Need to Know: May 24, 2017

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


You might have heard: After slain DNC staffer Seth Rich’s family wrote a letter to the executive producer of Sean Hannity’s Fox News Show, pleading with the network to stop spreading an unproven conspiracy theory about an unsolved murder (CNN Money), Fox News issued a retraction on Tuesday for its story about Rich’s murder investigation (Fox News), while Hannity says that he’s “not discussing this matter at this time” (Mediaite)

But did you know: ‘Fox News’s retraction is a woefully inadequate response to its colossal mistake’ (Poynter)
While Seth Rich’s family applauded Fox News’ retraction, Kelly McBride says this was a “lame” effort as far as retractions go: Fox News did not include a correction, ”which would have gone a long way toward showing that the network learned from its mistake and was truly contrite.” Instead Fox News’ retraction failed to specify what about its reporting was inaccurate, doesn’t replace the bad information with accurate information, and doesn’t say who is being held accountable. “For the audience, good corrections build credibility and trust in a news provider, because consumers know there is recourse when they spot errors. For the newsroom, corrections help identify weak spots in the system of reporting and hold bad actors accountable,” McBride writes. “A news organization’s willingness to do corrections well is an indication of its dedication to the truth and accuracy. That wasn’t the case today.”

+ Noted: Jeff Bezos donates $1 million to the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press: The gift will be used to expand its legal and education support to more local news organizations (Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press); Facebook has a new tool called Audience Direct, which helps publishers sell targeted video ads (Business Insider); Scribd expands its subscription program to include “select articles” from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and some archival content from Financial Times (Nieman Lab); A new study from Stanford University finds that assigning a rating to a fact-check is not a scientific decision, and editors can shift their judgment over time (Poynter); International Center for Journalists is running a contest called TruthBuzz and is offering $10,000 as a grand prize for ideas on how to present fact-checks in more innovative ways: Entries are due by June 30 (International Center for Journalists)


When’s the best time to publish a story? Kya releases charts that explore that question (Kya)
Analytics firm Kya has released a series of charts with data on the best times to publish a story. According to Kya’s data, if your goal is to receive the most page views, the best time to publish a story is Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, time spent on stories starts to rise around noon and peaks between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Kya’s data also shows that Saturday and Sunday might be the worst days to publish stories, with the lowest levels of “engaged readers,” time spent and page views.

+ Research from suggests a story’s biggest traffic sources vary by its topic: Lifestyle and entertainment stories bring in a lot of referral traffic from Facebook, while tech, sports and business see most of their traffic coming from Google (


European Union ministers approve a plan to make social media networks tackle hate speech (Reuters)
European Union ministers approved proposals on Tuesday designed to force tech companies such as Facebook and Google to do something about hate speech on their platforms. The proposals still need to be approved by European Parliament before becoming law. The proposals take special aim at videos, requiring the platforms to take measures to block videos containing hate speech, incitement to hatred and content justifying terrorism. Notably, the proposals don’t extend to videos that are live-streamed, but just videos stored on a platform.


‘Typography isn’t just catchy visuals. It can also be dangerous.’ (Backchannel)
“Typography usually strives to be invisible, but recently it’s become a mark of sophistication for readers to notice it and have an opinion,” writes Ben Hersh. “Typography can silently influence: It can signify dangerous ideas, normalize dictatorships, and sever broken nations. In some cases it may be a matter of life and death. And it can do this as powerfully as the words it depicts.” Hersh breaks down the history of blackletter typography, where we see it in culture, and why we don’t use it anymore — and how that relates to the kinds of typography we see used by politicians today.


ISIS has a media strategy, and news organizations’ coverage of terrorist attacks often plays right into it (BuzzFeed News)
“ISIS has a media strategy, and unfortunately, it is aimed exactly at generating this type of coverage. In fact, this media strategy is instinctively shared with other sensational mass killers — school shooters, white-supremacist terrorists, and others,” Zeynep Tufekci writes. “They crave the distorted infamy they hope they will get after their death; they carefully prepare manifestos they hope will be published; they record videos they hope will be played on loop on cable TV. … People on social media have gotten better and better at this. I follow thousands of people across the political spectrum on various platforms for work, and most people have gotten wise to the game: This time around, practically the only pictures of injured or dead people from the Manchester attack I saw were attached to tweets and videos from outlets like BBC and CNN. The people are way ahead of mass media in understanding and countering this sick game of attention and horror. And it’s time for mass media to catch up.”

+ “There are times journalists should become the story,” Lewis Wallace argues in the wake of stories such as a queer public radio reporter in Tennessee being fired after legislators complained about a bathroom bill story (Current). “It strikes me that each of these recent cases of journalists becoming the news have something in common: The journalist’s personal identity and lived experience were a part of the very ‘public issue’ being debated.” (CJR)


How leaky are the paywalls at prominent news organizations? (CJR)
To get a sense of how “leaky” paywalls are, CJR tested the paywalls at three daily newspapers and five magazines: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Nation, Foreign Policy, Harvard Business Review, and The Information. All but one of these had some form of a hole, and six out of the eight paywalls allowed for some form of unlimited exception — allowing a non-subscriber to read widely. Some of the common ways to get around the paywalls included coming in from a search engine or social media, manipulating the cookie files, and using the browser’s private mode.

+ In the latest version of its iPhone app, Quartz is letting its users take a break from Trump news: Users can turn on a “24-hour political timeout” in the form of a feature called Trump Snooze, and they won’t be shown any news or notifications about Trump for 24 hours (Nieman Lab)