Strong liberals and strong conservatives disagree on an awful lot — but there are a lot of ways they’re more like each other than they are like those closer to the middle. And some of those involve the ways they interact with news media.
That’s one of the takeaways from a new report from the Pew Research Center on how ideology and political polarization intersect with media consumption habits. The study, “Political Polarization & Media Habits,” looks at how the news Americans consume and the outlets they follow help to shape or reinforce their political outlook. The report is based on an online survey of almost 3,000 Americans and divides them into five ideological groups based on how they responded to issue questions: consistently liberal, mostly liberal, mixed, mostly conservative, and consistently conservative.
The large role Fox News plays for conservatives is very clear in the data: 47 percent of a group Pew identifies as “consistent conservatives” say Fox News is their main source of information on government and politics. “Consistent liberals” rely on a mix of sources including CNN (15 percent), NPR (13 percent), MSNBC (12 percent), and The New York Times (10 percent). Pew also found that 44 percent of consistent liberals on Facebook claim to have blocked, hidden or unfriended someone whose posts they disagreed with, compared to only 31 percent of consistent conservatives and 26 percent of all Facebook users.
RELATED ARTICLEThis study finds that social media use reduces political polarization instead of increasing itOctober 20, 2014On their face, these findings might seem to lend support to the idea that we’re becoming a country of smaller and smaller filter bubbles, personalized universes of news and people that fit our own interests. But the connection between how Americans get news and their political polarization is not black and white. Pew found that on Facebook, the majority of people only see political posts they agree with some of the time. That’s also reflected in the real world, as Pew found people on all ends of the political spectrum tend to get a mix of dissent and agreement on politics in their every day life. 58 percent of consistent liberals and 45 percent of consistent conservatives say they often get agreement and disagreement in their conversations on politics. For people with mixed political views — Pew’s middle ideological category — that jumps up to 76 percent.
The study also suggests that in America today, it is virtually impossible to live in an ideological bubble. Most Americans rely on an array of outlets — with varying audience profiles — for political news. And many consistent conservatives and liberals hear dissenting political views in their everyday lives.
There might also be broader ideological diversity in the audience than some expect. While conservatives favor Fox News as their main news source, and people on the right make up the biggest proportion of the channel’s viewers, Pew found that less than half of people who watch Fox News in a week are conservatives.
The full report is now available from Pew, but here are a few things that caught our attention:TV news dominates; liberals sample the most sources
Many of the choices of outlets were consistent across ideological lines; local television was a top-3 source in every group, for instance. But other habits lined up as stereotypes might suggest: Liberals over-index for NPR, conservatives for Fox News. Liberals like The Daily Show, conservatives Sean Hannity.
In looking at how news consumption ties to ideology and polarization, the Pew survey included 36 specific news outlets (plus “local TV” as a 37th) crossing over from print to digital and broadcast, including the major cable and broadcast news shows, papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as international outlets like the BBC and The Guardian and digital news sites like Politico, The Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed.
While conservatives tend to rally around Fox News as their main sources of news, the survey found that consistent liberals use a wider number of news sources — 6.7 sources — than people of other political ideologies. Consistent conservatives use 5.4 sources, according to Pew. The farther one gets from the ideological middle, the more news sources one uses: Those in the middle used only 4.5 sources.Measuring trust by ideology, and familiarity
Whether you trust a news source depends heavily on your political perspective — those farther to the right trusted less often. Consistent conservatives express more distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 outlets Pew looked at; consistent liberals expressed more trust than distrust for 28 of the 36.
81 percent of consistent liberals distrust Fox News, while 75 percent of consistent conservatives distrust MSNBC. Sources most trusted by consistent conservatives — the radio shows of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, for example — are among the most distrusted by consistent liberals.
