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This subsection of the Need to Know newsletter offers ideas and insights you’ll want to share and discuss.

The upsides (and downsides) of automated robot journalism

Robots writing stories is an emerging journalism reality. You may already have read material produced by a machine without even realizing it. To adapt science fiction guru William Gibson, “the robo-journalism future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” With the new technology, there is exciting new potential, like speed and efficiency […]

Nate Silver is happy to be wrong

Nate Silver is giving Donald Trump a 19 percent chance of becoming president — and that makes him a little nervous, as well it should. It’s not because he failed to predict Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries (after nailing Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 wins when others were calling both tossups, or worse). It’s […]

How Mother Jones went undercover to reveal ugly truths about for-profit prisons

The magazine has published its 35,000-word investigation of a Louisiana for-profit prison, based on reporter Shane Bauer’s four-month stint as a prison guard. The magazine walked up to the line of accepted journalism ethics: reporters shouldn’t lie or misrepresent themselves as they pursue a story, writes media columnist Margaret Sullivan. “Undercover reporting becomes necessary,” the […]

What media companies don’t want readers to know about ad blockers

When talking about ad blockers, newspaper executives often focus exclusively on the drawbacks of ad blockers, leaving a big part of the story untold, according to Trevor Trimm. Ad blockers do not help publishers, but there are security benefits for readers. Several major news sites, including the New York Times, the BBC and AOL, had […]

Wait, does this headline writer know something we don’t know?

On Monday, the Supreme Court overturned former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s conviction on charges of public corruption. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, however, headlined that decision with a glaring error. McDonnell is pictured, but the headline reads “McAuliffe’s Bribery Convictions Tossed,” a reference to Terry McAuliffe, who is the current governor of the commonwealth. Editor […]

Branding videos for tronc look more like something from ‘Adult Swim’ than a legitimate branding video

Videos posted on tronc’s official HR YouTube account look more like something created by the people who directed Adult Swim videos “Too Many Cooks” and “Smart Pipe,” Recode’s Noah Kulwin writes. The videos talk about “content funnels,” “artificial intelligence,” “optimization,” and a host of other buzzwords, with the goal of getting “employees informed and motivated” […]

The name ‘tronc’ has marketing experts just as confused as those in journalism

Tribune Publishing’s new name tronc (short for Tribune online content) has marketing experts confused too, Martha C. White writes. Branding expert Rob Frankel says “The renaming thing blows up way more often than there’s any benefit.” And University of Southern California assistant professor of clinical marketing Ira Kalb says many companies overlook the importance of […]

The coverage of the Orlando nightclub shooting on Sunday was largely about ‘amplifying the politics of blame’

“In too many cases, news outlets were busy amplifying the politics of blame,” Margaret Sullivan writes on Sunday’s coverage of the Orlando nightclub shooting, with some news organizations taking stances such as declaring the shooting as terrorism or emphasizing that it happened at a gay club. That’s partly driven by economics, with news organizations feeling […]

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