Transparency and Process Journalism

There’s two schools of thought when it comes to publishing news.

There’s the traditional approach, where you take your time and make sure you have multiple named sources you’re personally and directly in contact with. That is, in my mind, the best possible way to ensure you’re getting your facts straight.

The second school relies on several factors:

  1. Direct single sourcing (named official at Dept of Defense told me)
  2. Reliance on third party sources (New York Times reported through (named source)
  3. Reliance on third party unnamed source (New York Times reported through senior government official.

We see a lot more of the second school these days than the personally acquired source and that leads to less reliable reporting. Worse yet, there’s often no accountability or a documentation how the story evolved over time as better sources emerged.

The traditional method of reporting has become less common as new media outlets rely on aggregation of sources. Even traditional reporting relies on a combination of both personally acquired sources and a mix of aggregated reports.

What’s usually lacking from either of these methods is a way for the reporter to provide to the reader the ability to understand how the story evolved. An “Editor’s Note” that appears at the top or bottom of the post seems insufficient. Something like NewsDiffs can be useful but doesn’t plug directly into the existing website (if it could, that might be a good solution.)

What would be ideal is a way for the reader to turn on the corrections/changes made by clicking a link at the top of the post that turns the post into a “track changes” mode, which shows the updates made over time. You might even allow the reader to see what the story looked like on a particular day. In addition, it would be useful to simply give the reader the ability to follow the story and be alerted each time it gets changed or corrected. We did exactly that with Circa, but it would be even better to see it built into existing media properties.

This transparency builds greater trust between the reader and the publisher. It also reclaims something that is becoming lost when readers are led to many places through social media rather than relying on a single publication: loyalty. If I am given the ability to track a story over time and understand I’ll be told if something changes or is corrected, I’m more likely to go back to that same source which I’ve subscribed to.

It’s no longer sufficient to think you can change a story and think nobody will notice, you might as well be upfront with readers as the story evolves and allow them to stay connected to those changes as they happen. The alternative is hope nobody will notice only to have others explain how you’ve made those changes and tried to act like nothing happened, which serves to do nothing but erode credibility and trust in the publication.

Dear Circa

I’ve been flooded with messages of support since we shut down. I asked permission to share these messages from the folks who sent them. I have been so amazed and humbled by how much people really had emotionally invested in Circa. It makes me feel really proud  of what we were able to build and the impact we have now created in the industry.

Here’s a sample of some of the letters I’ve received…


To Anthony and my distant friends at Circa News—

It is with great sadness that I started my morning off with the Farewell, from Circa headliner. I won’t torture you by yearning for the what-ifs and the if-onlys; still, I had to write you because I feel oddly close to the team that for so long now has brought me my daily news brief. Your idea was brilliant and you changed the market—there is no denying that. In today’s America we find ourselves at odds with the current event paradox. That is, technology, social movements, crowd-sourced collaboration and the freedom of press make accessing real, unbiased, ugly-truthed frontline news more possible than ever; yet, we amass a naive population that becomes disgruntled and misguided by ‘news’ organizations that are controlled by their advertisers so much so that what becomes the top story on every major news source is more often than not a ‘fluff’ to redirect attention from the real stories and make an aggregate audience fell all warm and fuzzy inside. But you already know this.

I’m not reaching out as part of a last-ditch effort to ignite your passions, sometimes the good fight leaves us hung out to dry. I just wanted to make sure that one loyal fan (and hopefully many more) communicated to you all that Circa News changed my life by allowing me to stay informed without getting overwhelmed. Its succinct story bites made room for more content and granted me the time to become better informed about so much more than was previously possible. I applaud your efforts, and I am truly sad to see you go. For the record, if I were not still a start-up adult paying too high of rent covering someone else’s mortgage, if I had more than 2 pennies to rub together, if I had money to fund a project—it would have gone to Circa. I wish each and every one of you the absolute best in your next ventures and hope to see more journalist institutions take a turn down the not-so-beaten path that you’ve been walking for almost 4 years now. Good luck and God bless each of the members on the Circa News team.

All the best,

Nicole Duffy
Circa reader and advocate since 2012
New Orleans, LA 

(Hey Anthony: I didn’t know if your customer contact email still worked.  So thought I’d send it to you guys here.)