But levels of trust also related to how familiar those surveyed with a particular outlet. Places like NPR, The New York Times, and CNN are more trusted than distrusted, which also correlates with Pew’s survey group knowing the media companies. The Times was recognized by 86 percent of the group: 34 percent said they trust it, 17 percent said they did not, and 35 percent said they didn’t trust or distrust it. Other were less known to the groups. The report notes:
Outlets currently occupying more niche markets, such as Politico, the Economist or BuzzFeed, are known by only about a third of respondents. Thus, while they may elicit strong views in one direction, the share of respondents weighing in is relatively small.
The Wall Street Journal was the only outlet trusted more than it was distrusted by every ideological group. BuzzFeed was the only one each group distrusted more than it was trusted — though the numbers were small, with big majorities of every group saying they either weren’t familiar with the site or had no particular opinion about its trustworthiness.Just how liberal/conservative is your audience?
By looking at the audiences of the news outlets in the study ,Pew was able to place them on an ideological spectrum. This is the type of thing bound to make old school editors tear their hair out; even though it’s measuring audience ideology rather than newsroom ideology (or content), it’s the sort of thing that’s easy to turn into a media bias discussion. But it’s revealing: While we may think of Fox News and MSNBC as the two poles of media ideology, their audiences are both relatively middle-of-the-road compared to those of outlets new (The Blaze, Breitbart, and Hannity, whose audiences all skew right) and old (The New York Times, NPR, and The New Yorker, whose audiences all skew left).Ideology and amplifying political news
People who are tuned into political news tend to act as information nodes. To put it another way, if you’ve got that one friend who’s into politics, there’s a good chance he’s really into politics — and he lets others know it. This is not unlike what Pew has found on social networks, where certain power users help boost the spread of news. Pew found that diehards tend to lead political conversations, with 39 percent of consistent conservatives and 30 percent of consistent liberals driving discussion. So it’s probably not a surprise those same groups says they often lead conversations about politics — 61 percent of consistent conservatives and 57 percent of consistent liberals — and regularly have others who come to them for information on politics.Who gets their news on the social web
RELATED ARTICLEBumping into the news: New Pew data shows Facebook users find news there, but don’t seek it outOctober 24, 2013Following on previous social media studies, Pew says Facebook continues to have a broader reach than other social outlets. That might be the reason they found that 48 percent of those surveyed got political news from Facebook in the previous week, versus 14 percent from YouTube and 9 percent from Twitter. Facebook was a source of political news to roughly as many people as local TV was.
But the data also shows there are differences in social media usage along ideological lines. Those in the middle of Pew’s ideological breakdown got news on Facebook most often — 53 percent of them in the past week, higher than both consistent liberals (49 percent) and consistent conservatives (40 percent). But while those in the middle may get their news there, those on either end of the spectrum are more likely to shape their Facebook experience with politics in mind. They’re more likely to “like” or follow an issue-based group (60% of consistent liberals and 46% of consistent conservatives, versus 33% of those in the middle). They’re also more likely to follow a political party or elected official there (42 percent of consistent liberals and 49 percent of consistent conservatives, versus only 29 percent of Facebook users as a whole).
Twitter, again, had a smaller audience, but one with a wider ideological gap: 13 percent of consistent liberals got news from Twitter, compared to just 5 percent of consistent conservatives. In each of these cases, it’s hard to tease out how much of the ideological differences may be demographic differences: Younger people tend to be both more engaged on social networks and more liberal on average.
Picture of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots by David Erickson used under a Creative Commons license.
Light everywhere: The California Civic Data Coalition wants to make public datasets easier to crunch
When Meg Whitman ran for governor of California in 2010, she donated $144 million of her own money to her campaign. Whitman, the Republican nominee, ultimately lost to Democrat Jerry Brown, but her spending ensured that the race was the most expensive non-presidential campaign in American history.
It was obvious Whitman was spending a fortune on the race, but it wasn’t easy to access California’s campaign finance and lobbying activity database, CAL-ACCESS, in order to do a more thorough analysis on her spending, or the finances of any other California campaign through the years.
The database had a basic search function, but if you wanted to access the raw data, you’d need to send $5 to the state’s Secretary of State office and wait to receive a CD with the data on it back in the mail.
