Texas Tribune

First Look seeks a publisher who can react ‘calmly to criticism’

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories. (Please read the note below if you’d like to keep getting this email.)

  1. Second looks at First Look

    Andrew Rice's profile of First Look Media founder Pierre Omidyar unspools the billionaire's animating interest in pandemics and Edward Snowden's revalations. It also catalogs the startup's awkward first steps. "The confusion inherent to any start-up has been exacerbated by Omidyar’s ruminative style," he writes. “I’ve never met Pierre in person,” Intercept reporter Glenn Greenwald tells Rice. (New York) | The NYT snagged a First Look solicitation for a publisher who can react "calmly to criticism and negative feedback." (NYT) | Related: Micah Lee writes about how he helped Snowden, Greenwald and Laura Poitras connect, and the dashed plans for a Snowden site called supportonlinerights.com. (The Intercept)

  2. 100,000 reasons to work on getting Jill Abramson's email address

    Writers at the startup she plans with Steven Brill "will be paid advances around $100,000 to produce stories that will be longer than long magazine articles but shorter than books," Kelly McBride reports. (Poynter)

  3. Condé Nast begins move to One World Trade Center

    175 employees move in today. (HuffPost)

  4. Police used FAA rules to keep media out of Ferguson airspace

    Recordings AP obtained "raise serious questions about whether police were trying to suppress aerial images of the demonstrations and the police response by violating the constitutional rights of journalists with tacit assistance by federal officials." (AP)

  5. Modern Farmer struggles with financing

    The buzzy magazine is "still looking for long-term financing,” EIC Ann Marie Gardner tells Alec Wilkinson, and its relationship with primary funder Frank Giustra "remains tense." Some staffers have left. (The New Yorker) | I wrote about Modern Farmer, and its plan to get around traditional newsstands, almost exactly a year ago. (Poynter)

  6. Why did the Northeast Ohio Media Group remove a video of Gov. John Kasich?

    Chris Quinn, its vice president for content, isn't answering. (PressThink)

  7. Mr. Smith goes to Washington

    The Texas Tribune "will announce Monday that it is opening a Washington bureau backed by the Hewlett Foundation, reversing a trend of regional flight from the capital," David Carr reports. The Tribune "has $6 million in annual revenues and $2.5 million in the bank," Carr writes that EIC Evan Smith told him. (NYT)

  8. But will Britain accept government-funded TV?

    RT launches in the U.K., and Al Jazeera will open studios in London this week. (The Guardian)

  9. Front page of the day, not curated by Kristen Hare

    Chicago's RedEye fronts Nik Wallenda's high-wire walks in Chicago. (Courtesy the Newseum)


  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Kevin Roose will co-executive produce a show for Fusion. He's a writer for New York Magazine. Kashmir Hill will be a senior editor at Fusion. She's a writer for Forbes. Pendarvis Harshaw has been named an associate producer at Fusion. He's a recent graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. Cara Rose De Fabio is an experience designer at Fusion. She's a performance artist and director. Daniela Hernandez will be a senior writer at Fusion. She has contributed to Wired. (Fusion) | Wilson Stribling will be a morning anchor at WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi. He was news director there. Hugo Balta will be senior director of multicultural content for ESPN's digital and print properties. Previously, he was coordinating producer for SportsCenter. Damaris Bonilla is executive producer at WWSI in Philadelphia. Previously, she'd worked as a journalist in Puerto Rico. Matt Sinn is assistant news director at WISN in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Previously, he was an executive producer for WTSP in Tampa. Heidi Schmidt is now an executive producer at WDAF in Kansas City, Missouri. Previously, she was a producer there. Aaron Mason is now assistant news director at WKBW in Buffalo. He's executive producer at WIVB in Buffalo. (Rick Gevers) | Chris Hocutt and Bisola Kamara are the first social news interns at The Washington Post. They are both seniors at Howard University. (Washington Post) Job of the day: WFSU is looking for a reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

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


NYT ends partnership with Texas Tribune

mediawiremorningHappy Halloween! Here are 10 scaaaaary media stories.

