held by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) in Chicago.

The large Fox News Channel screen that faces one upon entering the convention floor is at least a superficial exception that proves the rule. As one ambles about, with booths celebrating giants like Fox’s parent, News Corp., Comcast, Disney, Viacom, Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal, Showtime, Samsung, Time Warner and others, one is struck by both the growing concentration of ownership and the almost ancillary mentions of gathering, reporting and analyzing news among its corporate overseers.

When the convention kicked off with NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell, Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts and AOL Chairman Tim Armstrong in separate on-stage interviews, the talk was largely about technology and distribution. Armstrong even predicted a dramatic shake out looms, and may happen during just a single year, with Internet firms “without proper scale” and traditional companies “who don’t get the point” being demolished.

“Content” in these environs is entertainment, data and sports. It’s why it was at least somewhat refreshing to see that one of the dozens of panels was actually titled, “Views on News: Journalism & Money in the Digital Media Marketplace.”

The drift was that the longtime newspaper industry mantra of local, local, local is a potential winner, even if the economics remain ambiguous. For Winnecke, the winning way for Tribune’s “mission driven” papers to differentiate themselves is “watchdog investigative” reporting, or at least far more of that than “high level” non-local content which “probably won’t differentiate us and is probably not why our digital audience is growing.”

DNAinfo, a digital news service that covers New York and Chicago, not only wants to tell readers about rats in the basement of a neighborhood bar but to chase after advertising from a corner hair salon, said Shamus Toomey, the managing editor of its Chicago operation.

In addition, both he and Thomas Januszewski, who is the director of business development for the Associated Press, readily conceded that the unavoidable thrust to pay attention to the crowd sourcing of news confronts a very old-fashioned necessity: fact checking.

“We have to build ways to vet that and verify it,” said Toomey.

Indeed, the democratization of media is so rampant that the A.P executive said that even the instant images from the Nepal earthquake — or supposedly from the earthquake — place tensions on the organization’s infrastructure.

When there is any earthquake, Januszewski said, “We get all these earthquake photos that are fake. So we’re in the business of verifying fake earthquake photos.”

Really? People are trying to fool his organization with fake images of true tragedies?

“There is phony everything,” he said.

Further, “there is the issue of news as entertainment and people sometimes don’t care if it’s fake.”

So one may have a quality brand that you crave to protect, and that tries to do more vetting, he said. “But we don’t have an army.”

Ultimately, it was left to Toomey to make a succinct case for hope in a journalism future.

“Ten years ago I would have to either lie to a journalism class or tell them to become an investment banker,” he said. Now, he thinks the market for information is a good one.

Perhaps. But one can exit the cable convention and run right into an adjacent, unrelated Microsoft convention. It’s drawn a head-turning 23,0000 information technology professionals, including programmers.

The anxiety that confronts the very few who mull the days ahead for quality journalism at the cable fest is seemingly not in evidence throughout the packed halls of that assemblage. Read more


Inside the tumult at Al Jazeera America

Good morning. Here are nine media stories.

  1. ‘I didn’t like the culture of fear’

    The New York Times examined the turmoil that has roiled Al Jazeera America in recent days, including the departure of executive Marcy McGinnis. "Ms. McGinnis, who most recently served as Al Jazeera America’s senior vice president for outreach, said that the newsroom was in total 'disarray behind the scenes,' a view echoed by almost a dozen current and former employees interviewed." (The New York Times) | A former employee has filed a lawsuit against the network. (Politico) | Al Jazeera America has denied accusations of gender bias, calling them "false and malicious." (PR Newswire)

