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The Silence at The Intercept Is A Reflection of Startup Newsroom Difficulties

0ca4fbfa-ee45-4a5c-8995-24920f11e534-620x372Just over two months after publishing its first revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance program, First Look Media’s The Intercept is taking a break. Well, sort of.

The newest member of the team (that we know of), built around former Guardian journalist and Edward Snowden cohort Glenn Greenwald, is editor-in-chief John Cook of Gawker. And on Monday, April 14, Cook took to the Intercept’s blog to explain why there hasn’t been a whole lot of action from The Intercept’s reporting team.

The main reason for the lack of reporting coming out of the team, which also includes Liliana Segura formerly of The Nation, is that they launched before they were 100 percent ready to launch. That is, they started posting stories detailing the NSA’s surveillance and other government programs before they were fully staffed and had a long-term vision for what The Intercept should be. Wrote Cook:

Until we have completed the work of getting staffed up and conceptually prepared for the launch of a full-bore news operation that will be producing a steady stream of shit-kicking stories, The Intercept will be narrowly focusing on one thing and one thing only: Reporting out stories from the NSA archive as quickly and responsibly as is practicable. We will do so at a tempo that suits the material. When we are prepared to publish those stories, we will publish them. When we are not, we will be silent for a time, unless Glenn Greenwald has some blogging he wants to do, because no one can stop Glenn Greenwald from blogging.

So there you go. The Intercept’s decision to go live was based on a broader obligation to just start reporting, “not based on an assessment that everything that one needs for the successful launch of a news web site — staff, editorial capacity, and answers to questions about the site’s broader focus, operational strategy, structure, and design,” said Cook.

Personally, I appreciate the sentiment that the website and editorial strategy don’t have to be perfect in order to set up shop. Ezra Klein‘s Vox did something similar and dubbed the site’s first iteration “a work in progress,” almost as if to invite criticism. The idea that The Intercept — even with such a specific topic focus — should have hammered out every single detail about what it wanted to be before launching is unfair. But, I can understand the complaints around the Web that The Intercept’s design is boring at best, given the $250 million eBay founder Pierre Omidyar funneled into the project. For all we know, though, part of their silence could be allowing for a total makeover.

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Discover Magazine Launches Citizen Science Salon

citizenscienceIn a week fraught with rethinking digital and mobile content strategies, Discover magazine took a rather classic route in attempting to expand their reach and engage new audiences. They’ve added two new blogs to their site — But Not Simpler and Inkfish — and launched Citizen Science Salon — which includes real, crowdscourced science projects from SciStarter that correlates with articles in the print and digital version of the monthly magazine.

Associate online editor Lisa Raffensperger told me over the phone that the parntership is a natural one: Read more

The Boston Globe Launches Free Site Covering Startups, Innovation in Boston

BetaBoston.com is a new, free site launched by the venerable Boston Globe to specifically cover the Boston tech sector encompassing everything from new ideas and ventures to the people who help shape the city’s future, culture and beyond.

beta boston post pic“Boston’s wealth of consumer technology, life sciences and bioscience companies is reshaping the economy and culture, locally and globally,” said Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory. “We will cover, in-depth, not only the technologies themselves, but the broader social impact of those technologies.” Read more

Everything Upworthy Can Teach Journalists

upworthyThis week, New York magazine has a profile of the website we all love to hate: Upworthy.

Upworthy is the bane of many a journalist’s existence. It peddles in clicks, and has people sharing, painlessly and by the millions, pieces of content that concern topics we actually want to report on. A 10-page feature or package with video on the effects of poverty takes months to prepare and weeks to garner attention on Twitter. They find one video on the topic and it has thousands of views. It’s  more BuzzFeed-y than BuzzFeed; they at least have a news team. You should read the whole piece, though, because there are lessons to be gleaned from their success.

1) Ah, the infamous Upworthy style headline. In one part of the feature, they talk about ‘click testing,’ where they run through possible headlines and then see how clickable they are out in the wild. If it’s not clickable, they tweak. Every media outlet can do this, and if you want to garner more traffic, you should. If you feel icky about changing the headline after it’s originally published, just add a note. I see good digital outlets doing this all the time. Slate stories, for example, often have one headline when I see it in the morning and another by the afternoon when I actually get around to reading it. If it requires emails or write offs to tweak a headline or re-run and write a new social media tease to make it more interesting — you’re doing it wrong. Read more

Journalism Crowdfunder Helps Climate Micro-Pub Launch

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 11.22.30 PMWhile perusing Columbia Journalism Review’s website this morning, I was struck by a story detailing the beginnings of an environmentally-themed “micro-publication.” But more than the project itself (these things are popping up all over the place, it seems), the digital magazine Climate Confidential’s partner caught my eye.

Beacon, a platform that seeks to “empower” writers by allowing readers to access the work of their favorite reporters for $5 per month, will host Climate Confidential as its first publication on the site — but only under one condition. Using its own brand of crowdsourcing, Beacon plans to lift Climate Confidential off the ground if they can gather 800 readers to back the climate-focused reporting venture.

Typically, you can become a part of the Beacon community by chipping in $5 each month to your favorite writer (I vetted it, and there is plenty of good journalism to be discovered there), but Beacon evidently thinks the reporting and writing brains behind Climate Confidential (comprised of a six-woman team of freelance environmental/tech journalists) will be quality enough to host the publication on its website as a special “project”.

The digital pub, only available to those who contribute via Beacon’s platform, will still get its own branding and logo as a microsite under the Beacon umbrella and will enjoy the benefits of long-term financial help from those who feel the mainstream media is neglecting stories on the “forefront of research and development in cleantech, the water-energy-food nexus, transportation and public health,” wrote the Climate Confidential team.

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