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Need to Know: Sept. 11, 2017

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


You might have heard: Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida Sunday morning, leaving millions without power and creating the possibility of “dangerous storm surges” (CNN)

But did you know: As Hurricane Irma made its way into Florida, people began questioning why reporters are sent out into storms (New York Times)
While covering Hurricane Irma early Sunday morning, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo said, “There is a strong argument to be made that standing in a storm is not a smart thing to do.” As networks showed images of reporters in Irma’s violent winds and rain, viewers also took to social media to question why reporters are sent out into violent storms. Sopan Deb writes: “The tradition of television crews standing in the middle of a dangerous storm goes back decades, reflecting the hunger to be on the scene for a nationally significant event. But the news value of dangerous stand-ups — in which a correspondent is seen in the field talking to the camera — is increasingly being questioned, particularly with the rise of social media. Some critics wondered whether they are unnecessary and overly sensational spectacles, especially in cases where correspondents are struggling to deliver information. But those same field reporters insist that the visuals from the storms are essential in persuading people to take hurricane threats seriously and getting them to leave the area.”

+ When does a newsroom have to evacuate for a hurricane? The Miami Herald stayed put in its headquarters as the building was formerly the HQ U.S. Southern Command, while the Tampa Bay Times was forced to leave its St. Petersburg newsroom as it contains lots of glass (Poynter); In Miami, Univision went on lockdown ahead of Irma (CJR), while the Miami Herald also offered shelter for reporters’ families (CNN Media)

+ FEMA created a “Rumor Control” page for Hurricane Irma, debunking rumors around demand for fuel in Florida, shelters and immigration status, and hurricane clean-up (FEMA); A read worth revisiting from 2016: “Why do people share rumours and misinformation in breaking news?” (First Draft News)

+ Noted: Some ad-buying firms are using an auditing service to make sure ads are run next to “safe” YouTube videos, avoiding controversial content (Wall Street Journal); Publishers are giving users the option to personalize their push notifications, but few readers are personalizing their notifications (Digiday); After launching its new membership program, Medium is highlighting curated stories published off Medium, partnering with publishers such as Rolling Stone, New York Magazine and Foreign Policy (Medium)


Some big changes came to Google AMP in the first half of 2017. What do they mean for your newsroom? (MediaShift)
Between January and July, Trisolute Software’s News Dashboard found some major changes in Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages: More text elements are being used in AMP pages, News Carousels are being used more often, fewer search engine result pages are using news boxes, and there’s been mixed results for AMP’s Publisher Carousels. With those changes in mind, Trisolute Software SEO strategist Chelsey Heath recommends newsrooms track whether these “AMP trends in the first half of 2017 continue, leading to an overall increase or decrease across the rank types we considered.”


Facebook is blocked in China, but it’s looking to open an office in Shanghai (New York Times)
Facebook is quietly scouting for office space in Shanghai, seeking a foothold for its ambitions in China. Facebook is currently blocked by the Chinese government, and NYT’s Paul Mozur reports that Facebook’s plans would likely require approval by the government. “But if successful, it would be a symbolic victory for the social network, which has long worked to get into China despite being blocked there for nearly a decade,” Mozur writes. “Despite being obstructed in China, Facebook has many reasons to continue pursuing business there. The social network sells advertising to Chinese companies hoping to reach the rest of the world. The Chinese ad sales, supported from its office in Hong Kong, are some of the largest in Asia.”


In the age of ‘big data,’ the Equifax hack shows the need for policies that protect our data (New York Times)
“If a bank lost everyone’s money, regulators might try to shut down the bank. If an accounting firm kept shoddy books, its licenses to practice accounting could be revoked,” Farhad Manjoo writes. “So if a data-storage credit agency loses pretty much everyone’s data, why should it be allowed to store anyone’s data any longer? Here’s one troubling reason: Because even after one of the gravest breaches in history, no one is really in a position to stop Equifax from continuing to do business as usual. And the problem is bigger than Equifax: We really have no good way, in public policy, to exact some existential punishment on companies that fail to safeguard our data. … This isn’t just about Equifax. We live in the age of Big Data.”


‘The Wall Street Journal’s Trump problem’ (Guardian)
Dozens of journalists have left The Wall Street Journal in the past year, in part because of two rounds of buyouts held since September. But Lucia Graves reports that the buyouts in combination with concerns over the paper’s coverage of Trump is leading to low morale. Graves interviewed 18 former and current WSJ staffers about the climate in the newsroom as it covers Trump. “The Journal has done a lot of good work in covering the Trump administration, but not nearly as much as it should have,” a former WSJ staff told Graves. “I lay almost all of that at Gerry [Baker]’s doorstep. Political editors and reporters find themselves either directly stymied by Gerry’s interference or shave the edges off their stories in advance to try to please him (and, by extension, Murdoch).”


Russians’ fake news on Facebook could have reached 70 million Americans (Daily Beast)
In the wake of Facebook’s revelation that Russian propagandists spend $100,000 on election ads, analysis by an expert on Facebook’s ad systems says the posts could have reached as many as 70 million Americans. Dennis Yu, CTO and co-founder of ad agency BlitzMetrics, explains how $100,000 could go that far: “If they got a super high engagement rate, they’re not only going to get the traffic that you get from paying, but you get this viral factor that can multiply it. You buy one impression and you get 20 additional impressions.”

+ “A source close to Russia’s ‘troll factory’ says Facebook has deleted 80 percent of its groups” (Meduza); “The audacity of a hostile foreign power trying to influence American voters rightly troubles us. But it should trouble us more that Facebook makes such manipulation so easy, and renders political ads exempt from the basic accountability and transparency that healthy democracy demands” (New York Times)

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