  2. Gubernatorial candidate threatens to sue newspaper

    Kentucky gubernatorial candidate James Comer is denying allegations of domestic abuse, made by his ex-girlfriend, that were published by The (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal. "At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Comer, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, called the accusations 'bizarre and untrue' and said he was considering filing a lawsuit against people 'shopping the story,' and the newspaper. 'That the Courier-Journal is publishing this garbage is a reflection on them, not me. They should be ashamed of this Rolling Stone-style journalism,' Comer said." (WKU) | Comer's lawyer "promised a 'devastating lawsuit' against the newspaper if it published the story." (The Courier-Journal) | The Courier-Journal's executive editor: "We stand by our reporting." (Politico)

  3. 'Being shocked is part of democratic debate'

    Representatives from French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo accepted PEN American Center’s "freedom of expression courage" award Tuesday night to "a thundering standing ovation." The newspaper's reception of the award had become mired in controversy in recent days after more than 200 of the society's members signed a letter of protest. In his acceptance speech, the magazine's chief editor, Gérard Biard, defended satire. "'Being shocked is part of democratic debate,' said Mr. Biard, who accepted the award with the magazine’s film critic, Jean-Baptiste Thoret. 'Being shot is not.'" (The New York Times) | "The top editor at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical Paris newspaper that was attacked four months ago by militant gunmen over its cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, sought on Tuesday to reject attempts by right-wing activists to exploit that attack for their own agendas." (The New York Times)

  4. Cameraman attacked

    Jay Jennings, a photographer at WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina, was hit on the head while filming a documentary about

Read more
Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 8.24.49 AM

Today in Media History: Hindenburg explodes and a reporter cries out, ‘Oh, the humanity’

On May 6, 1937, the German airship Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst, New Jersey after a flight from Germany.

A reporter for Chicago radio station WLS described the accident, “It burst into flame and it’s falling….this is terrible, this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world….oh, the humanity.”

The front page of the Mount Carmel (Pennsylvania) Item:


Image-Break 760

Herb Morrison was working for Chicago radio station WLS when he traveled to the Lakehurst Naval Station in New Jersey to record what should have been another routine landing of the German airship Hindenburg. WLS engineer Charles Nehlsen and Morrison brought a disc machine to record the story. Morrison’s detailed description of the ship’s landing was running quite smoothly when the hydrogen-filled dirigible burst into flames.

His description of the Hindenburg explosion was not broadcast live, but the recording soon aired over the NBC Red and Blue radio networks. Here is an excerpt from Morrison’s report:

Well here it comes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re out now, outside of the hangar, and what a great sight it is, it’s a marvelous sight. It’s coming down out of the sky pointed directly towards us and toward the mooring mast. The mighty diesel motors just roared, the propellers biting into the air and throwing it back into a gale-like whirlpool….It’s practically standing still now, they’ve dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and its been taken ahold of down on the field by a number of men. It’s starting to rain again, the rain had slacked up a little bit, the back motors of the ship are just holding it just enough to keep it from….

It burst into flame! It burst into flame and it’s falling, it’s fire, watch it, watch it, get out of the way, get out of the way, get this Charley, get this Charley, it’s fire and it’s rising, it’s rising terrible, oh my God what do I see? It’s burning, bursting into flame, and it’s falling on the mooring mast and all of the folks agree that this is terrible, this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world, oh the flames are rising, oh, four or five hundred feet into the sky. It’s a terrific crash ladies and gentlemen, the smoke and its flames now and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast, oh, the humanity, and all the passengers. Screaming around me, I’m so, I can’t even talk, the people, it’s not fair, it’s, it’s, oh! I can’t talk, ladies and gentleman, honest, it’s a flaming mass of smoking wreckage, and everybody can hardly breathe, I’m concentrating. Lady, I’m sorry, honestly, I can hardly breathe, I’m going to step inside where I cannot see it. Charley that’s terrible. I, I can’t. Listen folks, I’m going to have to stop for a minute, just because I’ve lost my voice, this is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Ladies and gentlemen I’m back again, I’ve sort of recovered from the terrific explosion, and the terrific crash that occurred just as it was being pulled down to the mooring mast. It’s still smoking and flaming and crashing and banging down there….

