An Introduction to Schemas for Journalists

Produced in partnership by the Credibility Coalition and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and written by Samantha Sunne.

Download An Introduction to Schemas for Journalists

This document is meant to be used as a curriculum that empowers journalists to better understand — and help platforms to better execute — the discovery and ranking of quality local journalism on news delivery platforms.

Journalists from local news outlets and representatives from technology platforms participated in one introductory training module and three subsequent discussion sessions. Participants worked together in small groups to brainstorm ideas, processes or mechanisms they think platforms should adopt to better surface local news. At the end of the discussion series, these ideas were refined and submitted to platforms for consideration.

In order to facilitate these conversations, both journalists and platform representatives needed to be able to understand and use common vocabulary around news algorithms. This vocabulary, and in particular the way it represents how online information is organized and processed, can be known as a “schema.” Schemas are unfamiliar to many journalists, but nonetheless have a huge impact on their work and how it is distributed.

What This Curriculum Covers

This document provides a hands-on introduction to practical applications of schemas for online news, including:

  • Structured data
  • Rich snippets
  • Schemas for online news articles
  • Applying schema markup and markup
  • New initiatives to markup news content
  • Signals, indicators, and ranking factors
  • Labels

Additional resources for further exploring how local news is distributed online An Introduction to Schemas for Journalists was developed as part of the Schema-Online Local News discussion series that was convened over several months in 2021, by the Credibility Coalition and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and with financial support from the Google News Initiative. The purpose of this discussion series was to establish a common vocabulary for understanding between local news outlets and online platforms by convening regular, structured conversations between journalists and representatives of technology platforms.