  1. NYT ends partnership with Texas Tribune

    The Times told the news nonprofit that at the end of this year it will no longer produce a two-page section for the paper's Texas edition. "We hate to see the whole thing come to an end, but it's like that line from The Godfather: It’s business, not personal," Trib EIC Evan Smith writes. (Texas Tribune) | Interesting inversion: The Dallas Morning News' Sunday edition will include an insert produced by the New York Times. (NYTCo) | Related: CEO Mark Thompson wants the Times to be “unashamedly experimental.” (Nieman Lab) | 9 takeways from the New York Times Co. 3rd quarter earnings call (Poynter) | Only slightly related to that last related item: Rick Edmonds notes that Denise Warren is the third woman Times exec to leave in the past three years; Erik Wemple reported yesterday that the last woman on The Washington Post's masthead is leaving. (WP)

  2. So it should be an interesting day at First Look Media

    Four reporters at First Look's The Intercept -- Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill and John Cook -- published an unsparing examination of why Matt Taibbi left the company. "Those conflicts were rooted in a larger and more fundamental culture clash that has plagued the project from the start: A collision between the First Look executives, who by and large come from a highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment, and the fiercely independent journalists who view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain," they write. (The Intercept) | "With the publishing of their post, Greenwald et al confirm some of the worst fears about the company and contradict others. They claim that Omidyar has not interfered with the editorial work of journalists, but was clearly unprepared for the cultural differences between executives and rabble-rousing journalists." (Mashable) | "if Hunter S. Thompson was still alive, FL would have hired him to turn him into a middle manager" (@jbenton) | "From all the details of Taibbi’s allegedly terrible management practices and the details of First Look’s struggles against the IRON FIST of First Look Media emerges a picture of utter ungovernability and an unwillingness to concede that the person bankrolling a venture might just have a say in how things get done." (WP)

  3. The odds of new news orgs surviving

    BuzzFeed: "High." Vice: "Medium-hiiiiigh." Vox "is also doing better traffic and growing more quickly than Gawker, and is extremely popular with 'Millennials.' Euthanize Vox immediately." (Gawker)

  4. Arkansans don't think much of journalists

    "Of those polled, only 14 percent believe that journalists have high or very high standards. Another 39 percent would rate the honesty and ethical standards of journalists as average, and 36 percent responded with low or very low. The remainder, about 12 percent, did not know or refused to answer." (University of Arkansas)

  5. Another Jian Ghomeshi story

    "I feel that while it is exceedingly difficult to publicly put your name forward and open yourself up to all of the accompanying criticism, if you are in the position that you can do so without fearing the ramifications in terms of your family, marriage, personal or professional trauma, then you should do it," Reva Seth writes. (HuffPost)

  6. The Newspaper Guild is not especially cool with the FBI right now

    In an emailed statement, it says it's "disgusted and outraged by the revelation this week that the FBI posed as The Associated Press in planting an online story to catch a teenage bomb threat suspect in 2007. ... Any hint that a journalist or news organization is aiding law enforcement damages their reputation as an objective, trustworthy source of news." | U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy sent a letter to the attorney general expressing concern about the sting. (The Seattle Times) | Sort-of related: Akron Beacon Journal asks campaign to stop using doctored front page in ads. (Jim Romenesko)

  7. Spain passses aggregation tax

    New laws will "allow news publishers to charge aggregators each time they display news content in search results." (AP) | Google statement: "We are disappointed with the new law because we believe that services like Google News help publishers bring traffic to their sites." (THR)

  8. Depressing British media news roundup

    The Telegraph lays off 55 staffers. (The Business of Fashion) | The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News will combine operations, leading to a loss of 45 jobs. (The Guardian) | The Hull Daily Mail apologizes for wrongly identifying a man as a sex offender. (Hold the Front Page)

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

    A spoooooooky front from the Asbury Park Press! (Courtesy the Newseum)



  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Shane Harris will be an intelligence and national security reporter at The Daily Beast. He's a senior writer at Foreign Policy. (The Huffington Post) | Azmat Khan will be an investigative reporter at BuzzFeed. She's a senior digital producer at Al Jazeera America. (Azmat Khan) | Usha Chaudhary will be chief financial officer at Pew Charitable Trusts. She's the chief financial officer at The Washington Post. (The Washingoton Post) | Eli Lake will be a columnist at Bloomberg View. He’s a national security correspondent at The Daily Beast. Josh Rogin will be a columnist at Bloomberg View. He’s a senior correspondent at The Daily Beast. (Politico) | Krista Larson is West Africa bureau chief for The Associated Press. Previously, she was a correspondent there. (AP) | Nona Willis Aronowitz is an editor at TPM. Previously, she was an education and poverty reporter at NBC News Digital. (TPM) | Om Malik is looking for a designer. Get your résumés in! (Om Malik) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.40.04 AM

How to build a news apps team (Hint: if you don’t have a lot of money, settle for scrappy)

It isn’t really a question of whether you need a news apps team or not. The question for most newsrooms is what kind of news apps team can you afford? And then, how can you keep them as long as possible, given your scarce resources?

