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Need to Know: May 19, 2017

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


You might have heard: We’ve scrutinized and normalized in almost equal proportion. For every great scoop, there’s been an embarrassing moment of declaring the president statesmanlike for giving a speech without a history-making gaffe,” Margaret Sullivan wrote on how the media covered the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency (Washington Post)

But did you know: In his first 100 days in office, coverage of President Trump dominated the media — and most of that coverage was negative (Shorenstein Center)
A new report from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University analyzes the news coverage of Trump’s first 100 days in office, finding Trump dominated news coverage and received three times the coverage of other presidents. The report also finds that Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about Trump’s presidency; Democrats accounted for 6 percent and those involved in anti-Trump protests accounted for 3 percent. Plus, the report says, “Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.”

+ Noted: Roger Ailes dies at 77 (Washington Post) and Michael Wolff says that prior to his death, Ailes was talking about launching a new right-wing news network (Hollywood Reporter); Sean Spicer is no longer expected to do a daily, on-camera briefing after Trump’s foreign trip and Trump may be weighing a larger shake-up of his communications (Politico); A segment on Samantha Bee’s show helps New Brunswick Today newspaper raise $20,000 (New Brunswick Today); Google says AMP is now used on more than 2 billion mobile pages on 900,000 domains: Expect AMP to include more ad formats and expand to e-commerce sites next (TechCrunch); The Atlantic launches a new homepage, emphasizing density and doubling its number of “above the fold” stories (The Atlantic); Medium is offering members audio versions of some of its stories (VentureBeat); Twitter updates its privacy policy to allow users to see which advertisers are targeting them (Marketing Land); Applications for ASNE’s Emerging Leaders Institute, a free leadership training program for people from diverse backgrounds, are due today (ASNE)


Fact-checking ‘S-Town’: 5 good questions with Benjamin Phelan
In its first month, the podcast “S-Town” was downloaded more than 40 million times, and if you’ve listened to all seven chapters, it might have seemed as if there were at least that many facts to check. We talked Ben Phelan, the researcher for “This American Life” who was tasked with the job of fact-checking “S-Town,” about the process of fact-checking a podcast, what prepared him for this type of fact-checking, and how he navigated the deluge of statements from John B. McLemore.

+ The week in fact-checking, including what other countries learned from the U.S.’s election coverage and whether avocado toast is really preventing Millennials from buying homes


Defining ‘success’ with engagement: Lessons from ProPublica (MediaShift)
ProPublica’s engagement team “evangelizes for metrics that have less to do with quantity on social and more to do with high-quality participation — which can begin on social media but develop further through on-site call-outs, forms and (a lot of) email.” Hearken’s Julia Haslanger talks to engagement editor Terry Parris, Jr., about how ProPublica defines “success” for its engagement projects: “We get to define metrics differently for every single project, and that’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. The only actual official dictate from above is impact. That’s a goal that can be totally unique to every project that we do,” Parris says, adding that it’s important to acknowledge the difference between “how you measure the success on a article page vs. how you measure success for an engagement project.”


A local newspaper in Norway is holding open meetings in its newsroom, trying to create a space for public debate (
Østlands-Posten, a local newspaper in Larvik, Norway, has been inviting people into its newsroom to talk about issues affecting the community and to discuss how the town can be improved. “We wanted to create a new scene where everyone could speak and where you were allowed to talk without someone interrupting you. This project aims to make people feel like they’re a part of the community again, and a part of democracy, and for them to trust us as a media organization,” explains Østlands-Posten’s Marthe Eveline Røsholt.


‘IBM, a pioneer of remote work, calls workers back to the office’ (Wall Street Journal)
Thousands of remote workers for IBM are being given a choice: “Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office — or leave the company,” John Simons writes. IBM is ending its decades-old, popular remote work program, choosing to bring employees back into the office to improve collaboration and pace of work. “IBM may be part of a broader rethink of remote work under way at large companies, as corporate leaders argue that putting workers in the same physical space hastens the speed of work and sparks innovation,” Simons writes. “Employers tread a fine line, however, since workers rate flexible-work programs highly, and research has found telecommuters often work more effectively than their cubicle-bound counterparts.”

+ IBM has been one of the strongest advocates for remote work, both for its employees and customers, offering software for what it calls “the anytime, anywhere workforce” and publishing research on the benefits of remote work: Just a few weeks ago, IBM’s Smarter Workforce blog said “teleworking works, and that associated challenges can be managed with careful planning and communication” (IBM Smarter Workforce Blog)


A negative take on theSkimm: The newsletter takes a patronizing tone toward its readers, treating them like ‘they’ve never read an article or looked at a map’ (Slate)
“theSkimm treats its readers like they’ve never read an article, looked at a map, or accidentally seen a CNN segment in their dentists’ waiting rooms. Its patronizing tone assumes that female news consumers tune out anything of import if it’s not processed through verbal eye-rolls. The very existence of such a service, especially one marketed specifically to women, is insulting. But it’s also scary as hell, because millions of people subscribe to this thing,” Christina Cauterucci writes on theSkimm. “Recognizing this truth forces non-Skimmers to grapple with the fact that dangerous people … do not only exist in the narrow space between shut-down coal mines and Waffle House parking lots. … They look like they’re catching up on work email on their bus commute, but they’re actually reading a newsletter that explains populism’s surge in the European Union as ‘Hunger Games minus JLaw.’”


A visualization of a month’s worth of breaking news alerts (Washington Post)
One of the factors that plays into how overwhelmed some of us feel with the news right now is that we get alerts sent to our phone anytime something happens, Philip Bump writes. To get a sense of how often alerts are sent, The Washington Post tracked a month’s worth of push notifications from 12 major news apps and created a visualization with the results. “If you feel like you’re constantly being barraged by news, it’s because you are,” Bump writes.


+ “Slack has made work, like the rest of the internet, a passive addiction,” Molly Fischer writes in her look at whether Slack has actually made our workdays more productive (New York Magazine)

+ “Teen magazines have always covered more than fashion. You just didn’t notice”: Julia Carpenter writes that the surprise around Teen Vogue publishing thoughtful political commentary is misguided, because teen magazines like Teen Vogue have a history of “pushing the envelope, embracing serious subjects and expanding their audience beyond, well, teens” (Washington Post)

+ A Q&A with NYT public editor Liz Spayd, who’s been criticized for being “inclined to write what she doesn’t know” (Deadspin) and “squandering the most important watchdog job in journalism” (Slate): “Anybody who has been in this job would readily say that you’re just constantly taking it from all sides. It’s the nature of the job. It’s not easy to be publicly criticized. People are always sort of ready to take aim and it just depends on what you’ve written,” Spayd says (The Atlantic)

+ The Internet’s personal essay boom is over, Jia Tolentino writes: “There’s a specific sort of ultra-confessional essay, written by a person you’ve never heard of and published online, that flourished until recently and now hardly registers. The change has happened quietly, but it’s a big one: a genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared” (New Yorker)

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