Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: July 11, 2017

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


You might have heard: Research from API and AP-NORC finds that Americans are skeptical of “the news media” in the abstract, but generally trust the news they rely on

But did you know: 85 percent of Republicans say the news media has a negative effect on ‘the way things are going in the country,’ Pew finds (Pew Research Center)
New research from the Pew Research Center finds that “Republicans and Democrats offer starkly different assessments of the impact of several of the nation’s leading institutions” — including the news media. Pew found that 85 percent of Republicans say the news media has a negative effect on “the way things are going in the country,” compared to 44 percent of Democrats. That perception has been growing among Republicans over the past few years, Pew says: In 2010, 68 percent of Republicans said the news media had a negative effect; two years ago, that number was 76 percent. And among Democrats, support for the news media has been growing: Since just last August, the share of Democrats holding a positive view has increased by 11 percentage points, when 33 percent of Democrats said news media has a positive effect.

+ Noted: Publishers are starting to consider watch time over views when it comes to video metrics, acknowledging that “views can happen by accident” (Digiday); Time Inc. vice chairman Norman Pearlstine will retire from the company at the end of the year, and will go on to act as an advisor to “early-stage media firms” (Variety); A new study from University of Southern California finds that “bots have turned Twitter into a powerful political disinformation platform”: The study found that 20 percent of Twitter bots that were spreading propaganda against Emmanuel Macron were also used to spread misinformation in favor of Trump (VentureBeat)


Ideas for building a better recommendation experience for mobile news readers (Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab)
“What’s missing from [current forms of] content recommendation methods now is that they don’t live up to the promise of giving readers content clearly keyed to their interests,” Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab’s Madeline Welsh writes. “A product based largely on a user’s manual preferences as they have indicated them is interesting, but limited.” Instead, Welsh proposes: “What if the user could access a set of recommendations, each of which would be relevant, through doing nothing more than simply consuming news as they would normally, allowing a recommendation engine to begin to ‘learn’ more about the user? …  Instead of asking ‘when do you want this,’ what if Yahoo asked, ‘when do you want this and how much time do you have to read it?’ Reading time then becomes another element of the recommendation. Using various signals from their mobile phone, we might be able to gauge how much content a user would prefer and add that to what we know about them.”


A new global survey on the state of data journalism finds that most data journalists don’t have formal training in data (
The first Global Data Journalism survey aims to analyze the current state of data journalism worldwide, surveying 181 journalists from 43 countries. The initial results from the survey were released last week at the European Data and Computational Journalism Conference. Among the survey’s findings: When asked about the structure of data journalism in their organizations, 46 percent of survey respondents said they had a dedicated data journalism team, and 70 percent of those people said that team consisted of fewer than five members. And, only half of survey participants said they had formal training in data journalism, though 62 percent said they received “an undergraduate-level of formal training in journalism itself.”

+ Creating a better data journalism team: OjoPúblico founder/editor Fabiola Torres López says diversity of skill sets on a team should be more important than the team’s size, each team member should have a clear role but also should not be limited in their tasks, and ongoing training should be part of the team’s routine (Global Investigative Journalism Network); Earlier: Our Strategy Study on how to get started or go deeper with data journalism in your newsroom


The boardroom’s largest untapped resource is the female brain, a neuroscientist says (Business Insider)
Given that men far outnumber women in CEO positions, neuroscientist Tara Swart argues boardrooms are severely lacking characteristics that are more common in females, including empathy, intuition, and creativity. “The boardroom’s largest untapped resource is the female brain,” Swart said an event last week called “The Dark Side of Business” in London. “In my experience — nine years of consulting — the best leader that I’ve ever seen was a woman … She was firm but definitely understood what was going on interpersonally. It’s not about being compassionate — it’s about understanding what’s going on between pairs or groups of people.” Swart explains what causes these characteristics to be more common in females, and how bringing more women into positions of power can help businesses.


The newspaper industry is asking Congress for the right collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook. If they get the right, will the platforms be able to fix what they’re broken? (The Atlantic)
“We’ve just seen the consequences of the strange information ecosystem Facebook and Google have created,” Alexis Madrigal writes, pointing to the role of platforms in spreading “fake news” leading up to the presidential election. But Madrigal argues it will be difficult to get Congress to help with this issue. “The good news is that Facebook and Google, both the individuals inside of them and the corporate structures, may finally want to help the business of journalism. The bad news is that, at this point, these two companies may not be able to fix what they’ve broken.”

+ News Media Alliance (which is leading the call to Congress) CEO David Chavern argues: “The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together. If they open a unified front to negotiate with Google and Facebook—pushing for stronger intellectual-property protections, better support for subscription models and a fair share of revenue and data—they could build a more sustainable future for the news business” (Wall Street Journal)


A NYT Pulitzer Prize-winning story serves as a case study in how foreign correspondents re-report stories by local media (BuzzFeed News)
In December 2016, The New York Times published a story by Andrew Kramer on how Russia recruits elite hackers such as Aleksandr Vyarya, a story that went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. Steven Perlberg reports that NYT found this story because of a September 2015 story by Meduza reporter Daniil Turovsky, who interviewed Vyarya about how he refused to take a Russian government hacking job. “The dispute between Meduza and the Times reveals a dirty little secret of international reporting,” Perlberg writes. “Big news organizations can take the glory from small local publications that do much of the original, groundbreaking legwork.”

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