In August 2013, after a long drawn-out fight with California journalists and civic data and open government activists, the Secretary of State to put all the raw data online in a format that’s downloadable. But even then, with 76 different tables and roughly 35 million records, the data was still unwieldy and difficult to use.
So last month reporters and developers from the Los Angeles Times, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and Stanford’s nascent Computational Journalism Lab formed the California Civic Data Coalition and published open source tools to make parsing and analyzing the data easier.
“Our whole goal for this project is to ask very simple questions,” said Aaron Williams, a news apps developer at CIR who was involved with the project. “If you want to know, say, who has spent the most money in a political campaign in California? We all knew that was Meg Whitman, for example, but to actually query that data out and to watch her campaign trail, to answer those kinds of questions, the data didn’t really provide you that information easily. And even with the raw data, there were still a lot of connections you needed to make.”
Though the Times and CIR are competitors, they decided to work together so they could both spend more time focusing on actually reporting on the contents of the data as opposed to making it usable.
“We want to compete on who can do the better deep dive, who can ask the smarter question, who can be more aggressive about getting the story,” said Ben Welsh, a database producer at the Times. “We don’t want to compete on who can unzip and link together 76 crappy database tables.”
Welsh and Agustin Armendariz, a former CIR staffer who is now at The New York Times, began discussing and working on a collaboration last year. And in August, through a grant from Knight Foundation and Mozilla, the coalition gathered in San Francisco for two days to actually build the tools.
The byproduct of the coalition’s work is two Django apps released a few weeks ago: one to access and download campaign finance and lobbying data from the state’s database and another, called the campaign browser, to “clean, regroup, filter and transform the massive, hairy state [campaign finance] database into something more legible.”
“We’re talking about making power tools for power users, for the small amount of people who really want to go after this data and look at it in more aggressive and different ways than the state’s website allows,” Welsh said. “That’s really our goal.”
“At the end of the day, we don’t want to make yet another campaign finance website,” he continued. “We want to make a set of tools, or power tools, to let analysts who are really interested in going at the data statistically, who are trying to figure stuff out in more complex ways — we just want to make that as easy as possible, so we can start diving in and doing it.”
This is a philosophy the coalition is calling “pluggable data” — an effort to improve and streamline how data is prepared by focusing on ways to make clean and extracting large data sets replicable.
The coalition compared the idea to packaged software, which developers already download regularly. As they write on the coalition site:
If a series of simple installation commands can provide a Django application with everything necessary to build a social networking site, why can’t it also provide U.S. Census statistics, the massive federal database that tracks our country’s chemical polluters or something as simple as a list of every U.S. county?
In our conversation, Welsh highlighted the work of GovTrack.us’s Josh Tauberer, The New York Times’ Derek Willis, and Eric Mill, formerly of the Sunlight Foundation, in establishing the @UnitedStates Project, a collaboration in open data at the federal level, as an example of a group that’s inspired the California Civic Data Coalition in emphasizing collaboration and pluggable data.
It’s a mindset the coalition is emphasizing as it continues improve and build out its current apps. They’re also building a browser for CAL-ACCESS lobbying activity data. With the project open-sourced and on GitHub, a grad student at Berkeley has already started contributing code, and the coalition is hopeful students at the Stanford Computational Journalism Lab will also contribute once it launches this winter.
For now, the coalition is only focusing on its current data sets, though Williams and Welsh didn’t rule out expanding its focus in the future. The current emphasis, they said, is to make their current CAL-ACCESS data sets more accessible.
Williams, for example, is working to make the data exportable into flat CSV tables so it can be imported into programs like Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access. The goal, Williams and Welsh said, was for individuals who aren’t programmers but are interested in data journalism to be able to meaningfully use the data to find stories.
“A dream outcome would be some graphic artist is able, in one day, to download that file, answer the question they want, and make a great graphic,” Welsh said.
Photo of California’s Kings River Canyon by Ansel Adams via the U.S. National Archives.
For Noah Rosenberg, the birth of long-form site Narratively came at the convergence of middle-of-the-night moments of inspired thought and a desire to explore the story left out of space-restricted newspaper pieces.
