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Need to Know: Oct. 13, 2017

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


You might have heard: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was in Washington on Thursday “to charm Congress and the public” as Facebook tries to downplay its role in influencing the 2016 presidential election (New York Times)

But did you know: Sandberg said Facebook is not a media company because it does not produce news content and it employs tech workers and engineers (Business Insider)
“At our heart we’re a tech company,” Sandberg said in an interview with Axios’ Mike Allen. “We hire engineers. We don’t hire reporters. No one is a journalist. We don’t cover the news. But when we say that, we’re not saying we don’t have a responsibility. In fact we’re a new kind of platform … as our size grows, we think we have more responsibility.” But that’s at odds with what Facebook is, Steve Kovach argues: Facebook distributes news and information and is a major source of news for many people, it pays publishers to create original programming, and it’s even funding and producing its own original shows. “Most would call that a media company. And most would expect that company to adhere to the standards, safeguards, and rules that all media companies do,” Kovach writes.

+ Wired’s list of questions on how to tell if you’re a media company: Are you the country’s largest source of news? Do you sell ads against content? Do you commission publishers to create original content for you to distribute? Have you partnered with a media company to attract viewers to your own livestreaming platform? (Wired)

+ Facebook says it fixed a “bug” in CrowdTangle that allowed a researcher to analyze the reach of posts from Russia-linked accounts (Washington Post); Facebook releases the first data on the effectiveness of its fact-checking program: A news story that’s labeled false by third-party fact-checkers has its future impressions drop by 80 percent, but it takes “over three days” for the label to be applied to a story (BuzzFeed News)

+ Noted: In union negotiations, Washington Post management is trying to end the paper’s practice of annual pay increases and cut severance benefits, requiring any employee who accepts severance to waive their legal rights (Washington Post); At New York Times Talk DC, Dean Baquet says NYT will put tougher social media rules into place and NYT journalists “should not post on social media what they could not publish in the paper” (Politico Media); PolitiFact says Sinclair Broadcasting is attacking PolitiFact for a fact-check it published about federal funding in relation to superstorm Sandy (PolitiFact); Reddit gets its first editorial partner: Time magazine will highlight stories from Reddit each Thursday, flagged by Reddit staff (Digiday)


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 whether we can overcome the “dark side” of technology, fact-checking’s appearance on “Jeopardy!,” and what YouTube is doing to prevent misinformation.


New research from the Tow Center and Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab examines how news organizations are using push notifications and how audiences interact with them (Nieman Lab)
“How many push alerts is too many? What are the biggest challenges for news organizations sending out alerts? What happens if readers don’t even click through?” Those are questions upcoming research from the Tow Center and the Guardian U.S. Mobile Innovation Lab will address, which was previewed at the Online News Association Conference last week. Some takeaways from that preview: Readers aren’t always aware that alerts can be expanded for more information, publishers are unsure whether readers value their alerts, and there aren’t good metrics for what determines a “successful” alert beyond the number of times it’s opened.


‘Financial Times insiders think it’s running a “beauty contest” to find the next editor’ (BuzzFeed News)
At least half a dozen FT editors have traveled to Japan to meet with owner Nikkei in the last few months, Mark Di Stefano reports, leading to speculation that current editor Lionel Barber is leading a “beauty contest” for his replacement. “While speculation about Barber’s future is not a new topic in media circles, news of the trips to Japan with editors has seeped out to the FT newsroom. It has kicked the rumour mill into overdrive about what happens next for the influential newspaper,” Di Stefano writes. One of the biggest questions about what happens next for FT is what happens to its daily print edition: “How long do you keep the FT in daily print? The weekend FT will live forever but there is a chance that the paper will only be getting published on one, two, or three days rather soon,” an “industry insider” said to BuzzFeed News.

