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Need to Know: Sept. 1, 2017

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


You might have heard: Google has been accused of coming after its critics in academia and journalism: “It is time to call out Google for what it is: a monopolist in search, video, maps and browser, and a thin-skinned tyrant when it comes to ideas,” Zephyr Teachout argues (Washington Post)

But did you know: Google uses its outsized power to kill stories it doesn’t like, Kashmir Hill says (Gizmodo)
In 2011, journalist Kashmir Hill was working on a story for Forbes about how Google was encouraging publishers to add Google Plus’ social buttons to story pages, saying it would be a factor in search results. Hill published a story with the headline “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers,” which included reporting from a meeting with Google’s public relations team about the buttons. “Google promptly flipped out,” Hill writes. “Google never challenged the accuracy of the reporting. Instead, a Google spokesperson told me that I needed to unpublish the story because the meeting had been confidential, and the information discussed there had been subject to a non-disclosure agreement between Google and Forbes,” though Hill said she had not signed such an agreement, was not told the meeting was confidential, and identified herself as a journalist. After that, the original story stopped appearing in search results. “Deliberately manipulating search results to eliminate references to a story that Google doesn’t like would be an extraordinary, almost dystopian abuse of the company’s power over information on the internet,” Hill writes.

+ Noted: Hearst acquires the Journal-Courier in Jacksonville, Ill., and the Telegraph in Alton, Ill., from Civitas Media (Journal-Courier); The Village Voice is laying off 13 of the paper’s 17 union employees as it ends its print edition (New York Times); Gannett says it will host more than 500 events this year, trying to boost event revenue as print ad revenue falls (Digiday); Condé Nast says Google AMP pages account for 79 percent of its mobile search traffic and 36 percent of all its mobile traffic (Condé Nast Technology); Time Inc. is launching a roster of TV programming this year: It will stream a cooking show on Facebook Watch, as well as produce programming for networks and streaming services such as PBS, Netflix and the Oprah Winfrey Network (Reuters)


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 why a viral news writer thinks people don’t care about the truth, explaining accountability journalism to people who don’t like journalism or accountability, and a roundup of social media hoaxes around Hurricane Harvey.


Here’s how local news outlets are dealing with offensive comments (CJR)
“Countless newsrooms rely on comments sections and social media to foster community engagement and drive traffic to their sites, but those platforms are too frequently hosts to hate, bigotry, threats and damaging content,” Corey Hutchins writes. “Many of those newsrooms lack the resources required to clean up comments or scrub offensive material from such platforms.” Here’s how some local newsrooms are experimenting with new ways to clean up their comment sections: A platform called Civil Comments, used by Alabama Media Group and the Alaska Dispatch News, uses a self-moderation system to have commenters rate other users’ comments. Meanwhile, the Coral Project created a free, open-source software called Talk to and is working on more community-based tools for newsrooms.


The BBC, Guardian and Globe & Mail dominate readers’ attention on desktop in the UK (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)
If you’re a publisher in the U.K. looking for readers’ attention on mobile, you’re in competition with three well-established news organizations. According to a new report from the Reuters Institute, stories from the BBC, Guardian and Globe & Mail account for 63 percent of the online news people in the U.K. read online from mid-March to mid-April of this year. The BBC alone accounted for 39 percent. Notably, this study focused on desktop, so it doesn’t include “consumption of headlines or snippets within distributed environments or native consumption of articles via Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, Apple News, etc. It also excludes short or live video consumption within distributed platforms.”

+ “Social media is the way in for other outlets looking to compete with the dominant news brands,” Shan Wang writes on the findings (Nieman Lab)


Here’s why influencer marketing works: Someone you trust is telling you why you should pay attention to a product (Knowledge@Wharton)
Brands are jumping onto a newer form of marketing, rooted in the psychology of how people we trust influence our decisions: “Instead of getting in your face with their own message about their greatness they are letting ‘influencers’ — people you trust — tell you why you should pay attention to their products and services through a voice that sounds far more authentic. The influencer is that mutual friend between a brand and their consumers.” Influencer marketing is effective, Google brand marketer Aprajita Jain explains, because it allows for higher levels of customer targeting, it’s reaching people through an influencer they already trust, and it’s perfect for social media.