In just a little over two years, the award-winning site has amassed an army of talented contributors, who in turn have garnered attention from the likes of book publishers and movie producers. Rosenberg, as the site’s co-founder and chief executive officer, sits at the helm as the company is poised for an expansion. Rosenberg spoke with Mediabistro to discuss Narratively’s past and future, and what it took for Rosenberg to turn his idea into reality:
When I first came up with the idea for Narratively, or the very early idea, I hadn’t worked for any of the big-name outlets. But [eventually I started] working for The Wall Street Journal, and doing some work for GQ.com and a number of other big organizations. So I thought to myself, ‘Okay, I finally have some semblance of credibility, I have a great contact list, the media landscape is continuing to shift. People are consuming content on iPads now and they want more long-form, in-depth stuff, and if I don’t do this now I’m never going to do this.’
For more on Rosenberg, read: So What Do You Do, Noah Rosenberg, Founder, CEO and EIC of Narratively?
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Ebola Deeply builds on the lessons of single-subject news sites: A news operation with an expiration date
A contagious disease outbreak seems like a good time for some explanatory journalism.
News outlets are scrambling to cover the latest developments in the Ebola outbreak with reporting that can provide background on the spread — and any potential risks — of the disease. It’s a balancing act, made more difficult by the worry and fear that surrounds the potentially deadly virus. When Fox News’ Shepard Smith is telling viewers “do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television or read the fear-provoking words online,” it’s possible there’s a misinformation problem.
That’s why Lara Setrakian launched Ebola Deeply, the latest entry in her pop-up news business, designed to collect the most recent news and provide context in the coverage of the disease. “There’s a lot of reporting, but the space could use coherence, and that’s what we hope to provide,” said Setrakian, founder of parent News Deeply. “We’re not really here to replace anything — we’re here to support the ecosystem.”
RELATED ARTICLELara Setrakian: Single-story sites like Syria Deeply have lessons to offer the rest of the news businessJanuary 15, 2013This is the second site in the Deeply family, following Syria Deeply, launched in 2012 to deliver news focused entirely on the conflict within the country. The idea behind the Deeply franchise is explanation through simplification — cut out the clutter of a general news site and the noise and repetition of social media to find the best resources on an issue. That single-topic focus also comes with a kind of built-in expiration as the sites are only meant to last as long as a story or subject remains relevant. “We’re ready to retire the site when the crisis is over, and that’s a good thing,” Setrakian said. “We need dedicated coverage of flashpoints, if they are six months or six years.”
Ebola Deeply follows the blueprint (and design) of Syria Deeply through a mix of aggregation and original reporting, with analysis from experts and locals. The site also has a handful of media partners like the Associated Press, which is sharing wire stories with Ebola Deeply. Similar to Syria Deeply, Setrakian said they want to build an audience for the new site through social media as well as content distribution agreements. For example, Syria Deeply provided a news feed of stories for ABC News and the Christian Science Monitor.
The team behind Ebola Deeply includes foreign correspondents with experience covering Africa, data scientists, and software developers. Most important, says Setrakian, the site is using a handful of journalists in affected countries, including Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. It’s similar to the network of local writers who reported for Syria Deeply, but Setrakian said they’re making sure contributors stay up to date on the latest safety precautions.
Jon Gosier, the founder of information analysis company D8A, is collaborating with Setrakian on Ebola Deeply to help increase access to information in and outside of Africa. The founder of Appfrica and a former director of Swift River at Ushahidi, Gosier said over email his biggest goal is making sure reliable public health information reaches people.
“For me the equation is simple, misinformation is causing hysteria in Western nations and hysteria leads to mistakes (as was recently the case in Texas), which in some cases leads to the loss of life. In Africa fear, mistrust, and misunderstandings are leading to a similar outcome (with much greater consequence),” he said.