Programmers and developers with journalistic inclinations are in high demand. They command good salaries and they tend to want to live in places where there is a vibrant tech industry.

That means big newsrooms with big budgets in big cities have a distinct advantage. So smaller newsrooms with smaller budgets must be realistic and strategic.

Emily Ramshaw, editor of the Texas Tribune, and Jonathan Keegan, director of interactive graphics at the Wall Street Journal, offered up tips and strategies this past weekend at ONA14 for building the best news apps team possible. (Concession: The WSJ is hardly a small newsroom, but Keegan argues he has a tiny apps team compared to the more than 350 developers working across all departments at the New York Times.)

Ramshaw will have four developers on her team at the Texas Tribune as soon as she makes a couple hires, up from two. Two people work on the front end, two on the back end and they get support from a four-person tech department. Keegan works on a different scale. His team has 16 people, 10 programmers, two designers, two tools developers, and two data developers.

Keegan and Ramshaw both argued for strategy and precision in finding the right mix skills and personalities.

  • Hire for skills: A news apps team member needs to be good at two of three skills: Coding, journalism and design. No one is good at all three, so stop looking for that unicorn. Instead look at the hole you need to fill and find that skill.
  • Look for a background or understanding in journalism: Programmers with no interest in journalism usually don’t get along in the newsroom.
  • Look for reporting skills: “We don’t hire anyone who can’t pick up the phone and ask a source for information. The temptation is to ask the reporter to do that,” Ramshaw said, adding that in her shop, developers are reporters.
  • Hire for chemistry and cultural fit: People who get along get more done. Skills will grow.
  • Once hired, match projects to personalities: Don’t put the guy who hates sports on a football project.
  • Vary projects to combat burnout: That way, team members don’t get stuck with the same kind of work over and over.
  • Be realistic: If you are a small newsroom, paying small salaries, take what you can get in terms of skills and knowledge and give them opportunities to grow.
  • Sell what you can about your newsroom: Ramshaw touts Austin’s culture, microbrews, great food and the fact that young developers will work on big stories and get bylines right away. Keegan talks about the WSJ’s global audience and offices all over the world.
  • Designate a team leader and project leaders to act as point people with the rest of the newsroom: That will facilitate good relationships.
  • Help them grow: Nurture young talent and interns by making them feel like family.
  • Hire your interns: “If someone is doing great work for you, don’t let them go,” Ramshaw said.
  • Scour area startups: Look for burned-out programmers and lure them away with the promise of making a difference in the world and having some fun.
  • Train: If you really don’t have a budget to hire someone new, train home page producers to learn programming skills.
  • Keep the walls up: Don’t let news apps team members get sucked into the product team. News apps should be strictly editorial.
  • Shop in house: When you don’t have enough resources, one strategy is to borrow a promising designer from the graphics team for a month for a special project. Many designers are eager to grow their programming knowledge.

You can find the slides for Ramshaw and Keegan’s session here. The hashtag was #appsteam. Read more


Texas Tribune’s biggest day was after Rick Perry announced presidential run

Texas Tribune
About 6.4 million people have visited the nonprofit news site — which focuses on public policy, politics and government — since it launched two years ago today. The day it attracted the most visitors (143,689 uniques) was the Monday after Texas Governor Rick Perry declared he was running for the GOP presidential nomination.

Metrics from the first two years:

On average, visitors view about five pages per visit. The site is in the midst of a fall fundraising drive, with about $10.3 million pledged so far. It’s “an awful lot of money to raise in the worst economy since the Depression,” writes CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith. || Previous: New Knight study identifies 3 surprising keys to nonprofit news business success Read more