Dear Matt and the Circa Team,

What a truly sad day for journalism and even worse for me.  How am I supposed to get my day going without you guys?!?

I’ve searched across all the lands (and a few oceans) for a way to read the news, have context, breadth in opinions/sources, and be updated on my topics of interest in one place.  Nobody else managed to do all of these things except YOU!!!

Is it too late to say “take my money!!?” I didn’t know you guys needed money.

Will you take subscriptions?  Because I would give it in the blink of an eye.  Oh, how my uncaffinated heart is filled with guilt and regret.

As I stare blankly with red soggy eyes at my lonely coffee machine, spitting out its last cup of I-can-deal serum to go with my favorite news app.  I salute you! (Quietly and totally alone in tee shirt, raccoon slippers, and underwear)

You’ve been amazing !!  You’ve done something meaningful for me.  You’ve been a part of my day every morning for years.

Thank You and please don’t give up on good journalism no matter where  you go!

I can’t wait to see what you guys do next !  Please keep me posted.




Ps.  Are you selling the app/company by any chance?

I’m not looking for talent. I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for providing readers with an app that brought the best news to mobile devices. I’ve been using Circa since its inception and couldn’t have been happier with it. Your dedication and professionalism brought us stories with accurate and relevant information about the stories we care about.

Circa has always been about brass tacks. Informative, to the point and, most of all, unbiased reporting. I had never even considered utilizing any other new outlet. You were the best. I have no doubt that the talented staff at Circa will find excellent opportunities.

I would like to, again, say thank you for all that you have brought us. I hope you are proud of what you built because it truly is something to marvel.An honest news service that never failed to deliver.

Thank you for what you have given us,


Ron Bodamer (Loyal Circa reader)

You’ve broken every important news story to me over the past few years, first on twitter and then here. You do awesome work. Keep it up!


Before I (sadly) delete this app? …(for now)

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed and followed your app.
I am a graphic designer and learned of circa through school! In design school we spoke of UX and UI in regards to your app. You are a precedent and an inspiration and will not be forgotten. I hope to read circa again someday…(it was part of my daily routine).

Dear sir or madam,
Please overlook the format of this email, but not the content.
The moment I read the feature story of Circa’s farewell, my heart lost a beat.
I simply couldn’t believe this is happening but there is nothing I could do.
I’m a journalism student and I think Circa is the BEST news reading app I’ve ever used, the off-line reading, no ads, the scrolling design, divided sections, following stories…everything is just so perfectly done.
I deeply admire the journalist group that dedicated to Circa, I hope things can be better one day, and it will be better.

Looking forward for you to come back.
Best wishes.

Yours, Sameen

I have enjoyed your news organization more than any other and hope that you can salvage it. I am willing to pay a subscription price to continue reading.

If that is not possible, then many thanks for all the enjoyable and real reading and many good wishes to you and all your staff.  You will be missed!

Sent from Alice Treska

Hi Anthony,

I have been using Circa for more than a year now and have loved it from the first time I used it. The fact that Circa required no purchase and never shoved advertisements in my faced made It that much more enjoyable and professional. I read my wire daily, expanding my knowledge and general awareness of the modern world. Thank you so much for such a wonderful app, I, and I’m sure many others, found it to be an awesome experience.


Anthony –

I must say I was extremely disheartened to find out that Circa is shutting down. Circa was one of my top sources for meaningful, concise and extremely relevant news. It is an unfortunate time that we are living in where investors would rather fund pointless social apps as compared to something with a potential to disrupt the way we think of “news”.
I am not sure where you are in the overall strategy of your product or whether what I am going to say will even make sense. However, I want to put my thoughts out there.
Ever since I took the course of Digital Transformation at Carnegie Mellon, I always wondered how print media will ever sustain with the disruption that technology has brought about. In one such of my reflections, I wondered if there was a way to enable these “archaic” organizations with a standardized platform, where they can focus on content creation, leaving someone else to worry about content delivery.
My thought was to build a platform with standardized interfaces that each news outlet, potentially across the globe, can leverage to post content. Users can subscribe to each on a need basis and Circa could still provide relevant analytics-driven recommendations. Cost-sharing models could be built in where each outlet gets a percentage when a user clicks through their content, with Circa getting a cut of each “transaction” so to speak.
The reason I share this with you (and maybe you can forward this on to the rest of the team) is because I think you have the resources and a platform that could easily expand to provide these capabilities. The other reason, maybe more importantly, is because I am a risk-averse person who might never see this through to fruition.
I hope you have a great future ahead, with Circa or otherwise.
Thank you,
Dinesh R Dixit