RELATED ARTICLENews Challenge winner Abayima takes a low-tech approach to communicating in a crisisJanuary 24, 2013Gosier is also a former Knight News Challenge winner for his work on projects like Abayima, which aimed to make it easier to share information through simple modifications to feature phones. As part of Ebola Deeply, they plan to set up a mobile network to deliver news on Ebola and other public health information to people in West Africa. Gosier told me he envisions the network working both ways; people on the ground will also be able to share first-hand updates on the response to the disease. That way, the site has the potential to have an affect on the real world on top of being a single-focus news provider, he said.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 4,400 people have died from Ebola worldwide. The disease has been largely concentrated in West Africa, though cases have been reported in Europe and now the United States. As cases pop up around the globe, it increases the need for clear and concise information, Setrakian said. “Someone has to offer coherence amid the noise,” she said. “Are we the only ones that can do it? No. But we feel it’s needed.”
Browsing Ebola Deeply gives users a glance at the latest stories being reported on the virus, a map showing the spread of reported cases around the world, and a series of background pieces on everything from the history of Ebola to the science behind treatment. Similar to the coverage of Syria, Setrakian said reporting on Ebola can lead to distortions and hype in the face of facts or analysis. “Just because there’s a lot of reporting doesn’t mean it’s easy to digest,” she said.
Setrakian financed the launch of the site through revenue News Deeply has raised by developing white-label sites for places like the World Economic Forum and the Global Ocean Commission. Syria Deeply was sponsored by foundation funding and digital design services.
RELATED ARTICLEWhat’s next for the team behind Syria Deeply? Arctic DeeplyMarch 20, 2014Bringing the Ebola site online in time to cover the spread of the disease meant putting plans for Arctic Deeply, a site focusing on climate change and the melting ice caps, on the back burner. But Setrakian says they have several events and workshop discussions on climate issues planned for this fall that will help segue into a planned launch of Arctic Deeply next year.
In theory, Ebola Deeply could be rolled up and closed for business by the time its Arctic counterpart launches. But that will depend on how health officials around the world contain and treat the disease, which the WHO recently predicted could reach 10,000 new cases per week by December.
When the lifespan of your news site is tied to the news cycle, you have to be prepared for both the short and long game. A good example? Syria Deeply is now almost two years old. But Setrakian, who researched single-serving news sites at Columbia’s Tow Center, said topic-sites are a way for media company to think strategically about their coverage and how they serve the needs of the audience.
“By allowing for things to live for six months or four months — or a hurricane season — and allowing for pop-up news pages to exist and retire, it opens up a whole new realm of what we can do,” she said.
Photo of health workers in Guinea from the European Commission used under a Creative Commons license.
One of the most common complaints about social media is about filter bubbles — the idea that, because you choose your own universe of friends or accounts on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, you risk cocooning yourself in a world of likeminded perspectives. Conservatives only hear from fellow conservatives, the argument goes, liberals from fellow liberals, and everyone ends up with hardened, more extreme positions. The result: increased political polarization.
But this new paper from NYU’s Pablo Barberá argues that that’s not true. The core of his argument: Social media encourages connections between people with weak ties — not just your best friends, for instance, but also your high school classmates, that guy you met on a business trip who friended you, and the local guy you heard was funny on Twitter. Those people tend to be “more politically heterogeneous than citizens’ immediate personal networks,” which exposes you to more perspectives, not fewer.
I apply this method to measure the ideological positions of millions of individuals in Germany, Spain, and the United States over time, as well as the ideological composition of their personal networks. Results from this panel design show that most social media users are embedded in ideologically diverse networks, and that exposure to political diversity has a positive effect on political moderation…Contrary to conventional wisdom, my analysis provides evidence that social media usage reduces mass political polarization.
This is just one paper, but it adds to a growing body of knowledge that shows that the connection between media consumption and political polarization is much more complicated than conventional wisdom has it. Add this to Alan Abramowitz’s work showing that knowing more about politics correlated with more extreme views on both left and right and Pew’s findings that show viewers of one cable news network are more likely to watch other cable news channels. (In other words, regular Fox News viewers are more likely to watch MSNBC than the average American, and vice versa.) The filter bubble narrative is more complicated than it seems. Barberá:
Contrary to a growing body of work that suggests that the Internet functions as an “echo chamber,” where citizens are primarily exposed to like-minded political views, my findings demonstrate that most social media users receive information from a diversity of viewpoints…I have provided empirical evidence from a panel design showing that exposure to political diversity on social media has a positive effect on political moderation, and that it reduces mass political polarization.