+ German newsrooms are working together to bring political Facebook ads into the open: The newsrooms are asking readers to install a browser plug-in that collects Facebook ads on their feeds, which the newsrooms are then analyzing with an algorithm from ProPublica (Global Editors Network)


How Spotify is making its listener data more accessible to the music industry (Fast Company)
Though many people in the music industry are divided on whether streaming is good for the industry, John Paul Titlow writes that it’s hard to argue with the value of data, one of streaming’s most powerful by products. Spotify is putting more resources into making that data available to artists. On Thursday, Spotify launched an app called Spotify For Artists that gives musicians and their managers “mobile access to super-detailed analytics about their music and the people listening to it.” Titlow writes on why this comes at an important time for Spotify: “Not only is the company in the process of exploring a public offering on the U.S. stock market, but it’s facing a barrage of lawsuits over missing royalty payments for some songwriters, a problem it attributes to problems with incomplete metadata around some of the songs in its catalog.”


‘Another ASNE diversity survey, another year of inaction. That has to change’ (Poynter)
“Every year, I see the inevitable quotes from top editors — about how we’re moving the needle (okay, yeah, slowly, a bit, here and there) and how committed they are to making progress (really?) and how important it is that we reflect our communities (without a doubt),” Maria Carrillo writes on this year’s ASNE diversity survey. “Yet there is no great sense of urgency and little accountability, as far as I can tell. And that’s more discouraging than the numbers themselves.” Carrillo explains that improving diversity in the industry is not just a moral imperative, but a business imperative. “America is growing younger and more diverse, and many of those folks feel disconnected from our coverage. They don’t see themselves reflected in stories. They aren’t going to pay us when we have little to offer,” she argues.

+ Even if Trump can’t revoke NBC’s broadcasting license, his threat to do so is a violation of the First Amendment, Trevor Timm argues: “When Trump veers into actual threats of government action for speech he doesn’t like, he is arguably crossing that same line that the Seventh Circuit, and the Supreme Court before it, has condemned” (CJR)


‘The media doesn’t tell us what to think, it tells us what other people are thinking’ (WHYY)
Princeton psychology professor Betsy Levy Paluck is the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant this year for her research on how a popular radio soap opera with a message of tolerance affected Rwandans’ personal beliefs after the country’s genocide in 1994. “The media doesn’t tell us what to think, it tells us what other people are thinking,” Paluck says on her research. “Mass media and pop culture provide cues to what is socially acceptable and socially desirable. These perceptions might have a really big influence on how we behave.”


+ Not enough male journalists have forcefully spoken out about Cam Newton’s comments to a female reporter, Isaac Bailey argues: “Newton’s comments were neither unfortunate nor out of line. They are foundational and in line with the way too many men—including too many inside newsrooms and locker rooms—think about women intruding on a ‘man’s sport.’ … It’s still a problem because not enough male journalists have forcefully demanded change.” (Nieman Reports)

+ A critique of ONA’s conference: “Many of the conversations showed that journalists, especially in smaller newsrooms, are looking for short-term solutions to declining business models rather than viable long-term strategies. … We need big thoughts, not small solutions,” Nausicaa Renner writes (CJR)

+ “Political journalism has become infatuated with opinion polls — what some have called a ‘Nate Silver Effect’ — and yet news organizations remain ill-equipped to make sense of the flood of data,” University of Minnesota professor Benjamin Toff writes. “Among journalists and survey researchers, considerable ambivalence remains over whether these changes have, on balance, been for the better” (Politico Magazine)

+ “The potential for Facebook to have an impact on an election was clear for at least half a decade before Donald Trump was elected,” Alexis Madrigal writes. “But rather than focusing specifically on the integrity of elections, most writers … bundled electoral problems inside other, broader concerns like privacy, surveillance, tech ideology, media-industry competition, or the psychological effects of social media.” (The Atlantic)

+ Local news site Saline Post in Michigan announced it was shutting down — and then its readers stepped up to donate money to keep the website alive (Bridge Magazine)

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