The following video includes newsreel film of the explosion and part of Herb Morrison’s original radio report:

See Also:

— “The Hindenburg makes her last landing at Lakehurst.”
Life Magazine, May 1937.

— “Radio Gives Fast Zeppelin Coverage.”
Broadcasting Magazine, May 1937.

— “Hindenburg airship disaster leaves 33 dead.”
The Guardian, May 1937. Read more


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

After earthquake, NYT changes style to ‘Kathmandu’

The New York Times

When Nepal was rocked by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake, Times journalists traveled to Kathmandu and began filing dispatches from the damaged capital city. Since the day they arrived and today, the paper made a style change in how its correspondents should spell the city’s name.

New York Times standards editor Philip Corbett explained the justification for changing “Katmandu” to “Kathmandu” in a post on Times Insider. Although the former had been the accepted spelling for years, local usage — with an added “h” – has become dominant in recent years, he writes.

Our researchers found that at this point, most American and British publications were also using Kathmandu, though a few were inconsistent and others (including The Wall Street Journal) still used “Katmandu.” We also realized that the spelling with “h” was a far more common search term in Google.

The Associated Press announced earlier this year that the upcoming edition of its stylebook would favor spelling the city with an “h.” Read more

1 Comment

8 tips from Vox Media engagement editors for using visuals on social media

In late September, the team at was faced with an interesting challenge: How to make simple facts about Ebola spread faster than alarmist misinformation?

They had an article explaining how the virus spread but weren’t sure of the best way to promote it on social media. So they mulled the problem over in one of the startup’s kitchens over some string cheese.

Finally, they settled on a simple flowchart with one question and one answer. “Have you touched the vomit, blood, sweat, saliva, urine, or feces of someone who might have Ebola? No. You do not have Ebola.”

The graphic was concise, punchy and answered an urgent question about a major news event. It was shared more than 58,000 times and racked up nearly 9,000 likes.

“What really worked about this graphic was it took all of the reporting that we had done and simplified it,” said Allison Rockey, the engagement editor at

Like Rockey, every engagement editor at each of Vox Media’s brands has developed a slightly different approach to publishing still images and video on social media. Poynter caught up with them to report back on the strategies that drive engagement on various platforms.

1. Follow the 3-second rule

The Ebola image also passes one of the basic litmus tests for visuals at Can the graphic be understood in less than three seconds? If it can, staffers have an inkling that they’re onto something. But if the image takes too long to parse, that might be an indicator that it needs more work.

2. Don’t be a tease

This emphasis on comprehension fits within’s overall strategy when creating images for social media, too. Instead of plastering Twitter, Facebook and other platforms with images that tease readers, staffers try to provide the audience with everything they need to know in one post, Rockey said. Vox readers are more likely to share these comprehensive posts with their friends because they generally want to be seen as savvy, informed news consumers.

“That’s something that kind of breaks the general convention that shorter is always better on social,” Rockey said. “We find giving people a complete experience on the platform tends to be what’s most successful for us.”

3. Hone your voice

If there’s an total opposite to’s straightforward voice on Twitter, it might be the site’s sister sports brand, SB Nation. Some sample tweets:

This insouciant tone isn’t an accident, said Michael Katz, the engagement editor of SB Nation. The publication has crafted an enthusiastic voice emphasizing the celebration of sports, a message evinced by the content it shares.

A typical SB Nation post is informal, fun and raw. Often times, the publication will share screen shots and Vines taken directly from the highlight reel or slow-motion replay because that unvarnished content is exactly what fans want to see while they’re watching a game. SB Nation audience members have precious moments during commercial breaks or between huddles, so they want to know exactly what they’re getting into before they tap a link.

“Because a lot of times, we’re just talking to them during a live sporting event,” Katz said. “And we’re just asking for a minute of their time. We’re kind of tapping you on the shoulder and saying ‘Hey, we’re your friend that has their phone pointed at the TV and caught that great thing you just saw.’”