— Pablo Barberá (@p_barbera) October 20, 2014
It’s probably not a happy morning in New Orleans. Despite leading 23-10 with less than four minutes left, a defensive breakdown and an incredibly poorly timed interception left the hometown Saints (my boss’ favorite team) with a stunning loss to the Detroit Lions (my favorite team).
But New Orleanians can at least commiserate with what look like normal editions of their largest daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune, delivered to their front doors.
The front page of today's edition of The Times-Picayune http://t.co/HBIrp5LKqL
— NOLA Media Group (@NOLAMediaGroup) October 20, 2014
While in most cities getting a Monday newspaper at your door isn’t a big deal, for readers in New Orleans it’s enough to give them whiplash. The Times-Picayune has continued to make changes to how it prints and distributes the newspaper since 2012 when Advance Publications, the paper’s parent, decided to only print papers three days per week and focus on producing digital content for its website, NOLA.com.
RELATED ARTICLEIt’s not quite The Times-Picayune, but there’s something coming back to seven-day print in New OrleansApril 30, 2013Last year, The Times-Picayune added new print products — a tabloid called TP Street and an early edition of the Sunday paper — that were sold only at newsstands on the four days a week that they weren’t previously printing a paper. But last month the paper scrapped the tabloid and went back to a full broadsheet paper seven days a week — though still with only a partial home delivery schedule.
Readers who subscribe to The Times-Picayune will now have copies of the paper delivered to their homes on Saturdays and Mondays through the end of the Saints’ season in addition to the normal delivery days of Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. There will also be home-delivered papers on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
In announcing the move, the paper wrote that it was changing to a broadsheet because its what readers prefer and adding additional home delivery days because “our readers’ interest peaks in the fall and so does our advertisers’ desire to reach them.” In an interview, Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss told me reader demand was the main reason for the change in home delivery days.
“My take on it was that it was based on reader demand and that advertisers would welcome it, especially on Saturday,” Amoss said. “I don’t think anyone has any illusions about the demand for Monday newspapers in the United States — even on hot Mondays after the Saints game, it’s never going to be one of the big advertising days. But I think the impetus was readers telling us in no uncertain terms that they would really like to especially read about Saints and LSU coverage and have it home delivered to their doorsteps on days after games.”
Many outside observers see The Times-Picayune reacting to a challenge from The Advocate, an outgrowth of the Baton Rouge paper, that launched after The Times-Picayune reduced its print schedule. The Advocate hired many longtime Times-Picayune staffers, and has also emphasized coverage of the Saints along with coverage of LSU football.
“I think that if the Advocate wasn’t there they wouldn’t be doing this,” said Michael Giusti, a journalism professor at Loyola University New Orleans. “Obviously the unique variable is that a daily paper came in from Baton Rouge and put a little more leverage on them than they were really comfortable with.” For his part, Amoss downplayed the competition with the Advocate, and instead emphasized that The Times-Picayune is primarily focused on “digital competition” — from local TV station websites and other local and national online outlets. “Those are the forces that we, like other metro newspapers have to contend with,” he said.
Louisianians certainly love their football, and this isn’t the first time The Times-Picayune has offered a print product with Saints fans in mind. In 2012, after slashing print days, the paper printed and delivered a tabloid with only Saints and NFL coverage the Monday after every game. (This time around, the extra papers are full editions of the paper, not just focused on sports.)
And since the switch to a web-first mentality in 2012, there’s been an increase in the amount of sports and entertainment coverage published in print, online, and on mobile apps, according to a content analysis comparing articles from October 2011 and October 2013 by Tulane professor Vicki Mayer and her students that was published in a new book that she co-authored, The Times-Picayune in a Changing Media World: The Transformation of an American Newspaper.
