Need to Know: September 28, 2022


You might have heard: Hundreds of global newsrooms to mark World News Day on September 28 (Cision, Canadian Journalism Foundation) 

But did you know: Disinformation is a scourge on public discourse. Fact-based journalism can help stop it

Disinformation has spread around the world in the last decades, impacting free elections, fueling political violence, and making it difficult to tackle important issues like climate change and COVID-19. Adrian Monck, managing director of the World Economic Forum, writes that a “resurgence of fact-based journalism can help stem disinformation.” Monck argues that journalists need to push back on public figures who spread misinformation and avoid both-sides-ism.  

“On World News Day, it is important to remember that the disinformers must not be allowed to win. It is imperative that the free exchange of ideas and opinions proceeds unpoisoned, and that public discourse remains focused on the critical issues facing people all over the world.” 

– Adrian Monck, World Economic Forum 

+ Noted: New Jersey Civic Information Consortium announces new grants (New Jersey Civic Information Consortium); Hearst expects revenues to grow close to $12 billion this year (Axios); McCormick Foundation announces $7.5M investment in sustainable, fact-based reporting (Medill School of Journalism); KERA announces intent to acquire Denton Record-Chronicle (KERA); Fast Company’s Apple News access hijacked to send an obscene push notification (The Verge)


Thirty-one news organizations to receive support from API’s Election Coverage and Community Listening Fund

In an initiative aimed at empowering newsrooms to implement community listening in their elections coverage, API is funding projects in 31 news organizations across the country that will start immediately and run through this election year. These efforts are designed to try new approaches to election coverage or expand on existing projects that show promise. API prioritized projects that seek to promote trust and engagement between news outlets and communities of color as newsrooms look to expand their reach into communities that have been underserved or undercovered, leading to distrust and a disconnection from many media organizations. Read more about the funded projects here.

Trust Tip: Use caution with these polarizing words (Trusting News) 

When you ask news consumers to describe the signals that make stories feel fair or unfair, people often point to simple word choices — small things that seem to convey where the journalists are coming from and how they feel about the sources and ideas presented in their stories. Was a win “surprising”? Is someone’s stance “strident” or “relentless” or “unapologetic”? By being more aware of and cautious about word choices, journalists can avoid sending accidental signals about our own views on the story and about whose values the content is reflecting.


How KPCC/LAist began trying to help Angelenos engage with their complex city (Medium, Engagement at KPCC) 

KPCC/LAist wanted to engage with its different audiences beyond reductive demographics data like race, income and zip code, writes Ariel Zirulnick. The process began by identifying overarching questions, such as “How do Angelenos interact with their community?” They then recruited locals from a variety of life stages, roles in the community, and tenures in Los Angeles. They found that the urban sprawl of Los Angeles meant that residents were often overwhelmed. “Angelenos need entry points, on-ramps, and waypoints to engage with and get the most out of this complex, overwhelming, but also rich and diverse region,” Zirulnick writes. 


Meta uncovers Russia’s ‘largest and most complex’ info op since the war began (Protocol) 

Over the summer, Russia created more than 60 websites that spoofed actual news sites in Europe to push anti-Ukraine propaganda, according to a new report from Meta. The imitations included not just the formatting and design of the original sites, but bylines and photos of real reporters. The Russians then pushed these fake stories out through a slew of social media channels; in some cases, posts were boosted by official Russian government accounts. Meta said it has shut down more than 2,000 accounts on Facebook and Instagram, but that more continued to emerge. The company also said it had shared its findings with other companies, as well as the U.S. government. 


Polls are useful. They just can’t predict elections in swing states. (The Washington Post)

With attention turning to polls ahead of the midterm elections, Perry Bacon Jr. writes that the problem is not that the polls are often wrong — it’s that journalists don’t use polls correctly. Polling on close races is notoriously unreliable and unpredictive, and yet it is the data that journalists are most eager to cover. He also argues that polling shouldn’t dictate policy, nor serve as a true indicator of how Americans feel about specific policy issues, since most respondents are not well-versed in the details of policy. They should instead be used as broad indicators of national mood and to provide insights into niche groups whose opinions are not always registered. 


“We are going to drag our editors into this”: The New York Times’ labor fight is demoralizing the newsroom (Vanity Fair) 

Members of the New York Times Guild are outraged that negotiations with the paper have stalled, and are increasingly trying to involve editors and managers into the debate. Employees say that executive editor Joe Kahn agreed that staffers should be paid more, but argued that he’s not the CEO, while other editors have declined to become involved with guild concerns. The Guild’s contract expired in March of 2021, and employees say that inflation is eating into their salaries. Meanwhile, The Times spent more than $1 million on the hit game Wordle, and more than $500 million to acquire the sports site The Athletic. A member of the guild’s bargaining committee said that she’s “tying people down at their desks because they’re so mad” over management’s refusal to raise salaries. 


How an escapade on a frozen pond led one newspaper to reform its crime coverage (Media Nation) 

In 2018, The Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire wrote a “wacky” story about a woman who had driven onto a frozen pond and led police on a low-speed chase before being charged with criminal mischief. After the woman died in 2020, reporter Paul Cuno-Booth read the woman’s obituary and felt that the coverage of the pond incident had reduced a whole person “to a caricature for the entertainment of its readers.” He and others at the paper began discussing how to better cover the complexities of people in the criminal justice system. This led to several changes, including a commitment to following all crime coverage through to its end, writing about trends rather than individual’s experiences and allowing people to have stories about former misdeeds removed from Google searches.