NYT partnership ‘sort of a halo & a cloud’ for independent news sites

Michael Depp examines the close, complicated relationship between The New York Times and three nonprofit news operations that provide local coverage for certain editions: Texas Tribune, The Bay Citizen and Chicago News Cooperative. While the partnerships have kickstarted the nonprofits’ operations and boosted their credibility, it’s tough to balance the Times’ need for content (they’re responsible for two pages, twice a week) with their own missions and editorial voices. The partners spend a lot more time on journalism for the Times than they get in licensing revenue, and they don’t get a cut of the money that the Times makes selling ads next to their stories. Times assistant national editor Jill Agostino sometimes has to fend off requests from within the Times for help on developing stories. “We can’t treat these groups as though they’re our stringers in these areas because they’re not,” she says. She compares working with the Times to “being married to a famous spouse”; Jim O’Shea of the Chicago News Cooperative says it’s “sort of a halo and a cloud at the same time.” Subscriptions have increased in the partner markets, Agostino says. Anyone tracking content partnerships like this will find the post thought-provoking. || Related: Sometimes Times editors should remain behind the scenes (Gawker) Read more


New Knight study identifies 3 surprising keys to nonprofit news business success

The Knight Foundation has a new study out this morning examining the business models for seven locally-based nonprofit news sites in their drive to achieve sustainability.

Focusing on high-profile ventures such as Texas Tribune and Voice of San Diego, the report, “Getting Local,” concludes that none of the sites are all the way to sustainability yet.  But they are well along and developing best practices that other geographically-based ventures can learn from.

The report identifies three “next-stage” opportunities, each with a flavor of paradox:

  • While the sites were founded in part as a reaction to declines in newspaper and other traditional media coverage, they do better if they set editorial goals beyond simply replacing what is gone. Engaging a specific audience and demonstrating social utility will be key to attracting continued and broader support.
  • While all relied on foundation grants and/or a few big-ticket donors to get started, the best are diversifying income streams to include membership campaigns, events, sponsorships and advertising.
  • Being online-only slashes production and distribution expense and allows the sites to put a majority of their budget into editorial (unlike newspapers which typically devote only 10 to 15 percent to news). But there is a strong case for “balancing resource allocation” by adding technologists, development professionals and engagement specialists — rather than just hiring more reporters and editors.

The report, written by consultant Michele McLellan and Knight’s Mayur Patel, examines Bay Citizen, Crosscut (of Seattle), MinnPost, New Haven Independent, St. Louis Beacon, Texas Tribune and Voice of San Diego.  All are geographically based and have “modest sized professional staffs.”

The study was started by a management consulting firm in 2009. This published version updates financials through 2010 and traffic measures through the first quarter of 2011.

The target market among the sites varies greatly from 24.9 million for Texas Tribune to 220,000 in New Haven. Traffic varies too, but not quite as much — from a high of 450,000-plus uniques a month for the Texas Tribune to a little over 50,000 for the St. Louis Beacon.

Texas Tribune, with an extensive database as well as stories, also scored highest in average monthly time on site at about 4 minutes. Bay Citizen had the highest budget at more than $11 million.

The report highlights a variety of engagement-building initiatives — a “Politifest” community event in San Diego, MinnPost’s annual political roast and a “You Fix the Budget Deficit” interactive that drew 10,000 visitors. The Bay Citizen has a Bicycle Accident Tracker, and the St. Louis Beacon hosts regular discussions of neighborhood development issues and of race and class.

Such activities, Michael Maness, who directs Knight’s journalism and media innovation programs, told me in a phone interview, have a business payoff as well. Some contributors, he said, “are not among particularly active users but believe in what the site does.”

The New Haven Independent provided heavy coverage of education issues and Voice of San Diego took up the cause of Cambodian refugees who were being evicted from a community garden. The report cites both as examples of actionable reporting with high social impact.

Despite the efforts at diversification, the seven sites studied collectively  got 57 percent of their 2010 income from foundations and another 34 percent from donations.

Further, many of the sites rely on a a small circle of foundations and donors. At the St. Louis Beacon, 94 percent of the donations came from seven individuals with an average contribution of $174,000.

Several of the sites are making big progress on funding diversification, the report finds.  Texas Tribune showed 37 percent of its $1.8 million in revenue earned, as opposed to donated, in 2010; For MinnPost, it was 26 percent of $1.3 million.

Some of the 7 nonprofit news sites studied relied on diversified revenue sources; others depended more on foundation support. One factor could be how mature the nonprofits are.

The partnerships the Texas Tribune and Bay Citizen have formed to provide content to The New York Times regional pages produce good exposure but not much income. Each received less than half a percent of its revenue from the arrangement.

