Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: March 1, 2018

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: “For journalism it truly is the best of times and the worst of times. The best, in that never has there been more opportunity for creative storytelling, audience expansion, and crafting or grasping new digital tools for whatever needs arise. The worst, in that news organizations are often unable to seize the opportunities at their fingertips,” API wrote in a report on newsroom culture in 2015

But did you know: There’s a crisis of trust in journalism — inside our newsrooms, where employees are distrustful of management (CJR)
“Turmoil is currently engulfing The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Time Inc., NPR, and others — enough in fact to mark this moment as one in which internal civil wars are threatening to break out unless something changes,” Heidi N. Moore writes. “And the only thing that will fix it is a wholesale reckoning with newsroom culture that many newsrooms have long ignored and only just started to address.” The industry’s economic problems have caused quick shifts in strategy at news organizations over the last few years. And Moore argues that has fostered wariness inside newsrooms — which we’re seeing through unionization efforts, claims of sexual harassment and lawsuits over equal pay. These problems are fixable, Moore writes, but media executives and management need to want to fix the problem. That starts with three steps, Moore says: Acknowledge the tensions, listen to what employees are saying, and address the problems.

+ Noted: Hope Hicks is resigning as White House communications director (New York Times); Vogue is breaking off an editorial collaboration with Vice “after multiple sponsors got cold feet” following reporting into Vice’s culture and allegations of sexual harassment (WWD); UNITY is dissolving effective March 30 (UNITY); Penske Media, which bought a controlling stake in Rolling Stone in December, sold a minority stake to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (New York Post); Ebony magazine agreed to pay freelancers nearly $80,000 to settle a lawsuit over unpaid work going back two years (Chicago Tribune)

TRY THIS AT HOME

How can facial recognition technology help newsrooms? (BBC News Labs, Medium)
BBC News Labs has developed an in-house facial recognition tool called FaceRec. How can facial recognition technology help newsrooms? To test out the tool, the BBC used FaceRec to identify “the most important people” in raw video footage, plus tested out FaceRec with some of its newsroom teams. Some ideas from their research: The tool is better at suggesting faces rather than recognizing, and the tool could be to speed up the process of “[picking] out the exact person the journalist wants to quote or feature in a range of different shots.”

+ “Want to get into events? Start small” (Poynter)

OFFSHORE

3 publications are suing the EU over allegations that they publish ‘fake news’ (Poynter)
Three publishers are suing the EU, claiming they were mistakenly labeled as “disinforming outlets.” Those three publishers — Dutch blogs GeenStijl.nl and TPO.nl and regional newspaper De Gelderlander — say in the suit that the EUvsDisinfo project should remove the labels and publish a correction, plus pay a fine of €20,000 per day that the content remains online. “De Gelderlander is just a normal mainstream regional newspaper owned by a larger publishing organization,” says Maarten Schenk, who runs the debunking site Lead Stories in Belgium and who first reported on the lawsuit. All three publishers were flagged for a negative stories about Ukraine — and as of publication, all stories except De Gelderlander’s story were removed from the EUvsDisinfo database.

OFFBEAT

YouTube is starting to take down conspiracy theorist channels and popular gun videos (The Outline)
Since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, YouTube has removed and banned “a considerable number of the most egregious conspiracy peddlers and alt-righters from its ranks,” Paris Martineau reports. After months of criticism around its moderation, YouTube has issued “warning strikes” and handed out partial suspensions to a number of other channels, too. “A number of users on Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere have claimed that YouTube has also began banning gun-related channels en masse,” Martineau reports. Channels that have received a partial suspension or strike include InfoWars and BakedAlaska; channels that have been totally banned include Anti-School and Charles Walton.

+ The channel of American neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, which has been linked to several murders, was banned for violating YouTube’s hate speech policies (MotherBoard)

UP FOR DEBATE

Americans are susceptible to being manipulated online because ‘there’s been no effort’ to modernize tech policy or privacy laws (Nieman Lab)
“There’s been very little psychology work done looking at this from an engagement perspective, looking at the effect of seeing things in the News Feed but not clicking out. Very few people actually click out of Facebook,” Tow Center researcher Jonathan Albright says in conversation with Nieman Lab about “disintegrating reality” online. “We really need social psychology, we really need humanities work to come in and pick up the really important pieces. What are the effects of someone seeing vile or conspiracy news headlines in their News Feed from their friends all day? … It’s the biggest problem ever, in my opinion, especially for American culture. … Those Russian statements about how Americans are impressionable and they’re easy to manipulate are largely true. It’s not because Americans are stupid, but because there’s been no effort to get ahead of the curve in terms of technological policy or privacy laws. There’s no protection for Americans or researchers right now. We’re fighting everything.”

SHAREABLE

Wichita State University’s student newspaper could have its funding cut in half next year. Is it retaliation for critical coverage? (The Wichita Eagle)
In next year’s proposed budget, Wichita State University’s student newspaper, The Sunflower, could have its funding cut in half — a move its editor believes is retaliation for the paper’s critical and aggressive coverage of university leaders. “It’s going to be devastating,” editor Chance Swaim says. “If they want a little newsletter, then that’s what it will become. … But if they want an actual student newspaper, this funding model would destroy that –—which I think is intentional.” WSU’s student body president says the cut “has nothing to do with coverage,” and was determined by examining student-fee funding levels for newspapers at other state universities.

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