Dear Circa,

You were the BEST news company/app ever! You’re on my iPhone front page! I loved the “Follow Story” feature. There has to be a way to save Circa! This is the worst news. I was honored to be asked a few times to participate in your betas and feedback (I didn’t because I work for Apple and wasn’t sure if they still allowed that; rules change). Thank you for all the super hard work you put into Circa. I definitely always felt it was the highest class journalism and app out there. And, I was soooo excited when it came to Apple Watch! Circa, you will always be in my heart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Liz Henning

Dear Mr. De Rosa,

Please accept my sincerest condolences on the loss of this project’s current incarnation. My friends and I greatly enjoyed Circa’s meticulous attention to detail, ergonomic design, and utmost impartiality. We hope that Circa will live on through its dedicated team, wherever you may go.

Yours truly, and thanks again,
Max Matiauda

Circa Team,
Thank you so much for everything. As a college kid always on the go, I fell in love with Circa from its launch date. The quick, bite sized and objective pieces of info were so appealing to me.
I will be for forever grateful to the writers, developers and entire team. I am very saddened to see you go!
Best of luck with everything you do and thank you again.
With all my love and gratitude,
Alex Kierlanczyk

I am sad to hear Circa will no longer be supported.  As an avid reader, Circa quickly became my first “go to” location for news.  I really enjoyed the content, the user experience of the app, and the way in which similar stories were suggested if I wanted to learn more.  And then I would tell my friends about it.Thank you for the team’s leadership in serving so many readers.  I can’t imagine how difficult the transition would be for the team.  Please know that the team delivered an outstanding user experience,

My best,
Philadelphia, PA

Some selections from Twitter:




Farewell Circa

(click here to skip to the list of Circa employees looking for new opportunities)

Here’s the short Circa version: We tried to do something very different, we took huge risks, we built a product that spawned a whole new category, and we enjoyed every moment of it, at least until the money ran out and that sucked.

Care to know more? By all means, read on:

We got some stuff wrong, but there’s a hell of a lot we got right. There will be a time and place for me to expand on that, today is not that day. I’m delighted to see we’ve inspired many other apps to do part of what we did or attempt to. It’s great that we’ll see various elements of Circa live on through them.

I want to thank this team:

Arsenio, I am so lucky to have worked with you and have someone so willing to work hand and glove with editorial. That’s a rare thing in our business. You’re a rockstar, I hope we cross paths again. I also loved the chance to work with your amazing team: Tim, Travis, Chris, Michelle, Ashley, AJ, Brian, Darren, Adam, and Frank.

John Maloney, you know how much you did for this team. You are selfless. Without question, you have been a rock and fought the good fight to try to get us over the finish line. I’ll never forget that. I am your brother for life.

Matt, you gave me an amazing opportunity and you’re an incredible product designer. The industry is still trying to catch up with you. I know you’ll continue to do amazing things.

David, our founding editor, who mentored me and taught me the very unique way we do things here at Circa. Without you, I would be nothing. You’re killing it at Al-Jazeera. I am indebted to you for teaching me and giving me the skills to have continued what you created here.

Adrian, Daniel, Greg, Evan, Andrew, Ted, Chad, Lenika, Nicholas, Peter, Abraham, Amelie, Alli, Nallur, Kevin, and Lisa.  Who fought their asses off and have unique skills that few others in our industry can boast of. They’re now free to take those skills out to the world and give your newsroom superpowers.  Startups are hard, they’re not the safe passage for anyone. News is tough enough to then have the unpredictability of startup life tossed in for good measure. I respect and admire these folks for putting their heart and soul into this.

Christine, our incredible designer. Your work speaks for itself. Someone will be very lucky to have you bringing your magic to them soon.

Jessie, our operations rock. Without you, the ship doesn’t sail. Thanks for keeping us on track and making sure the trains run on time.