Over half of the 2011 print stories were in the following areas: politics, education, business and environment. These beats collectively fell to about one-third of the stories in print and mobile phone editions, and even lower on the Internet and iPad homepages in 2013. Only one in five stories on the web homepage and one in ten on the iPad fit these important news beats. Conversely the proportion of crime stories nearly doubled on the phone app and the website, from 18 percent of print stories to 30 percent and 33 percent respectively. A whopping 83 percent of iPad homepage stories were focused on either sports or entertainment.
Amoss dismissed the study’s findings earlier this year, telling the Columbia Journalism Review that the study was flawed because Mayer and her team didn’t monitor NOLA.com over a 24-hour period, instead checking the homepage at various points throughout the day.
But the operation’s emphasis on football is still evident in how The Times-Picayune approaches its coverage now. “Our team of 165 journalists, including 40 reporters and columnists covering Saints, LSU, Tulane, other college football and high school football, is unmatched in the state,” The Times-Picayune’s August post announcing the latest changes bragged — a remarkable share of resources dedicated to the sport. (Many of those who cover high school football for the paper are freelancers, not full-time staffers, Amoss said.)
And the coverage extends beyond even the sports section. The lead story in The Times-Picayune’s Sunday Living section the day before the new Monday edition launched was a prayer for the Saints in advance of their new season written by the team’s Catholic chaplain. Online, NOLA.com, posted video of the chaplain reading the prayer from the field of the Superdome, the Saints’ home stadium.
“Bless the entire Who Dat Nation as we march under the banner of the Fleur-de-Lis,” Rev. R. Tony Ricard said. “Together with your grace, we will remain banded as one as we support and encourage the New Orleans Saints.” Today, they — like the newspaper business — could use the help.
Photo of New Orleans Saints fans celebrating their 2010 Super Bowl championship by A. Murat Eren used under a Creative Commons License
Levine will primarily write for the Center for Public Integrity's “Consider the Source” project, which investigates campaign finance and political influence issues in the post-Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission era of politics. She will also contribute to "Primary Source," a 2014 Webby Award finalist for top political blog.
For four years before joining the Center for Public Integrity, Levine worked as research director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, where she managed a five-person staff that exposed the activities of politically active “dark money” nonprofits and uncovered instances of congressional self-dealing.
Carrie previously worked as a reporter and associate editor for The National Law Journal, where she covered the inner workings of lobbying firms and lobbyists’ strategies.
She also previously reported for The Charlotte Observer, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts, and The Sun of Lowell, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Boston University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan and independent news organization specializing in investigative journalism on significant public policy issues. Among its many honors, the Center for Public Integrity won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.
The Knight Foundation (disclosure: a funder of Nieman Lab) gives money to a lot of journalism and journalism-adjacent projects. But they often work through a variety of contests and programs that aren’t always clear to outsiders. (Most famously, the Knight News Challenge, which has “news” right there in the name, has lately been funding projects around libraries, online freedom, and open government. Worthy causes all, but often confusing to people who are looking for financial support for their news startup.)
That makes this post by Knight’s Andrew Sherry useful — it outlines the various routes to funding currently available. The three most important to journalism types (emphasis mine):
If you have a news or information idea you want to develop and test, the Knight Prototype Fund may be for you. This Media Innovation initiative provides $35,000 to turn ideas into prototypes. There are several cohorts of winners each year; the most recent winners can be seen here. The next application deadline is Nov. 1…
The Knight News Challenge, which will next open for applications in early 2015, is Knight’s best known way of funding media innovation. Challenges usually have a theme — libraries, strengthening the Internet, Open Gov, networks — and the number in a year may vary. Increasingly, though, we’re emphasizing the Prototype Fund as the gateway for news and information projects…
Separate from Knight’s grantmaking, the Knight Enterprise Fund provides early-stage venture funding for media innovation. The fund invests in for-profit companies that can strengthen the news and information ecosystem. Along with investment, the fund brings Knight’s media industry network and knowledge to the table. The fund is drawn from Knight’s endowment, not its grantmaking budget.