4. Plan social images in advance

SB Nation saw a lot of success on social media during the Olympics when it tweeted “crazy, over-the-top” images of America anytime the U.S. celebrated an achievement, Katz said. Because readers responded well, the brand decided to repeat the experiment with photoshopped images crafted ahead of time for this summer’s World Cup. A tweet mockingly branded as an “exclusive” showed the heads of U.S. players photoshopped onto the torsos of George Washington’s retinue crossing the Delaware River.

The tweet quickly racked up more than 1,000 retweets and was favorited more than 500 times.

“And it was because we thought about it, and we planned it, and we had folks with more design skills than us who were all about doing that, too,” Katz said.

5. Make your own images

The Verge, which covers the intersection of technology and culture, writes a lot about brands and objects — two subjects that don’t lend themselves to easy illustration.

Often, news about Amazon, Netflix and other companies is illustrated by boring static images of corporate headquarter buildings or blasé packaging, said Helen Havlak, the engagement editor at The Verge. To avoid that, Verge staffers have begun holding their own photoshoots so they have a cache of interesting original images to accompany the news they’re writing about. To figure out which kinds of images to shoot, they examine which shots were popular with readers within the preceding month.

If they can’t effectively express a subject with a custom photograph, Verge staffers might instead work with an illustrator to get the message across. That was the tack the publication took with a recent story about Rube Goldberg machines. Each letter of the headline for the article was an illustration of an elaborate contraption that became an animated GIF nestled next to the body copy of the story.

Havlak says the original images have worked. Facebook referrals are up by 53 percent compared to this time last year, a stat she attributes partially to the photography strategy.

6. Make different visuals for different platforms

When conceptualizing the social strategy for any given story, it’s important to think about how different images will play on different platforms. The Verge’s recent Apple Watch review, an elaborate article that included text, video and interactivity elements, was shared several ways with separate social channels. The social plan encompassed three videos (for YouTube, Facebook and Instagram), GIFs, (for Twitter and Tumblr) and live coverage on Periscope and Snapchat. Taken together, the watch review was one of The Verge’s most-shared stories this year, with visitors to the page sharing the story at a rate more than six times higher than the average article.

“So for Instagram, you have to make a 15-second video,” Havlak said. “For Facebook, you have to make a video that has text integrations so it plays silently. For Tumblr, you have to make a series of GIFs out of your videos, so people can see it instantly and see how beautiful it is. It’s just so different by platform.”

7. Meet your readers on their own terms

Eater, Vox Media’s food-focused brand, had a strict policy against gratuitous food pictures for several years, said Greg Morabito, the engagement editor at Eater. Dubbed “food porn,” these glamor shots of delicious food were cropping up everywhere on the “food Internet,” the loosely associated blogs and websites created by and dedicated to gourmands. Eater wanted to be different, and it didn’t have much formal training available for editors who wanted to take great food photos.

But within the last year and a half or so, Eater has relaxed the stricture against food porn and now has dedicated photographers and trained editors who shoot food in its network of 24 cities. Read more


R.I.P. — Six month newspaper circulation reports are gone for good

Alliance for Audited Media logo

Alliance for Audited Media logo

Compulsive calendar watchers may have notice that May 1 has come and gone without the typical report on newspaper circulation averages for the six months ended March 31.

There isn’t such a report and won’t be.

Instead the Alliance for Audited Media is requiring newspapers to report quarterly and giving them the option of updating digital metrics monthly.

The first of the new format quarterly reports are available on AAM’s website and others will be uploaded over the next several weeks, according to Neal Lulofs, executive vice president for marketing and strategy.

The so-called Consolidated Media Reports aim to offer more detailed and more up to date information.  Of course, they include paid digital subscriptions and other variations like free Sunday distribution of coupon packets without the news to selected zip codes.

