Need to Know: Jan. 26, 2017

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


You might have heard: Facebook’s trending news section repeatedly featured fake news stories after it eliminated human editors in favor of an algorithm

But did you know: Facebook is changing its trending news feature to only include topics covered by ‘a significant number of credible publishers’ (Wall Street Journal)
In a move intended to curtail the spread of false information on the platform, Facebook is making a key change to how its trending news feature works. Starting Wednesday, Facebook’s trending news section will only include topics that have been covered by “a significant number of credible publishers.” Plus, the topics will no longer be personalized to each Facebook user, a change that WSJ reports could “puncture users’ so-called filter bubble and expose them to a variety of different news sources and events.”

+ Facebook’s VP of product management for trending Will Cathcart says that surfaced topics will also have a broad range of conversation, in addition to being covered by multiple outlets: “The key thing about the change is looking not just at the volume of conversation but the breadth of voices across the Facebook community, and across the different articles discussing the topic,” Cathcart says (BuzzFeed)

+ Meanwhile, Google has reportedly kicked more than 200 publishers off its AdSense network in the fourth quarter based on a policy that prohibits misleading information (CNBC)

+ More changes to look out for at Facebook: The company is testing news feed-style ads inside its Messenger app (Recode)

+ Noted: U.K.’s National Union of Journalists is calling on its members to tweet at President Trump to condemn the arrest of journalists covering protests on inauguration day (PressGazette); Salon Media is reportedly near a deal to sell a controlling stake in the company to Spear Point Capital, and Keith J. Kelly reports that if Spear Point is successful it will use its control of Salon to try to acquire (New York Post); Just a week after its official launch, Axios AM has nearly sold out of its 2017 ad inventory, with asking prices between $50k and $60k per week (Washington Post)


Should you characterize Trump’s statements as ‘lies’? NPR says no, because when you label statements as lies, ‘you push people away’ (NPR)
NPR’s senior vice president for news Michael Oreskes says that the organization has chosen not to use the word “lie” to characterize President Trump’s incorrect statements. “Our job as journalists is to report, to find facts, and establish their authenticity and share them with everybody. It’s really important that people understand that these aren’t our opinions. … These are things we’ve established through our journalism, through our reporting … and I think the minute you start branding things with a word like ‘lie,’ you push people away from you,” Oreskes says.

+ Other news organizations have made different decisions: The New York Times used the word “lie” in a headline about Trump’s statements that illegal votes cost him the popular election (New York Times) and as Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at UC-Berkeley, says, there’s plenty of other words you can use to describe these statements: “The language has a rich vocabulary for describing statements that fall short of the truth. They’re ‘baseless,’ they’re ‘bogus,’ they’re ‘lies,’ they’re ‘untruths’” (New York Times)

+ Earlier: Some news organizations are hesitant to use the word because “lying” assumes intent, and Trump’s intentionality cannot be assumed


How Scandinavian publisher Schibsted is centralizing its product team: ‘When we once did six A/B tests, we now do 900’ (Digiday)
Norway’s Schibsted has spent the last year centralizing its product team, bringing its 250 developers spread over several dozen brands under a central strategy. The benefit of a centralized team, VP of product management Espen Sundve explains, is that a bigger team means being able to take on bigger projects: “As media houses, we’re stronger together working toward a common mission: to create the best destination for news and a sustainable business model for digital publishers.”

+ A Swedish journalist is facing human trafficking charges after he says he helped a Syrian refugee travel from Greece to Sweden (The Local Sweden)


Building great teams is just as much as people’s personalities as it is about their skills (Harvard Business Review)
After analyzing interviews and data from more than 100 teams, Google found that the factors that most drive a group’s performance is their emotional intelligence and degree of communication. And wider scientific evidence suggests that people’s personalities are just as important to a team’s success as their skills are, Dave Winsborough and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic write. Winsborough and Chamorro-Premuzic explain that people’s personalities play into what role they play on the team, how they interact with the team, and how each team member’s values line up with the group’s as a whole. “A useful way to think about teams with the right mix of skills and personalities is to consider the two roles every person plays in a working group,” Winsborough and Chamorro-Premuzic explain: “A functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are.”


Are newspaper publishers ready for a digital-only future? Not quite yet, revenue numbers suggest (MediaShift)
Nearly all newspaper companies have undergone “digital-first” transformations, but few newspaper companies are “digital-first” in terms of revenue, Merja Myllylahti writes. At Gannett, only 35 percent of its revenue comes from digital; at NYT, that number is 24.7 percent, Myllylahti says. “News publishers could not move to digital-only without cutting their overall expenses, launching structural changes and/or disposing assets,” Myllylahti writes. “There is evidence that the digital transformation of some of the Western news publishers is well on its way, but there are still multiple problems still to solve. The digital march is advancing, but it seems that print newspapers, at least in the local markets, may well be more resilient that many have assumed.”


MuckRock has launched a Slack channel for journalists around the country to talk about FOIA issues under Trump (Poynter)
Just a few days before Trump’s inauguration, MuckRock launched a Slack channel for journalists to talk about covering Trump and FOIA issues under his administration. As of Wednesday, the channel had 250 members, half of which were from local newsrooms around the U.S. “Anytime we have a new administration, there’s turnover and there are changes. I always think it’s important for reporters to get an [understanding] of what that new administration’s priorities are. I think that’s true no matter who’s taking office,” said MuckRock’s co-founder Michael Morisy. You can learn more about the channel and sign up for it here.

+ USDA says that an email calling for the suspension of “public-facing documents,” including news releases, was flawed and it will be providing staff with updated guidelines (Reuters) and after Trump put gag orders on government agencies like the EPA, anonymous Twitter accounts are popping up, claiming to be government employees (The Verge); Meanwhile, the Sunlight Foundation is closely watching these incidents and trying to figure out how far media blackouts will go under Trump (Poynter) and news organizations such as ProPublica are publicizing how government employees can anonymously leak documents to them (ProPublica)