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Need to Know: Jan. 5, 2018

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


You might have heard: Representing President Trump, lawyer Charles Harder demanded publisher Henry Holt and Co. “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of Michael Wolff’s upcoming book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” (Washington Post); Hours later, the publishing company moved the book’s release up to Friday due to “unprecedented demand” (CNN Media)

But did you know: ‘How true Is Michael Wolff’s White House exposé?’ (New York Observer)
Ahead of the release of Wolff’s book, Trump and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were already sparring over excerpts from the book published by The Guardian. But how much of Wolff’s exposé is fact? Francesca Friday explains that Wolff is a seasoned media veteran, as well as “no stranger to Trump’s inner circle.” Some parts of the book are “to be taken more lightly,” Friday writes, but the book does contain some serious allegations.

+ “The excerpts published so far leave little doubt: The book suggests that President Trump is unstable and raises alarms about his fitness for office,” Brian Stelter writes. “Wolff’s sourcing and methods have already come under scrutiny, but much of what he’s writing is just affirming what other journalists have already reported.” (CNN Media)

+ Noted: Former Anniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers steps down as the chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co. after a former Star reporter said Ayers sexually harassed her in the 1970s (; Results from Los Angeles Times’ union vote on Thursday are expected to be announced on Jan. 19 (New York Times); The FCC releases the full text of the order overturning net neutrality, with comments from Ajit Pai, Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr in support and Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn in opposition (Recode); The Tech & Check Cooperative at Duke University’s Reporters’ Lab will test live fact-checks during the State of the Union on Jan. 30 (Nieman Lab)


The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes how climate change deniers are gaming Google’s ad business, laws that could require news literacy classes in schools, and the cure for the addictive powers of “fake news.”


Tools for rebuilding trust in media: Messaging apps to break filter bubbles, indicators of healthy conversations and tools to ask questions (Nieman Reports)
Nieman fellow Maria Ramirez says there’s reason to be optimistic about trust in media. As part of that, Ramirez says journalists have an important role to play in improving conversations on social media. Ramirez suggests five tools for improving people’s trust in the media: Messaging apps as a way to break people’s filter bubbles, indicators of healthy conversations on social media, filters for what you see on social, tools to ask questions, and audio as a way to slow down.


‘Internet users in China expect to be tracked. Now, they want privacy’ (New York Times)
Marketers in China are running into a problem: Internet users in China, long used to the idea of being tracked, have a growing sense of personal privacy. “The country’s largest internet companies, and the government itself, have gathered ever more data on internet users,” Paul Mozur explains on the shift. “While Chinese culture does not emphasize personal privacy and Chinese internet users have grown accustomed to surveillance and censorship, the anger represents a nascent, but growing, demand for increased privacy and data protections online. Fueled in part by widespread internet fraud and personal information theft, the call for privacy, if it continues, could become a major challenge to China’s internet titans, and eventually to the cyber-authoritarian aspirations of the Chinese government itself.”


The tough decisions on when to warn people about ‘super bugs’ (Fast Company)
Google’s Project Zero group discovered a major vulnerability in modern processors with Meltdown and Spectre, which could affect any computing device manufactured in the last 20 years. But when Google discovered this, they were in a tricky position: Notify too many people too soon, and the vulnerability could be exploited; or sit on the information too long, and the threat will remain open. And, how do you get the necessary information in the right hands without inadvertently letting people who might use it maliciously know too? Here’s what Google did in this case: They notified Intel first, and then notified Amazon and Microsoft (which use Google’s Project Zero research) and required the companies to sign non-disclosure agreements to prevent patch info from getting out.


Will Facebook remove publishers’ posts from the news feed? Here’s how to prepare for the possibility (Simon Galperin, Medium)
Some are expecting that in 2018 Facebook will remove publishers’ posts from its main news feed and place them in a secondary news feed, similar to a test it conducted in five countries last year. While Facebook has not confirmed that it will be doing this worldwide, GroundSource’s Simon Galperin suggests that it’s a good idea for publishers to start preparing for the possibility now. How to do that: Develop alternate channels to connect directly with your readers, optimize your work for sharing, cultivate Facebook groups, work together with other publishers to share each others’ content, and think about adding new revenue streams that aren’t dependent on Facebook traffic.


The podcasts about media you should be listening to this year (
In 2018, there’s a plethora of podcasts for people looking for in-depth analysis and discussion on issues in the media industry. Here’s some podcasts to try out this year: CJR’s “The Kicker” interviews people who have worked on interesting projects and influential people about their careers and publications; “It’s All Journalism” talks about the constantly changing state of the media industry; The “BBC Academy Podcast” helps journalists craft their skills in broadcast and technology; and “The Tip Off” goes behind the scenes of investigative projects in the U.K.


+ “We’ve been told that facts have lost their power, that debunking lies only makes them stronger, and that the internet divides us. Don’t believe any of it.” (Slate)

+ Is private equity ownership part of local news’ economic problems? “Private equity has been gobbling up newspapers across the country and systematically squeezing the life out of them to produce windfall profits, while the papers last. The cost to democracy is incalculable,” Robert Kuttner and Hildy Zenger write (American Prospect)

+ In 2018, Farhad Manjoo says we should “get ready for even more events that don’t follow the rational course, and narratives that appear unmoored from the laws of politics, business and science. The background sensation of uncertainty that has pervaded much of the last two years isn’t going to abate.” (New York Times)

+ Former NYT reporter James Risen details his struggle with both the White House and NYT editors as he covered the War on Terror: “Overall, I do believe that the fight inside the Times over the NSA story helped usher in a new era of more aggressive national security reporting at the paper. Since then, the Times has been much more willing to stand up to the government and refuse to go along with White House demands to hold or kill stories.” (The Intercept)

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