The six-month reports, dating back to the 1960s, were known for most of their life as FAS-FAX and more recently as Snapshot.  They were tailored to the pre-digital era where paid daily and Sunday circulation were the numbers that mattered, and there were only a few minor sub-categories like distribution to schools.

In recent years, comparability got muddled with varying strategies on paywalls, new categories like replica editions (a digital file of the print paper), and the decision of some papers, especially in the Advance chain, not to publish or home-deliver print papers on certain days.

Then, as now, the main point of the reports and regular audits was to give media buyers reliable information as they chose where to place ads.  The six-month releases served to raise the profile of AAM, known previously as the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The good old days were not without controversy.  In 2004, four large papers — Newsday, the Chicago Sun Times, the Dallas Morning News and El Hoy — were caught padding their totals by tens of thousands.  They were forced to give refunds or free placements to advertisers who had bought at rates based on the inflated numbers.

Registered reporters can still access the AAM database for free.  And the alliance’s  PR department can help with navigation, recognizing, as Lulofs put it in an e-mail, that “making sense of the data isn’t always easy.”

It also is still possible, with some work, to generate lists of top papers by circulation. However, Lulofs wrote:

Folks who insist on rankings are on their own. We continue to discourage it, as I don’t know how you can validly and confidently rank figures that are not necessarily comparable, especially for those papers that don’t report a five-day average.

Calculating an industry-wide total or year-to-year trend in circulation is even trickier.  The Pew Research Center used its own methodology in the recent State of the News Media report and arrived at an estimate that both daily and Sunday circulation declined a bit more than 3 percent in 2014.

I asked Lulofs if AAM had a comment on how accurate that might be.

We didn’t do any of that analysis. Nor have we for ourselves, candidly, so I can’t really say if we think the figures are in line with our views or not.

Read more
1 Comment

de Blasio accidentally sends NYT reporter email about subway gripes

New York | The New York Times

A New York Times story published Tuesday morning documenting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s subway angst was made possible by an errant email sent to a reporter from the paper. Michael Grynbaum explains how the “stern, bullet-pointed missive” found its way to a Times reporter’s inbox:

Mr. de Blasio, who has been making a concerted effort to repair his reputation for tardiness, copied two senior aides on the email, including his chief of staff. The mayor, by accident, added another recipient as well: a reporter for The New York Times.

Writing for New York, Jessica Roy raises the possibility that the wayward gripe wasn’t sent by accident at all, but instead a clever ploy to play up the mayor’s everyman sensibilities.

If this is a subtle way to sneak back into the good graces of the one percent, well done, sir. If not, and coordinating commutes with the MTA is an option available to all New Yorkers, please let me know who to talk to there. I’d really like the 2/3 trains to run express from my house to work. Thanks!

This isn’t the first time this year a misdirected email has sparked a media story. In March, Buckley Carlson, the brother of Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson, inadvertently sent a spokesperson from de Blasio’s office a vulgar email that disparaged her. That message found its way to BuzzFeed, which ran a story on its contents. Read more


Journalists report false accounts of Baltimore shooting

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. ‘We screwed up’

    Journalists from at least two different news organizations on Monday reported on an officer-involved shooting that didn't actually happen. Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin saw a foot chase, heard a gunshot, saw a man on the ground and concluded police had shot the man. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith issued an on-air apology for the incident. "On behalf of Mike Tobin and the rest of our crew there, and the rest of us at Fox News, I am very sorry for the error." (Poynter) | Tobin explained his reporting later Monday on "The Five" with Juan Williams. "If the situation were to duplicate itself a short period of time from now or anytime in the future, I'd be hard-pressed not to arrive at the same conclusion given all the things that transpired in such a quick flurry of activity." (Fox News) | Reporting for McClatchy Newspapers, Hannah Allam tweeted that police "appear to have shot" a young man. She also tweeted a quote from a bystander who said that "another black man" had been shot in the back. (Salon) | Her story describes confusion at the scene of the weapon discharge. (McClatchy)

