Need to Know: Feb. 22, 2018

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism


You might have heard: Alt-right leaders can no longer spread disinformation on Medium (The Outline) and founder of Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft has been pulled from a panel planned to coincide with the Conservative Political Action Conference after his website propagated evidence-free theories about survivors of last week’s Florida high school shooting (Politico)

But did you knowYouTube and Facebook remove conspiracy videos claiming Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg was an actor but, in many cases, only after promoting them (Business Insider)

YouTube promoted a video claiming to show evidence that one of the survivors of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., is a paid actor. The video appeared in the top position on the site’s trending section on Wednesday morning before being removed from the section later in the morning after several news stories and tweets about it started to spread. A YouTube representative said the conspiracy video made it to the top of the site’s trending section by mistake, slipping through the site’s safeguards because it contained a clip from an “authoritative news source.” Facebook also promoted the conspiracy in its trending news section. The company says it will remove hoax content related to the survivors. YouTube and Facebook continue to struggle with people gaming their sites to spread false news.

+ Related: It’s time to end ‘trending’ (New York Magazine); How a survivor of the Florida school shooting became the victim of an online conspiracy (Washington Post);  The pro-Trump media has its match in the Parkland students (BuzzFeed)

+ Noted: Vox Media to lay off around 50 staff members (The Hollywood Reporter); The Atlantic to add 100 jobs (Axios); Sinclair Broadcast Group plans to sell Tribune Media’s TV stations in New York and Chicago to comply with FCC ownership limits (Variety); Google drops support for the meta news keywords tag (Search Engine Land); BBC’s VR Hub launches its first news documentary to explore the water politics of the river Nile (


How to write about weed without sounding high: Surveying the past, present, and future of marijuana journalism (The Outline)

By the end of the 2018, more than 100 million people will live in jurisdictions where it’s legal to smoke marijuana. As it becomes increasingly available to the adult population, an evolution in the way the media thinks and writes about cannabis — and by extension, the way the public conversation forms around it — is underway, writes Kieran Delamont. A new generation of journalists who write about the cannabis industry are overhauling what many saw as the activist, stoner fixations, and trying to develop a new genre of cannabis journalism and criticism that carries the stature of its counterparts in the food and travel industries.


Media and human rights groups call Philippine president’s move to ban journalists from his palace a threat to press freedom (Agence France-Presse)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to ban a critical news website from covering the presidential palace is a threat to press freedom, rights and media groups said on Wednesday. Rappler, set up in 2012, is among a clutch of Philippine news organisations that have sparred with Duterte over their critical coverage of his drug war which the government says has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 suspects. Duterte’s spokesman said the president had decided to bar Rappler journalists from covering his events due to a “lack of trust.” US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said the move “threatens media freedoms.”


Smartphone detox: How to power down In a wired world (NPR)

The average adult checks their phone 50 to 300 times each day, according to David Greenfield, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut. And smartphones use psychological tricks that encourage our continued high usage — some of the same tricks slot machines use to hook gamblers. “For example, every time you look at your phone, you don’t know what you’re going to find — how relevant or desirable a message is going to be,” Greenfield says. “So you keep checking it over and over again because every once in a while, there’s something good there.”  


How can we regulate our savage market for instant news? (The Guardian)

Russian interference engine the Internet Research Agency and the FBI’s failure to investigate the Florida mass shooter are both striking examples of how a sprawling information infrastructure create effects with real consequences. These events come at a time when platform companies are debating how they can moderate the trillions of pieces of content that their users initiate every day, writes Emily Bell. It is not just a problem for social platforms either. News and media outlets have a similar challenge in understanding how they can — or should — report on a world where we are inching towards both the possibility of complete surveillance and the threat of continual information manipulation.

+ Earlier: The Facebook Armageddon: The social network’s increasing threat to journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)


What happens when athletes do the sportswriting? (The New York Times)

The Players’ Tribune, founded in October 2014 by the former Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, along with the sports-marketing executive Jaymee Messler, exists so pro athletes have an outlet in which to express themselves. The athletes write their own stories. For sports media, it was a way to grin in the face of the existential fear they’d lived with ever since social media forever changed their industry. Twitter and Instagram had already conditioned athletes to communicate with the public directly. Might they, the middlemen and middlewomen, one day be cut out altogether? Wouldn’t athletes simply tell the same tales of humdrum perseverance that they do in Gatorade commercials? Didn’t good writing still require good writers?

+ Media companies have a fake follower Twitter problem, too (Quartz)