Besides building “organizational capacity” by adding non-journalists to the staffing mix, the study commends the sites for many experiments with content partnerships. It also praises the exploration of mobile apps and social media features like the Tribune’s “TweetWire,” which aggregates the Twitter postings of Texas politicians.

Since the report’s financial information ends at 2010, I wondered how the sites are weathering this year’s tough economy. Maness said that in this instance the reliance on large donations, some already in the bank as start-up funding, helps.

Paul Bass, founder of the New Haven Independent, e-mailed me that the site is fine for 2011 and already has financing locked in for 2012.

Similarly, Joel Kramer, editor and CEO of MinnPost, wrote that spending will be up 25 percent this year, advertising and sponsorships are on track to be up more than 30 percent, and that he is more than halfway to goal on a special $1 million capital campaign.

The study also tracked expenses for the 7 nonprofit news sites, showing where they spent their money.

I asked Maness if the robustness of the seven sites studied suggests that other big states like Florida and New York could have their version of Texas Tribune while cities like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh emulate the St. Louis Beacon and MinnPost.

That is beyond the scope of this study, he said, but a cookie-cutter approach probably would not work. The successful sites tend to have strong community roots and adapt to information gaps specific to the areas they cover.

By way of illustration, the study originally included the Chi-Town Daily News, which folded in 2009. The report finds that Chi-Town relied almost exclusively on foundation funding, was mostly staffed by out-of-towners and spent heavily on editorial and an attempt at citizen journalism — while neglecting business development.

This report continues Knight’s heavy involvement in exploring and supporting community information initiatives. Maness’s predecessor, Eric Newton, now special assistant to the president, announced at an international news conference in Vienna last week that the Knight Challenge grants are being renewed. There may be as many as three competitions a year rather than one, Newton said, to speed the pace of innovation.

Also, Knight released yesterday the eighth in a series of reports in collaboration with the Aspen Institute, this one on how communities can measure the vitality of their local information systems.

Five years ago, I thought Knight was being hasty in shifting funding focus so sharply away from experiments housed at newspapers and other traditional media.

Now I am more inclined to think that the for-profit sector needs to fend for itself. Despite a much smaller scale, what Knight and these sites have been building is valuable — and has plenty of room still to grow.

Joel Kramer from MinnPost and Melissa Bailey from the New Haven Independent talked about how nonprofit news sites can work toward sustainability in a live chat, which you can replay here:

<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=b50ad969a1″ mce_href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=b50ad969a1″ >How nonprofit news startups can work toward sustainability</a> Read more


Texas editor on Perry: ‘What you’re seeing now is effectively who we’ve seen all these years’

Huffington Post
“He’s not dropping more g’s for effect. This is not a cowboy shtick he’s putting on display for a point of contrast against Romney,” says Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Evan Smith. Texas Observer executive editor Dave Mann adds:
“Even if the Bernanke line was a slip up, the Perry people won’t back down. They’re not going to apologize or show weakness. Of all the potentially controversial things [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry’s said and done over the years, I can remember only one real apology — when he said ‘Adios, Mofo’ to a Houston television reporter.” || Washington Post: Perry’s “facts” on climate change get a “Four Pinocchios” rating. || Earlier: Perry tries to stop reporters from following him on Twitter, and more stories from Romenesko’s archives. Read more


Texas Observer: We have ‘the first non-puff piece’ about Texas Tribune

Texas Observer

Many stories have been written about the nonprofit Texas Tribune — launched by venture capitalist John Thornton and edited by award-winning former Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith — but Texas Observer editor Bob Moser tells me his press critic has written “the first non-puff piece written so far, I believe, about the well-funded, well-staffed” site. He continues in his email:

The Tribune has garnered considerable publicity nationally as a “new model” for nonprofit journalism. But the journalism itself has been mighty disappointing.

So you’ll know, we aren’t direct competitors — except, in some cases, for donors and grants. Very different styles of journalism, different missions, different target audiences. I’d love to see them produce high-impact reporting and memorable stories. God knows the Sovereign Republic of Texas desperately needs more of that. But alas: So far, not so good.

Read more

Texas Tribune, Bay Citizen to split $975,000 Knight grant

The nonprofits will use the money to build a free, open source publishing platform that helps other online news sites manage their content, encourage community engagement and raise revenue. “Organizations will no longer be faced with the cost and expense of developing their own publishing platforms from the ground up, or tied to using systems that were not meant for online news,” says Bay Citizen chief technology officer Brian Kelley. || Read the release. Read more


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