  2. Charlie Hebdo survivor dismisses PEN controversy

    Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a film critic at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, rebuffed criticism surrounding a decision made by the PEN American Center to honor the paper with its "freedom of expression courage" award. "I think there is a little confusion about the real meaning of this award: it is about courage, and freedom of expression. The PEN American Center is not honoring the content of Charlie Hebdo – this is absolutely ridiculous." (Wall Street Journal) | So far, more than 200 of PEN’s members have signed a letter of protest objecting to Charlie Hebdo receiving the award. (The New York Times) | "Our concern is that, by bestowing the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award on Charlie Hebdo, PEN is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression, but also valorizing selectively offensive material." (The Intercept)

  3. Qataris arrest journalists critical of FIFA

    Government officials in Qatar arrested journalists from German broadcasting networks who were visiting the country to film a documentary about the controversial decision to award the country the World Cup, Tom Ley writes. "According to the WDR’s account, the government erased data from electronic equipment, and didn’t allow the journalists to leave the country for days." Their documentary was set to air on German television last night. (Deadspin)

  4. Another executive leaves Al Jazeera America

    Marcy McGinnis, senior vice president of outreach at Al Jazeera America, is departing amid a public legal dispute between the network and a former employee, TV Newser reported Monday. Hers is the third high-level exit in the last week. "Those resignations came soon after attorneys for a former AJAM employee, Matthew Luke, filed a $15 million lawsuit against the network." (Adweek) | On Monday, the network responded to claims of gender bias in a press release, calling them "false and malicious." "Al Jazeera America does not tolerate any discriminatory conduct and we take great pride in the diversity of our organization and its leadership." (PR Newswire)

  5. Happy birthday, Nellie Bly

    Google is commemorating the birthday of muckraking journalist Nellie Bly today with a video doodle that celebrates her pathbreaking career. (Google) | "She developed a reputation as a defender of the marginalized, covering slums, conditions for working girls and even getting expelled from Mexico for exposing official corruption." (Time) | Previously: Poynter Library Director David Shedden chronicled Bly's trip around the world. (Poynter)

  6. Washington Post tries out new website

    The Washington Post is conducting a public experiment to elicit reader feedback for a new website fashioned in the model of its tablet app. A portion of mobile readers who follow a Washington Post link on social media are now directed to the new site. Shailesh Prakash, the chief technology officer of The Washington Post, was quoted discussing the benefits of experimenting in public. "The only path to success is to try, test, learn and adapt. There is no 'done.'" (The Washington Post)

  7. This NYT story probably knows where you are

    The New York Times on Monday published a map that compares different counties of the country based on the expected income of adults who grew up in those regions. (The New York Times) | The text of the story also changes based on where you're reading from. "Gregor Aisch, a graphics editor at the Times, told me they decided to use readers’ IP addresses to get a rough sense of their location. (Readers can also opt to tell the Times their location when prompted by their browser of choice, he said.) And why do it? Times graphics editor Amanda Cox said they wanted to cut out the unnecessary steps between readers and the information they want." (Nieman Lab)

  8. Whittling down the field of presidential contenders

    Jack Shafer, media columnist at Politico, encourages the press to sort out the winning presidential candidates from the losers as quickly as possible. "Journalists go ahead and winnow from the first campaign sightings until Election Day following a formula that exists, but only in shadow form: The faster they cull the weakest, the faster they can move up the food chain and cover a potentially victorious candidate. The press hates politicians—but they love winners." (Politico Magazine)

  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    The (Jackson, Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger features the state's earthquake epicenters and some "Star Wars" fun in the flag. (Courtesy the Newseum)

