Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Oct. 4, 2017

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Compared to other natural disasters in the last few weeks, FiveThirtyEight found Hurricane Maria has received less coverage both online and on TV (FiveThirtyEight)

But did you know: News organizations in the US talked more about Hurricane Harvey than floods elsewhere — but so did media organizations around the world (The Wire)
August was a disastrous month for flooding worldwide, Anushka Shah writes: Floods in South Asia killed more than 1,200 people and displaced 41 million people in India, Bangladesh and Nepal; mudslides hit Nepal, buying 1,000 people and displacing 2,000; in Texas, Hurricane Harvey killed 70 people and displaced 30,000. Analyzing media coverage, Hurricane Harvey got the most media coverage — both in the U.S. and worldwide. “When looking at the trend coverage across specific countries, for the U.S. mainstream media to have focused more on Harvey than South Asia is understandable. News within one’s own borders takes priority and provides information to those affected and those looking to help the affected,” Shahd writes. “However, that the coverage of Harvey was as large as 21-times the magnitude of coverage for all the South Asian disasters is less understandable, but in line with the long-standing criticism that American media is little concerned with global issues that don’t directly affect them. … Still less defensible is that English-language news media in both India and Nigeria also covered Harvey in far greater proportions than they did of disasters in their own regions.”

+ Noted: The News Integrity Initiative is giving $1.8 million to 10 projects focused on building trust between newsrooms and the public (Nieman Lab); The Engaging News Project is relaunching as the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, expanding its research focus to include other areas of media (Center for Media Engagement); First Draft News is joining the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University (First Draft News); Arizona State University’s Cronkite School launches News/Co Lab, “a collaborative lab aimed at creating, testing, and promoting innovations that will help make the news ecosystem more robust and valuable for all participants” (Dan Gillmor, Medium); Quartz created a Slackbot for journalists that performs tasks useful to journalists, such as preserving a URL by telling the Internet Archive to save a copy of the page or suggesting reliable data sources (Nieman Lab)

API UPDATE

How can collaborations between ethnic and mainstream outlets serve communities in the digital age?
Collaborations between mainstream and ethnic publications can change the stories news outlets tell, building coverage of diverse communities and increasing news organizations’ access to U.S. residents who rely on ethnic media outlets. This article is the first of a series from API on how ethnic and mainstream media outlets can build effective collaborations, building on our previous Strategy Study on partnerships between nonprofit and commercial newsrooms.

+ ICYMI: This week API launched a new site with best practices and guidance for tackling change in news organizations: betternews.org

TRY THIS AT HOME

‘Engagement isn’t just transactional’ (Let’s GATHER, Medium)
On News Engagement Day, Andrew DeVigal argues that there’s a question journalists often forget to ask themselves when thinking about engagement: “How can we motivate more journalists (and journalism students) to put the community at the center of their work, be better listeners, and understand more precisely the needs of the public? Until we can think of the public not just as ‘audiences’ and ‘consumers,’ but also as experts and partners in the communities we aim to serve, we shouldn’t expect to receive the public’s complete trust.” DeVigal explains his “Continuum of Public Engagement,” which includes “transactional” engagement in the form of reading an article or following a news organization on social media. But it also includes “relational” engagement, which might look like attending a community gathering or contributing to a news story.

+ Earlier: Our strategy study shows the best ways to build audience and relevance by listening to and engaging your community

OFFSHORE

An update to the UK’s counter-terrorism laws will ban viewing extremist content online — but it has an exception for journalists (PressGazette)
A new law in the U.K. will make viewing extremist content online a criminal offense, punishable by up to 15 years in jail. But the law will have an exception for journalists, academics and other professionals who have a “reasonable excuse” defense for their work. Rebecca Vincent, U.K. director for the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, says on the law: “This latest announcement is cause for serious concern for journalists, human rights campaigners, and others with a legitimate need to view extremist content. These plans are downright dangerous when viewed in the context of other recent worrying moves to restrict press freedom in the U.K., such as the adoption of the menacing Investigatory Powers Act, the proposal for an alarming new Espionage Act, and [Home Secretary Amber] Rudd’s previous calls to restrict encryption tools. It is becoming increasingly difficult and risky for journalists to do their jobs in the U.K.”

