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Need to Know: June 30, 2017

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


You might have heard: Donald Trump and ‘Morning Joe’ have a long and ugly feud that just got even uglier following a series of tweets yesterday about Mika Brzezinski (The Washington Post)

But did you know: Trump is seizing the advantage in his war with the media (Politico)

As he escalates his attacks on the “failing media,” Trump and his allies are increasingly convinced that recent evidence, including the retracted CNN piece on an aspect of the Russia investigations, will prove to skeptical voters that the mainstream media has a vendetta against the administration, writes Hadas Gold. Conservative outlets and allies of the president also trumpeted Sarah Palin’s libel suit against The New York Times. The attacks marked an escalation of Trump’s strategy of citing media bias to rally conservatives and undecided voters around the idea that the investigations of Russian influence in the 2016 election are media-driven and politically motivated.

+ Noted: The International Fact-Checking Network received a $1.3 million grant from the Omidyar Network and the Open Society Foundations to expand its work (Poynter); Twitter is looking for ways to let users flag fake news, offensive content (The Washington Post); News Corp’s conservative digital media site Heat Street will be shuttered as a standalone operation on Aug. 4 and become part of MarketWatch (BuzzFeed); Greta Van Susteren parts ways with MSNBC after her 6 p.m. show fails to gain traction (Vanity Fair); New York Times employees stage temporary walkout to protest copy desk staff reduction (Poynter)


The week in fact-checking

As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes fake news in Kenya’s election, how library users can navigate fake news, the capability to fake audio and video is on the horizon, and why the chance that misinformation will go viral is high.

+ New research: The characteristics of news stories that help attack misinformation



Bringing Buddha to the newsroom: media with mindfulness (Columbia Journalism Review)

Journalism’s institutions are late to adopt mindfulness, a practice of developing an awareness of our thoughts (often through meditation) that at its best can make us more reflective, more empathic, and less reactive, writes Melanie Faizer. Already well integrated into many established organizations and corporations, including Aetna, Target, Google, and the World Bank, to name a few, it has been shown to reduce stress, and to improve both performance and corporate social responsibility. Yet little has been said about how mindfulness could enable better storytelling.


BBC News is betting on Instagram Stories over Snapchat (Digiday)

BBC News is getting more ambitious with off-platform distribution, particularly for video. But for now, that strategy is fixed on Instagram, with a following of 3.8 million and climbing. Since Instagram upped the maximum length on a video from 15 seconds to one minute 15 months ago, more publishers have prioritized video over photos on the platform. The BBC is no exception, publishing 154 videos compared to 12 photo posts on its BBC News account in May, according to NewsWhip data. Typically, BBC News’ live Instagram Stories get an average of 100,000 views, with around half of those watching to the end, according to Mark Frankel, social media editor at BBC News. The biggest challenge for BBC News is connecting with the younger audiences that view traditional news broadcasters as part of the “establishment” and not connected with what they’re interested in or believe in, said Frankel. “We’re still figuring out how to get the balance right.”

+ With $500,000 in funding, the UK’s Full Fact is building two automated fact-checking tools for journalists (; Wall Street Journal to cut back print outside the US (The Financial Times)


How Instagram used an AI system that mimics the way language works in our brains to block offensive comments (Wired)

Last June Facebook announced that it had built a text classification engine to help machines interpret words in context. The system, called DeepText, is based on recent advances in artificial intelligence and a concept called word embeddings, which means it is designed to mimic the way language works in our brains. When the system encounters a new word, it does what we do and tries to deduce meaning from all the other words around it. White, for instance, means something completely different when it’s near the words snow, Sox, House, or power. DeepText is designed to operate the way a human thinks, and to improve over time, like a human too. DeepText was built as an in-house tool that would let Facebook engineers quickly sort through mass amounts of text, create classification rules, and then build products to help users.


CNN punished three journalists for missteps on a Trump-Russia story. Did it overreact? (The Washington Post)

Some hailed the move as welcome accountability. James Risen of the New York Times, though, says, “CNN doesn’t seem willing to show the kind of courage required to back up your people who do difficult investigative reporting,” Margaret Sullivan writes there are firing offenses in journalism: Plagiarism, fabrication, serious conflicts of interest or, as in a recent Wall Street Journal reporter’s firing, making business deals with a source. But failing to go through channels on a thinly sourced story — the substance of which has not been proved wrong? “The punishment certainly doesn’t seem to fit the crime,” Lydia Polgreen, editor in chief of Huffington Post, told me. “And that’s likely to have a chilling effect on a lot of other reporters who are trying to get as close to the truth as possible.” Sullivan says if there’s more to this situation, CNN should tell the public, modeling the same kind of transparency the news media wants from government officials.


Trump bump in subscriptions wanes for publishers (Digiday)

Trump’s unexpected victory (and media bashing) has been a boon for subscription-driven publications that have seen record sign-ups in the months after the U.S. election. Six months since Trump took the oath of office, though, the growth has leveled off for Slate and others. “There was a point where it was hard to get people to pay attention to anything that wasn’t about Donald Trump,” said Gabe Roth, head of Slate Plus. “It was that first three months when people were startled and shocked by the result of the election. That kind of immediate urgency had ended.”

+ How to spot a fake TIME cover (TIME); How news organizations, including The Dallas Morning News, unintentionally misinformed the public on guns (The Dallas Morning News)


+ Q&A: The New Yorker’s Susan Orlean on the art of not prepping for interviews (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Can Megyn Kelly outrun her NBC “nightmare?” (Vanity Fair)

+ Widely considered the best “scoop” reporter covering the NBA, Adrian Wojnarowski explains his decision to leave Yahoo Sports and join ESPN (For the Win)

+ Why I’m devoting a year to helping black newspapers survive (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Inside the Facebook team that’s charged with keeping publishers happy (Digiday)

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