  10. Job moves:

    Erica Futterman is now managing editor at Refinery29. Previously, she was managing editor at BuzzFeed. (Email) | Collin Binkley is joining The Associated Press' Boston bureau. He is a higher education reporter at The Columbus Dispatch. (AP) | Paul Gigot is now chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board. He is the editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal. (The Pulitzer Prizes) | William Wan will be a national correspondent at The Washington Post. Previously, he was a China correspondent there. (The Washington Post) | Scott Wilson is now deputy national editor at The Washington Post. Previously, he was interim deputy national editor there. Anne Kornblut will be an associate editor on The Washington Post's national staff. She is a Knight fellow. (The Washington Post) | Job of the day: The Intercept is looking for a writer and blogger. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.09.40 AM

Today in Media History: In 1961 reporters described the first U.S. manned space flight

On May 5, 1961, the news media reported that Alan Shepard had become America’s first man in space. He reached an altitude of 115 miles during a 15 minute flight aboard his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule.

Alan Shepard was not the first man in space. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made the first manned space flight. His spacecraft, Vostok 1, circled the earth one time.

Shepard’s flight was a major news story around the world. Here is an excerpt from a Miami Herald article:

Alan Shepard’s remarkably uneventful space flight didn’t make the United States the front runner in the race to conquer space Friday, but it did put us ahead of Russia in one key way. It proved men can pilot space ships.

Though Russia’s Yuri Gagarin beat Shepard into space and did it with a full, swift orbit of earth, he didn’t prove what Shepard did. Gagarin’s feat showed the world that man can survive in space, and that he can eat, drink, write, punch telegraph keys and observe earth while orbiting weightless. But Gagain was an observer-passenger in a ship controlled from the ground. Shepard could have been an observer-passenger too, but he rejected the role. Instead, he took charge of his ship.

Page one news from the Alton (Illinois) Evening Telegraph:

Image-1961 Space

Image-Break 760

When he was selected to be one of America’s first seven Mercury astronauts he was regarded “as a top-knotch Navy aviator, tough, quick-witted, and a leader,” wrote Tom Wolfe in “The Right Stuff,” his classic account of the early space program.

….At two minutes and forty seconds to launch, technicians noticed that fuel pressure was running high, and Shepard was told there might be another delay. It was at that point, writes Wolfe, that Smilin’ Al of the Cape stepped aside for the Icy Commander.

“Why don’t you fix your little problem,” Shepard snapped, “and light this candle.”

Perhaps the fuel pressure wasn’t so high after all, the technicians agreed, and the countdown resumed.

Shepard was sent booming off into the Florida morning sky at 9:34 a.m., and the flight was so short and his responsibilities several, so Shepard had little time to enjoy it.

….Shepard splashed down 40 miles from Bermuda and was hoisted aboard a Marine helicopter that took him to the aircraft carrier Lake Champlain. A day later, he was in Washington where President John F. Kennedy awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal, and a parade in Washington two days after that drew 250,000 people.

— “Alan Shepard was ‘a pretty cool customer‘”
CNN, July 22, 1998

NBC News looked back at the historic flight after Shepard’s safe return to earth.

Read more

1 Comment

Career Beat: Erica Futterman named managing editor at Refinery29

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Erica Futterman is now managing editor at Refinery29. Previously, she was managing editor at BuzzFeed. (Email)
  • Collin Binkley is joining The Associated Press’ Boston bureau. He is a higher education reporter at The Columbus Dispatch. (AP)
  • Paul Gigot is now chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board. He is the editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal. (The Pulitzer Prizes)
  • William Wan will be a national correspondent at The Washington Post. Previously, he was a China correspondent there. (The Washington Post)
  • Scott Wilson is now deputy national editor at The Washington Post. Previously, he was interim deputy national editor there. Anne Kornblut will be an associate editor on The Washington Post’s national staff. She is a Knight fellow. (The Washington Post)

Job of the day: The Intercept is looking for a writer and blogger. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Monday, May 04, 2015

Fox News corrects Baltimore shooting report on air: ‘we screwed up’

TPM | Reuters | Fox News

After Fox News reported a witness account of a black man being shot by police, the network quickly retracted its story on air.

