Need to Know: Jan. 22, 2018

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


You might have heard: Facebook has long said that it is not a media company (Business Insider) and tried to avoid making editorial judgment on Facebook content (Fortune)

But did you know: Facebook will survey users on which news sources they trust, trying to rank news organizations on ‘trustworthiness’ (The Atlantic)
Facebook announced on Friday that it will try to rank news organizations on “trustworthiness” by surveying users on which news sources they trust, using the results to increase or decrease distribution. Notably, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t provide many details on how these surveys would be conducted, but Alexis Madrigal writes that it is clear that Facebook has decided it will not create an editorial process for rating news sources. Some questions that are still outstanding: Will the surveys be the sole determinant of a publication’s “trustworthiness”? How was the survey designed, and were experts consulted? Will there be a human review process, and who will be a part of it? Will media organizations know and be able to contest their ratings? Will Facebook link their guesses about users’ ideologies to their ratings of news sources?

+ “This is an interesting and tricky thing for us to pursue because I don’t think we can decide what sources of news are trusted and what are not trusted, the same way I don’t think we can’t decide what is true and what is not,” Facebook’s head of news feed Adam Mosseri told WSJ (Wall Street Journal)

+ Noted: L.A. Times publisher Ross Levinsohn is voluntarily taking a leave of absence while Tronc investigates allegations of workplace misconduct in his former jobs (Wall Street Journal); L.A. Times employees vote to unionize, with 248 voting in favor and 44 voting against (Huffington Post); Google suspended a feature that displayed fact-checks associated with news publishers after receiving criticism from conservative outlets (Poynter); Twitter will email more than 670,000 users who interacted with tweets from Russia’s Internet Research Agency (Twitter Public Policy); Vox will produce a docuseries for Netflix on the aftermath of the Flint water crisis (Hollywood Reporter); Snapchat is trying to improve its relationships with publishers, naming a manager of media partnerships and announcing a publisher summit (Digiday)


How Vox uses Facebook Groups as a way to build community (Solution Set)
Facebook’s news feed changes to emphasize “meaningful interactions” between friends and family can be an opportunity for publishers, Joseph Lichterman writes: “Facebook’s move provides an opportunity for publishers to step back from blindly pursuing scale and massive audiences and instead develop genuine connections with their communities both on and off Facebook.” Lichterman digs into how Vox has used Facebook Groups for this purpose. Some highlights: Vox has learned that they need to be present in the group to cultivate a sense of community and build trust, and creating a plan for content early on can be a way to get conversations started.

+ “One of the things I’m really interested in is whether the change can benefit us by tightening our focus on engagement. The guidance given to engage through the comments is encouraging,” Bloomberg’s global head of audience engagement Meena Thiruvengadam says on the news feed changes. “To have a platform say it will prioritize engagement and the conversations we have with users is a great reminder to put our audience at the center of the content experience we’re creating. We can shift a bit, even if it’s just saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got an update to this story’ in the thread of the comments, rather than in a new post.” (Nieman Lab)


By ordering Rappler to close, the Philippine government is showcasing its new method of controlling the media: Using commercial disputes and regulatory power against media companies seen as ‘enemies’ (The Splice Newsroom)
When the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission effectively shut down Rappler last week, the Philippine government was effectively showing off its new strategy for controlling media organizations, Manuel Quezon writes: “It uses commercial disputes and the regulatory power of the state as tactics in a war against media owners perceived as enemies of the incumbent [president Rodrigo Duterte],” he argues. “As interesting and ripe for judicial exploration as this may be, the here and now presents a chilling time for Philippine media outlets as they strive to report on a range of stories Duterte would rather they didn’t cover in depth, such as the rampant killings in the war on drugs.”


How to communicate your strategic priorities to people outside your organization (MIT Sloan Management Review)
When it comes to communicating an organization’s strategic priorities, leaders tend to focus internally, making sure managers and employees are on the same page. And while that’s important, it’s oftentimes just as important to communicate that strategy to an organization’s external stakeholders as well. “A clear strategy can attract potential investors, employees, or external partners who buy into that direction and are willing to bet on its success,” researchers Donald Sull, Stefano Turconi, and Charles Sull explain. “When strategic priorities are linked to explicit metrics, furthermore, they have a framework for evaluating a company’s progress toward its desired destination, in a way that more abstract guidelines, like a vision or mission, cannot.”


Trying to protect its image as a maturing brand worthy of a $5.7 billion valuation, Vice tried to address its culture problems ahead of the NYT story (Vanity Fair)
Before The New York Times published a story on Vice’s culture around sexual harassment in December, Joe Pompeo reports that the company tried to address concerns about its culture. Vice was aware of its culture problems, Pompeo writes, and had been moving away from “raunchy, shock-value reputation that long defined the brand” in favor of documentary-style reporting. In part, Vice was trying to protect this new reputation — and its $5.7 billion valuation, which was revealed in June 2017.


‘Once a pregnant teen, an editor takes on a new challenge: Saving local news in her hometown’ (Washington Post)
When Robyn Tomlin was in high school, a teacher tried to convince her to drop out. She went on to graduate in 1989, eight months pregnant with her first child. Margaret Sullivan profiles Tomlin’s “sometimes rocky path to the career triumph” before she becomes the top editor of The (Raleigh) News & Observer early next month. “It’s a heavy load, more so because I care so much about these communities,” Tomlin, who is from nearby Chapel Hill, says about her new job. “The area itself is growing like crazy, and it’s an area that really needs and deserves strong local coverage.”