Finally, I want to thank the majority of our investors, who believed in us enough to write a check. There are some investors making it difficult to get our team paid for services rendered. Be assured I won’t stand by idle if they’re not made whole.

I can vouch for all the people above, but I worked as Editor In Chief and can uniquely speak for the skills of the team I led below. I’m providing short bios but can get into more detail about what I think their strongest skills are. Please do get in touch soon if you want them, there’s actually a lot of demand and I’m happy to see that. I also linked their emails to their names here if you want to reach them directly.

HIRED! Daniel Bentley – Senior editor at Circa (Hired by Fortune)

HIRED! Adrian Arizmendi – Tends to focus on political matters. Has a great grasp on policy and the intricacies of legislature. Would be a great fit on a team covering congress and/or the 2016 race. Based in San Francisco. (Hired by Al-Jazeera)

HIRED! Evan Buxbaum – Deputy editor, helped lead our team during PT hours and also ran weekends. Good manager, can lead a team of multiple people and has an excellent eye for detail. Tireless. Based in Seattle. (Hired by New York Post)

Andrew Bossone – Led our Middle East coverage and helped manage our team during the overnight hours. Excellent grasp of foreign policy, especially in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Based in Jordan. (Doing contract work but available for a full-time gig)

HIRED! Ted Trautman – Primary copy editor. Great eye for detail. Jack of all trades when it comes to subject matters. Great disposition, easy to work with. Based in San Francisco (Currently working on a book!)

HIRED! Chad Catacchio – Led our Asia coverage, especially Japan. Especially strong when it comes to science and sports. Based in Beijing now but soon returning to Massachusetts. (Hired by Enervee)

HIRED! Nicholas Deleon – Lead Tech Editor. Wide grasp of all matters related to technology, both on the business and product side. He managed to cover nearly all the important stories for us in this space by himself. Great disposition, very easy to work with. Based in New York. (Hired by VICE Motherboard)

Peter Wade – Jack of all trades subject matter wise. Helped relaunch our Tumblr and grew our audience there significantly in a short period of time. Staff writer, pitched in as the defacto Social Media Editor for Circa. Comfortable covering a variety of topics. He has written for and managed social media at numerous digital news publications including Fast Company, SportsNet New York and The Daily. He also maintains his own news, media and pop culture Tumblr at Based in Washington D.C.

Abraham Hyatt – Has a great grasp on criminal justice matters. Also has a background covering tech and business. Based in San Francisco.

HIRED! Amelie Meyer- Robinson – Foreign policy focus, good grasp on Europe in particular. Based in San Francisco. (Hired by Twitter)

Alli Maloney – Covers a wide variety of topics, high output, performs well under pressure. Well versed in women’s issues. Based in Ohio. (Hired by New York Times, Women in the World)

Kevin Ponniah and Lisa Yallamas – Based in London and Australia respectively. Staff writers, good grasp on Asia + Southeast Asia matters.

Traditional media’s refusal to enter the link economy

Blogger ethics tend to be better than traditional journalism ethics when it comes to linking to sources. It’s actually far more likely you won’t find a single link in any articles in most mainstream news publications online. Sometimes they may even write out the source, but won’t link to it.

Here’s an example of where the New York Post cites TV Newser and Mediaite, but refuses to link to either. Both Newser and Mediaite are generous with links to their sources. Apparently the New York Post is a common offender. The Post has gone so far as to have allegedly admitted, by way of correspondence from one of their reporters, that they in fact have a policy to not credit blogs (or anyone else) if they can verify independently after they’ve been tipped off from the source they choose not to cite. Other parts of News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch’s empire, which includes the Post, may have the same policy as well.

Recently, NBC New York used a good deal of their reporting from a post written by NYC The Blog, which does excellent coverage of stories that often fall between the cracks, and does so with great detail. The author of the post originally did not bother to mention his source, then added the mention, but has yet to link to it.

Why are mainstream news outlets so averse to the link economy? Even here at Reuters, links are rarely seen, if ever, in the context of the articles we post. Felix Salmon recently referred to the Wall Street Journal as “the kid in class with his arm around his homework” in reference to their refusal to link. The New York Times is just as stingy with their links, relegating their modern link-friendly journalism to excellent places like The Lede.

