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Need to Know: Nov. 29, 2017

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


You might have heard: The Washington Post published off-the-record conversations with a woman connected to Project Veritas who falsely claimed she was impregnated as a teenager by Roy Moore: Marty Baron said the Post published the conversations because “we can’t honor an ‘off-the-record’ agreement that was solicited in maliciously bad faith” (Washington Post)

But did you know: ‘Newspeople used to joke that readers should never be allowed to see how the sausage is made. Now we need to show that messy process as clearly as possible’ (Washington Post)
“Far greater journalistic transparency is required now. And we’re seeing more of it,” Margaret Sullivan writes. “When BuzzFeed made it clear, as it broke the news about Rep. John Conyers Jr.’s sexual-harassment settlement, that its information came from the far-right media figure Mike Cernovich, it protected itself and helped its readers. When The Post clearly laid out how it got its original [Roy] Moore story — that reporters found and persuaded women to tell their stories — it makes its journalism more bulletproof. Newspeople used to joke that readers should never be allowed to see how the sausage is made. Now we need to show that messy process as clearly as possible. Our very credibility depends on it.”

+ Video was essential for The Washington Post’s debunking of Project Veritas, but what will proof look like in an era of doctored visuals? “Solid journalism is important, but so is figuring out other ways to show your work — and your confrontations — beyond video that could be manipulated not too far in the future. The Post’s David Fahrenthold showed his work through tweeted pictures of his handwritten research on a legal pad, and he won a Pulitzer. How can journalists fight fake news without relying on video or audio recording to tell the truth?” (Nieman Lab)

+ Noted: “Today” show host Matt Lauer is fired by NBC over sexual harassment allegation (New York Times); NPR’s chief news editor David Sweeney leaves the company after harassment allegations: Senior editor Edith Chapin will move to executive editor (NPR); FCC chair Ajit Pai says that the platform companies are using the “regulatory process to cement their dominance in the internet economy” and pose a bigger threat to online speech than ISPs (Politico); 35 publishers, including Hearst, Washington Post and The Atlantic, are committed to trying TrustX, a programmatic ad exchange with a “human-viewable guarantee” (AdExchanger); Bustle’s founder Bryan Goldberg says the company is on track to bring in $45 million in revenue this year (Wall Street Journal)


How to ethically write about Nazis: Put the movement, their claims and their beliefs into context (Poynter)
Documenting the presence and activities of Nazis is a delicate balancing act, Kelly McBride writes: “Give the Nazis too much attention and you normalize or glorify their repugnant beliefs. Ignore them completely, and you spend a lot of time catching up when they finally do something violent that can’t be ignored.” McBride’s advice for covering Nazis in an ethical way: Put Nazism into context, in terms of their history, claims and beliefs.


Facebook is working with a journalism school to launch a funding challenge for news startups in Canada (CBC)
Facebook is partnering with the Ryerson University School of Journalism in Toronto and Ryerson’s business incubator DMZ to create what it’s calling a digital innovation challenge. The challenge will fund five news-related startups in Canada, granting the winners five months of incubation and a total of $150,000 in the form of $100,000 for seed capital and $50,000 for Facebook advertising. The news challenge is Facebook’s latest effort to publicly combat misinformation and prioritize media literacy worldwide.


‘The origin of Silicon Valley’s dysfunctional attitude toward hate speech’ (New Yorker)
Major companies in Silicon Valley have become notable recently for their lack of action toward hate speech, hesitant to restrict speech on their platforms. But what’s the source of this attitude? Noam Cohen explains the history of an online bulletin board shut down by Stanford University in the late 1980s — and how the reactions to that shut down “established a pattern of toxic rhetoric and hypocritical argumentation that, nearly three decades later, remains discouragingly familiar.”


Why Trump’s attack on the Time Warner-AT&T merger is dangerous for press freedom (The Atlantic)
“The relatives merits of allowing the merger — and of blocking it — have been argued extensively by better-versed minds. What worries me is the possibility, aired by AT&T’s chief executive among others, that the Time Warner cable channel CNN is a sticking point in the dispute,” Julia Ioffe writes. “This should be a wake-up call for American journalists.” Ioffe, who writes about Russia, explains how Trump’s attacks mirror attacks on the press in Russia: “It is not a violent death, but a quiet starvation. After years of outcry and bad press for the Kremlin every time a Russian journalist met a grisly end, Putin figured out a better way to keep the press in line: economics.”

+ CNN says that it will not attend this year’s White House Christmas party: “In light of the President’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests. We will send a White House reporting team to the event and report on it if news warrants” (Politico)


Amazon’s media ambitions are growing — and those ambitions are becoming increasingly dependent on publishers (Digiday)
“As Amazon’s media ambitions grow with every passing quarter, it is leaning on its publisher partners more than ever to realize them,” Max Willens writes. Take Amazon Echo: Publishers are creating entire teams dedicated to creating shows for Echo devices. But, “not all of the requests Amazon makes are met with enthusiasm,” Willens reports. “Some publishers said Amazon frequently asks publishers to create content with no clear incentive, leaving many uncertain and frustrated by their inability to make inroads with such a large platform.”

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