+ What can publishers learn from social media influencers? “The YouTubers phenomenon should be a great source of inspiration,” digital journalism professor Millán I. Berzosa says in a Q&A. “More focus on the audience, more focus on connections, being open to real diversity, more inclusive storytelling, and so on. Where YouTube is concerned, it is not only about the big players, but the power of content creators. Publishers could learn and inspire their own journalists to develop real identities, which would become their most precious asset.” (Global Editors Network)


NYT’s newest op-ed writer ‘embodies its worst failings — and its lack of viewpoint diversity’ (The Intercept)
“If your goal were to wage war on media diversity in all of its forms, and to offer the narrowest range of views possible, it would be hard to top the roster of columnists the paper has assembled,” Glenn Greenwald argues. “Beyond the obvious demographic homogeneity, literally every one of them fits squarely within the narrow, establishment, center-right to center-left range of opinion that prevails in elite opinion-making circles. … The old joke used to be that, for mainstream media, diversity of views spanned the range from the centrists at The New Republic to the conservatives at National Review. For the contemporary NYT op-ed page, diversity spans the small gap from establishment centrist Democrats to establishment centrist Republicans, with the large groups of people outside of those factions essentially excluded.”

+ Earlier: The New York Times hired Bari Weiss, formerly of WSJ, (@mcalderone, Twitter) just days after it announced Bret Stephens would join the paper (New York Times)


In an online news environment plagued by ‘fake news,’ the AP is the biggest provider of news stories on Facebook (The Drum)
According to a new analysis by NewsWhip, the largest provider of news stories on Facebook is also the world’s oldest news agency. NewsWhip found that the AP is bringing in 35 million engagements (likes, comments, shares) each month. No other single news organization is bringing in that level of engagement, NewsWhip says: MailOnline comes the closest at 27 million per month. “I had a gut feeling that we would be somewhere in the top 20 but we were quite surprised to see that actually we came out as number one,” AP global news manager Mark Davies says on the findings. “I think it’s very reassuring that very accurate, unbiased reporting is still driving engagement and obviously stimulating debate on social platforms.”

+ Snapchat says it has a team of journalists who fact-check Snapchat’s user-generated content, “determining whether it is accurate, whether it is relevant and how we can add additional context” (BBC)


+ A profile of Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth, who has led the magazine through a reinvention widening its scope beyond fashion and beauty (New York Times)

+ “The tragic story of Swedish journalist Kim Wall’s killing is a reminder of the dangers — subtle and otherwise — that women journalists often face” (Women in the World)

+ In May, Kathy Griffin, whose career was made by mocking celebrities, was photographed holding a Donald Trump mask covered in fake blood: “When the president tweeted about me the morning after I released the image, it served as an executive order of sorts to his family and supporters to go after me,” she says in a profile for The Cut. “You may say I deserved it, but just think about it … the president of the United States and his family are going after a stand-up comic who had a show on the Bravo network called ‘My Life on the D-List.’ If that isn’t punching down, I don’t know what is.” (The Cut)

+ In the wake of Charlottesville, the headlines that Twitter users saw were split along party lines: Twitter users on the right saw headlines such as “Left Blames Trump For Charlottesville. Here Are 5 Murders The Press Didn’t Blame Obama For,” while users on the left saw headlines like, “Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost” (Politico)

+ “If the standard of covering police violence is a fatal encounter, that leaves out police sexual violence, violence against pregnant women, child-welfare enforcement, searches where police officers are conducting completely unconstitutional searches, and profiling of women of color as being engaged in prostitution-related offenses. All of that gets lost if we focus only on fatal shootings of unarmed people,” says Andrea Ritchie, a Chicago lawyer and author of “Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color” (CJR)

Need to Know will be off on Monday for Labor Day; enjoy the long weekend.

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