The Lede is one of the few places I’ll return to multiple times a day, because it’s indicative of the way the world works now: real-time and part of a cooperative effort among outside sources, linking back and forth to one another, without regard for their internal or external affiliation.

Journalism today is a collaborative effort and the digital natives link to their sources as a matter of course. They understand the value of the link economy and it is rarely a one way street. Linking out doesn’t take traffic away from your site; instead, it makes your site more valuable as a comprehensive source of where information is flowing, it helps to show you’ve done your homework and are able to back it up.

This is not particularly new ground I’m covering here. Jeff Jarvis has written extensively on the link economy. Our own president of media, Chris Ahearn, believes in the link economy and Felix Salmon has weighed in on how the link economy benefits Reuters.

The issue is both technical and cultural. Many of these crusty old media behemoths are still embedded in the maw of very old editorial workflows that simply make it impossible to link out. Personally, I find this hard to believe, since if they’re publishing to the web, surely they have some way of linking within their articles. What I find more easy to believe, but not entirely a valid excuse, is the culture.

The culture of current “old media” newsrooms does not have the ethical inclination to link. They’re still provincial and afraid that once someone has clicked a link to a referring source, they’re gone forever. The digital natives practically have the link embedded into their DNA. Sure, there are some bloggers with loose ethics when it comes to citing their sources by way of a link, but few of them do it by way of policy and the ones who do so often are not the ones running a business behind it.

How long will it take for the old guard to make way for the link friendly digital natives? Considering how much the powers that be are relying on those natives to help them transform the media business into something that can feasibly exist in the current landscape, sooner than you think.

(Photo credit: by cogdogblog on Flickr)

Stop matching

“Matching” — when one or more news organizations writes a story based on a news item that another outlet broke first — is an institutional problem deeply rooted within many mainstream newsrooms.

To paraphrase myself from this articlesometimes it’s a business strategy: Ignore your competition, don’t let your readers know they exist, pretend they didn’t beat you. Sometimes it’s cultural: The journalists come from a print background and didn’t grow up with the web like digital natives.Sometimes it’s technical: The CMS simply wasn’t created with links in mind (this sounds crazy but is actually true in some cases), or the system is built to serve multiple masters (print and digital), and the print side inexplicably wins out over the digital.

Often it’s a combination of one or more.

The practice of “matching” a story is an outdated one that still continues despite the fact we’re all now working with a medium that no longer requires it. If someone already reported the story, you’ve verified their story is correct, and you have nothing to move that story forward, write a brief and link to whom did the legwork already. By all means, let your readers know about the story, lead them to it. Be a beacon for all news, not just your own. Then, move on and produce something of more value.

Newsrooms are low on resource; apply those resources efficiently. Your 500-word re-write of the same article as your “competitor,” as you call them, is unnecessary and a total waste of time.

I’m not calling out anyone in particular — I’m calling out our entire industry that does this all day long and twice on Sunday. I’m begging you please, to stop. For your own good and for a public awash in duplicative information.

Anonymous Source-aholics Anonymous

Two very popular people have been in the news lately: “Senior government official” and “Law enforcement source.”

When you, the reader or viewer, see or hear either of these mysterious figures cited, proceed with caution. Here are just a few recent examples:

  • CNN’s John King and the Associated Press report that the Boston Marathon bombing suspect had been arrested and taken into custody. King based his information on his unnamed “law enforcement source.” The AP never clarified where their false information came from, presumably parroting King or the same “law enforcement source.” They both wound up being wrong.
  • The New York Times, the New York Daily News, Buzzfeed, and once again CNN and the Associated Press falsely report that the Washington Navy Yard Shooter was armed with an AR-15. All of them cited anonymous “law enforcement sources” while Buzzfeed simply created a listicle claiming “The Navy Yard Shooter Used The Same Style Weapon As Sandy Hook and Aurora.” Buzzfeed never bothered to pull the post, instead opting to change the title to“Officials Now Say That The Navy Yard Shooter Did Not Use The Same Style Weapon As Sandy Hook And Aurora” and at the very end of the post add, “The FBI has stated that they officially have no information about Alexis having an AR-15 in his posession during the attacks, contrary to earlier military reports.” The New York Timeslater updated their article but haven’t bothered to inform readers that they removed the reference they had earlier with the false report that the gunman was armed with an AR-15.The New York Daily News even ran the false report of the AR-15 on their cover. The AP’s story online still falsely stated at the time of this article being published that the gunman was carrying an AR-15.
  • The New York Times became so addicted to the use of anonymous sources in their Syria and New York mayoral race reporting, their own Public Editor called them out on it. She cited one reader’s comment that stated: “As usual, The New York Times is more than glad to help the most powerful leaders in the world get their message out without having to worry about little things about accountability, counterarguments, other facts and various unknowns…”
  • The Associated Presss ran this photo which they stated was related to the Navy Yard shooting. They later retracted the photo after learning it was not related to the shooting. (Update: AP now says the photo was redacted because they couldn’t confirm if the photo was related to the shooting, Buzzfeed has details about how the photo has now been confirmed by AP, who plan to potentially release the photo)