OFFBEAT

Lessons from the NBA on integrating analytics in your organization (MIT Sloan Management Review)
Analytics in sports were not always embraced, Ben Shields writes: In 2015, Charles Barkley argued, “Analytics don’t work at all. It’s just some crap that people who were really smart made up to try to get in the game because they had no talent.” But opponents of analytics in the NBA are being proven wrong, Shields writes, as teams use data to create rosters, develop game plans and improve players’ health, while the business side uses analytics to drive ticket, merchandise and sponsorship revenue. What can other industries learn from the NBA on analytics? “One especially valuable innovation is analytics integration: the ability of an executive to integrate an analytics program within the rest of the organization. It might be tempting to introduce an analytics program as a separate corporate function, one free to innovate and do things differently. But while that might make things easier at the start, it will ultimately undermine the effectiveness of analytics, which needs to flow across organizational decision-making to provide its true value. A better approach is to integrate from the beginning, even if leaders face pushback from analytics skeptics,” Shields writes.

UP FOR DEBATE

Facebook, Twitter and Google should be doing more to prevent hoaxes and misinformation during breaking news events, as hoaxers game the system (New York Times)
“Over the past few years, extremists, conspiracy theorists and government-backed propagandists have made a habit of swarming major news events, using search-optimized ‘keyword bombs’ and algorithm-friendly headlines. These organizations are skilled at reverse-engineering the ways that tech platforms parse information, and they benefit from a vast real-time amplification network that includes 4Chan and Reddit as well as Facebook, Twitter and Google,” Kevin Roose writes. “Part of the problem is that [the tech] companies have largely abrogated the responsibility of moderating the content that appears on their platforms, instead relying on rule-based algorithms to determine who sees what. … Facebook, Twitter and Google are some of the world’s richest and most ambitious companies, but they still have not shown that they’re willing to bear the costs — or the political risks — of fixing the way misinformation spreads on their platforms.”

+ “Given the scope and scale of the paid uses of platforms such as Facebook by campaigns, the effects likely dwarf those of fake news or illegitimate advertising buys. This, of course, is speculation, because we will never know for certain how much impact these things had. That is why the basic lack of transparency and disclosure surrounding digital political advertising is so concerning,” Daniel Kreiss and Shannon McGregor argue. “Google and Twitter should join Facebook in its effort around transparency and disclosure, and make the paid content posted on their platforms public so citizens, journalists, and academics can evaluate these messages. … In the interim [of government regulation], these firms should work together to set standards for political advertising disclosure and open paid communications up to public scrutiny” (BuzzFeed News); Ben Thompson: “Facebook should increase requirements for authenticity from all advertisers, at least those that spend significant amounts of money or place a large number of ads” (Stratechery)

SHAREABLE

After the Las Vegas shooting, The Onion published the same headline for a 5th time: ‘“No Way to Prevent This,” Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens’ (New York Times)
“Most jokes, when repeated, lose their power,” Sydney Ember writes. “Yet each time The Onion publishes this particular headline, it seems to rocket around the internet with more force. A tweet with the headline from The Onion’s account on Monday had, by Tuesday afternoon, been retweeted more than 55,000 times.” The Onion has published the same headline, with details in the accompanying story changing five times now: The story first ran in May 2014 after a shooting in Isla Vista, Calif. It was published again after the Charleston, S.C., church shooting in June 2015, a community college shooting in Oregon in October 2015, and after the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015.

+ Advice for journalists covering Las Vegas, from the journalists who covered the Orlando shooting: “You think the hardest part of this story has already happened, but it hasn’t,” says WFTV’s Katy Camp, who also covered the Newtown shooting in 2012 for WVIT. “The worst parts are ahead when you start to learn about the victims and tell their stories. Seeing their pictures, talking to their friends and family – just wrapping your head around the ‘why’ part of this when you try to understand why so many innocent, regular people died at the hands of a mad man.” (Poynter)

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