Police denied the report of an officer-involved shooting on live television, prompting anchor Shepard Smith to break in and issue an apology:

It sounds to me like what’s happened is, what’s happened is we screwed up, is what it sounds like. I can tell you one thing: Mike Tobin would never — I’ve been through this. Mike Tobin thought he saw somebody get shot. And there was a gun. And there was a patient on a stretcher. And there was a woman who said she saw the cops gun him down and there’s going to be violence and all the rest of that. And what we have is nothing. And the truth is, according to police, there is no gunshot victim.

Fox News currently has a story posted on the incident headlined “Conflicting reports on gun incident in Baltimore” that attributes the report of a shooting to “a witness.” The original headline reads “Man shot multiple times by Baltimore police.”

Fox wasn’t the only news organization to report on bystander claims of an officer-involved shooting. Hannah Allam, a foreign affairs reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, tweeted this afternoon that police appeared to have shot a young man. She also tweeted that bystanders noted another incident of a “black man shot in the back while he was running away.”

Update, 6:45 p.m.: Mike Tobin, the Fox News correspondent who reported the false account, appeared on “The Five” with Juan Williams to explain his coverage. Tobin said that he, his cameraman and his security detail all observed a foot chase followed by a gunshot and what appeared to be an injured man on the ground.

Watch the latest video at Read more


After shutdown, former Bay Guardian editor turns to crowdfunding

Part of the cover from the Guardian’s commemorative issue. Screenshot from

Part of the cover from the Guardian’s commemorative issue. Screenshot from

After putting two decades into journalism, it was hard for Steven Jones to walk away from newspapers. But the former editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian found himself out of a job in October after the paper was abruptly closed by its parent company, which cited financial troubles.

In the aftermath, the staff kicked off a crowdfunding campaign to produce one last issue, which was published in January. Shortly after, Jones landed a job doing media outreach at the Center for Biological Diversity. And once Jones was back on his feet, he began a new foray into journalism.

In April, Jones began publishing on Byline, a crowdfunding website that aims to connect journalists directly with their supporters. So far, he’s used the site to publish an installment of a serialized memoir chronicling San Francisco’s progressive movement, a story about the displacement of the city’s residents and an article about the decline of the Bay Guardian.

Jones said the turbulence that has disrupted the newspaper industry made him willing to experiment with new funding models. When Byline founder Daniel Tudor got in touch with the newspaper staff after the paper folded, he realized it was worth a shot.

“I think the way the Guardian ended, and the struggles with the media world the last couple of years, I was open to trying something new,” Jones said.

So far, 13 of Jones’ supporters on Byline have combined to provide him with $466 every month. As the support grows, Jones hopes to feature weekly stories from other Bay Guardian alums, including founder Bruce Brugmann and sex columnist Krissy Eliot. For now, he’s shooting for at least one post every Wednesday, the day the Guardian used to hit newsstands.

Byline is a new addition to a field that has already seen several entrants., an early experiment in crowdfunding journalism, got its start in 2008 and was retired after being acquired by American Public Media. Since then, several platforms have joined the fray, including Beacon, Uncoverage, Contributoria and CrowdNews.

Byline differs from some other crowdfunding platforms because it allows two different kinds of supporter funding. Journalists who publish on the site can either choose to raise cash for one-off projects — as they would on Kickstarter — or opt to receive monthly contributions.

“So whether you’re an investigative journalist in need of a few grand up front to dig into something, or a local news website looking for regular money to operate on a continuing basis, we can help you meet your needs,” Tudor told Poynter in an email.

So far, Byline has lined up 20 or so journalists since its April debut, but only a few have been launched, Tudor said. The site does not have a paywall or sell advertising and relies on journalists to provide so-called “freemium” rewards that can be purchased by readers willing to pay a little extra. The site does not currently claim a portion of the donations but will eventually keep 15 percent of the contributions, some of which will go to a separate fund for investigative projects. Read more