In other words, if you’re a typical Nieman Lab reader, unless you’re a for-profit of the sort that looks for substantial venture capital, the Prototype Fund process is probably the best way to seek funding from Knight. The positive side of that is that the turnaround time is much shorter than the News Challenge used to offer, and the number of projects funded is higher; the downside is that the dollar figures are smaller than the News Challenge used to offer. But a successful Prototype Fund grantee could certainly move up to bigger funding down the road.
What's the data driven journalism (#ddj) crowd tweeting about? Here are the week's Top Data Journalism Links on Twitter (for October 10-16), including items from the Washington Post, Herodote, the BBC and more.
[View the story "Top Ten #ddj: The Week's Most Popular Data Journalism Links" on Storify]
During the last few weeks of this year, most of us will need to make a decision about our health insurance coverage for 2015, regardless of whether we get it through an employer or buy it on our own. But unless you live in California, chances are you won’t find much information about how satisfied people are with their existing health plans or how many complaints are filed against them.
Now that the law requires us to have health insurance — and buy it from a private insurer unless we’re eligible for a government program like Medicare or Medicaid — you’d think it would be easy to discover which health plans rank the best and which ones bring up the rear.
There are some online resources to find out how much various plans would cost in monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. If you can’t get coverage at work and want to compare costs among competing health plans, you can go to healthcare.gov, maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or a private online source like healthinsurance.org, which has been around since 1994.
But finding customer satisfaction and clinical performance information and complaint ratios is a lot more difficult.
California is the only state I know of where you can find data on both, but it’s not likely that even many Golden Staters understand how to discover it or go to the trouble of seeking it out.
Back in 2000 when Democrat Gray Davis was governor, California began operating an agency called the Office of The Patient Advocate (OPA). According to its website, OPA was created “to help health plan members get the care they deserve and to promote transparency and quality health care” by publishing an annual “Quality of Care Report Card.” The most recent report card was released last Wednesday.
If you’re a Californian and care as much about good customer service as you do about how much you’ll have to pay for coverage, you’ll choose one of the nonprofit health plans, regardless of where you live in the state, after spending a few minutes on the OPA site.
One consistent theme over the years has been that nonprofit plans have ranked better than their for-profit competitors in both customer satisfaction and complaint ratio ratings. That comes as no surprise to me. During the nearly 20 years I worked for big for-profit health insurers, we always trailed the nonprofits. One reason: nonprofits have made it a priority to assure that their customers are satisfied and get the care they need. The top priority of the for-profits, I know from experience, is to enhance shareholder value, a euphemism for making sure Wall Street is satisfied.
In last week’s OPA report, Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, both nonprofits, were the only plans to score four stars (an “excellent” rating) in both clinical performance and patient experience. They were followed by Blue Shield of California, Sharp Health Plan (in greater San Diego), and Western Health Advantage (in the Sacramento area). All of those plans are also nonprofits.
The plans with the fewest stars were Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna, Health Net and UnitedHealthcare of California, all for-profit companies.
Conversely, the HMOs with the highest ratio of complaints and inquiries were the for-profits and the ones with the lowest were the nonprofits. Cigna, where I used to work, had the highest ratio. It had more than three times as many complaints and inquiries as the Kaiser HMOs and nearly four times as many as Sharp.
Not only have these results been consistent over the years in California, they are also consistent with the national health plan rankings compiled by Consumer Reports and the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
Regardless of where you live, you should check out those rankings before selecting your insurance carrier for 2015. You’ll find that, just as in California, the nonprofits lead the pack and the for-profits are eating their dust.
In fact, there are no for-profits among the NCQA’s top 25 health plans. And it has been this way for as long as the NCQA has been publishing its annual ranking.
Open enrollment for health plans offered on the state and federal exchanges for 2015 will start in just four weeks, on November 15. Most employer-sponsored health plans will also have open enrollment at approximately the same time. It would be well worth your time to see how the health plans available to you stack up to competitors in quality and customer satisfaction — as well as cost.