Respect and trust must be earned and every mistake should chip away at the credibility of the organization running these reports. However, I wonder if the average reader or viewer actually remembers these mistakes or if they continue to trust again and again. Jon Stewart provided this depressing commentary:

“The lesson they take from this is, it doesn’t matter how much they betray our trust, we’ll keep coming back.”

I wish he was wrong but I suspect he’s right.

The disconnect between traditional media and UGC

The majority of newsworthy video out of Syria, Egypt and all over the world, shot by camera phone finds its way to YouTube by way of citizens. The first thought of the shooter is usually not: “I need to share this with a major TV news network” because they don’t care about traditional television news networks or more likely they’ve never heard of them.

They have, however, heard of the Internet and that’s where they decide to share it with the world.

Companies like Storyful understand this and realize that UGC doesn’t magically come to you and it’s unlikely to seek you out. In order to be the first to discover it, you need to know where to look and develop good systems for hunting it down. It’s very much a traditional journalism exercise but requires very non-traditional journalistic tools to find them.

What we do need more of is people who know how to hunt down UGC and better tools for finding it. We’re pretty much all set with tools on how to capture it and where to upload it. News organizations would like to set up ways for themselves to be the sole place people choose to present that content, but the many attempts to do this have had very poor results.

Think of one of the more recent, most newsworthy photos: a high resolution image of the Boston bomber that was uploaded to, you guessed it: Facebook.

I think it’s incredibly cool to give citizens new tools to get UGC in the hands of the media, just don’t expect them to do something other than what the majority of citizens already do: whip out their phone take a photo or video and share it to Facebook or Twitter.

The people who will win are the ones who can find it.

(Photo credit:  Digital Trends)

Are these Edward Snowden’s ARSTechnica posts?

Are these Edward Snowden’s ARSTechnica posts?

Reuters reporter John Shiffman reports that NSA leaker Edward Snowden went by an online alias “TheTrueHOOHA” at one time. I uncovered some interesting threads on ARS Technica message board where that handle posted the following:

It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behavior bothers those outside of technology circles. Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types.

I wonder, how well would envelopes that became transparent under magical federal candlelight have sold in 1750? 1800? 1850? 1900? 1950? Did we get to where we are today via a slippery slope that was entirely within our control to stop, or was it an relatively instantaneous sea change that sneaked in undetected because of pervasive government secrecy?


My list, in order (just like in the poll!) would be:






China, Korea, and australia might be swapped, though. They’re sort of nebulous.

On page 3 of that same thread, he posts:


Although I’m not a diplomat, I work for the Department of State. I actually signed up because of the opportunity for foreign travel, so I’m not bent out of shape at all. All of the inflexible terms in the OP were to establish some sort of ground rules for the hypothetical so it didn’t veer off into insanity.

That said, I’m surprised by the showing Australia made in the poll. I have to wonder if it’s really the paradise Arsians seem to think it is, but being that this is a nerds’ forum, I’m suprised ANYTHING beat out Japan. I also don’t see the allure of “Scandinavian” countries, but that’s simply because I don’t want to live in a country where warmth and comfort are only spoken of in bedtime stories.

China is definitely a good option career-wise, and I’ve already got a basic understanding of Mandarin and the culture, but it just doesn’t seem like as much “fun” as some of the other places. Who knows where the “needs of the service” will actually end up placing me, though.

Azerbaijan, anyone?