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Need to Know: Jan. 11, 2017

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


You might have heard: BuzzFeed published documents claimed to be compiled by a former British intelligence agent claiming that Donald Trump and his associates have deep ties to Russian spies and that Russia has “compromising information” on Trump (Recode)

But did you know: When publishing the documents, BuzzFeed should have explained what it’s doing to verify the claims in the documents (Poynter)
In a note to the staff explaining why BuzzFeed was publishing the documents, editor in chief Ben Smith said the decision reflects how BuzzFeed sees “the job of reporters in 2017.” But Poynter’s Kelly McBride argues otherwise: “Publishing an entirely unvetted document is a significant departure from the way editors of most significant publications would define the role of reporting. … The act of publishing the dossier in its entirety isn’t journalism. Vetting the document and determining its veracity? That’s the work of journalists in 2017, or any other year.” In its defense of the publication, McBride argues that BuzzFeed should have done more to explain what it’s doing to verify the claims and what in the documents has already been verified.

+ “We shouldn’t assume either that this is simply a ‘fake news’ episode directed at discrediting Trump or that the dam has now broken and the truth is coming out at last. We don’t know what the reality is here, and the better part of valor is not to get ahead ahead of the facts — a matter on which, incidentally, the press deserves a lot of credit,” Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey and Quinta Jurecic write (Lawfare)

+ Trump is calling on the House and Senate intelligence committees to investigate the leak of classified information to NBC News reports (Politico); Emily Bell: News organizations covering Trump should frame him as a media organization as  “Trump sees himself not just in opposition to the existing press but in competition with them, too” (CJR)

+ Noted: The Washington Post is creating a rapid-response investigations team that will work between newsroom departments to “dig deeply as breaking news provides targets of journalistic opportunity” (Washington Post); U.S. attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions says he hasn’t studied the current guidelines for investigations that involve media and won’t commit to not jailing journalists (Huffington Post); Wikimedia Foundation receives $3 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enable structured data on images, which will make images more easily searchable (Wikimedia Foundation); The New York Times launches a new section called “Smarter Living,” a service journalism section that offers life tips and advice (WWD)


22 ideas for ways to connect with your community (Poynter)
“With ad-blocking on the rise and advertising budgets shifting away from news, one of the most promising moneymaking frontiers seems to be reader-supported journalism,” Benjamin Mullin writes. With that in mind, Mullin asked people on Twitter to share their ideas for new ways newsrooms can connect with their communities. Some of the ideas: Crowdsource story ideas that your community is passionate about, offer tours of your newsroom, and use your internship program to bring a member of the community into the newsroom to learn more about how it works.

+ Ideas for how to get new traffic out of old content: Update older content with new information and dedicate an editor to finding relevant content from your archives (Digiday)


German officials are worried that Russia will interfere in their elections this fall and are proposing new measures to combat fake news (Christian Science Monitor)
Motivated by the fear that Russia will try to intervene in their own elections this fall, German officials are considering new measures to “hunt down and eradicate fake news or other false information from the internet,” including fining Facebook for fake news posts. Political parties in Germany have already been instructed to disable bots that automatically share stories to social media, because they can be easily manipulated into distributing propaganda. And, German officials’ fears are likely justified, German Marshall Fund’s senior transatlantic fellow for central and eastern Europe Joerg Forbrig says: “There is a strong expectation that Russia has already collected material that will be released closer to the elections.”

+ How Italy is dealing with fake news: While its prime minister vaguely hinted at legislative action late last month, Italian Competition Authority chairman Giovanni Pitruzzella says that EU countries should deal with “post-truth politics” by establishing antitrust-like agencies devoted to finding and removing fake news (Poynter)


How to decide which conferences are worth your time: Think about what opportunities you’re looking for and where there will be new people to connect with (Harvard Business Review)
Especially in the journalism industry, there’s no shortage of conferences you can attend — but not all conferences are necessarily worth your time. Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” shares his advice for how to pick the conferences that will be most beneficial for you. Among his advice: Think about where you are in your career and what opportunities you’re looking for by attending a conference, and think about where you closest professional relationships are and seek out conferences that will have new people to connect with.


Some publishers think Facebook’s plan to add mid-roll ads could hurt engagement (Digiday)
With reports that Facebook plans to add mid-roll ads 20 seconds into videos on the platform, Ross Benes reports that some publishers believe the ads could hurt engagement. But while Facebook has been encouraging publishers to post more videos, it’s offered limited options to monetize those videos — meaning that the announcement is also welcome in some ways. As for whether mid-roll ads will reduce engagement, media analyst Rebecca Lieb argues that “common sense would dictate that if a viewer has invested 20 seconds in a video, they’ll hang in there for the end.”


A new study says that journalism schools are leaving students unprepared for the legal issues they’ll see after graduation (Nieman Lab)
According to a new report by Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia and Fortune reporter Jeff John Roberts, journalism schools are leaving their students unprepared for legal issues. Roberts examined the syllabi of 12 media law courses at journalism schools, finding “the way law is taught lags greatly behind the realities of the media industry today — particularly in assumptions around reporters’ ability to defend themselves against legal threats.” Roberts found that these courses rarely teach digital legal topics, such as net neutrality, encryption, and the “right to be forgotten.” “In a sense, media law courses at journalism schools are subject to the same problem that some journalism schools face as a whole: an institutional bias towards print and broadcast reporting over today’s digital realities,” Ricardo Bilton writes.

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