Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Sept. 12, 2017

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


You might have heard: Trust is “not only a journalistic aspiration, but a business imperative. People who put a higher premium on trust‑related factors are more engaged with news, are more likely to pay for it, install news apps, or share and promote news with their friends”

But did you know: Nearly half of all adults in the US have a high distrust of information organizations — and especially news organizations, research from Pew shows (Pew Research Center)
According to new research from the Pew Research Center, 49 percent of Americans are both distrustful of information sources and have little interest in improving their digital literacy skills. For this study, “information sources” includes news organizations, libraries, government sources, financial institutions and more. Pew concludes that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to reaching people: “Information purveyors might need to use very different methods to get material to the Eager and Willing, who are relatively trusting of institutional information and eager to learn, compared with the tactics they might consider in trying to get the attention of the Cautious and Curious, who are open to learning but relatively distrusting of institutional information.”

+ “Combined, these … groups make up nearly half of the U.S. adult population, which should represent both a significant challenge and opportunity to news organizations,” Ricardo Bilton writes on the findings (Nieman Lab)

+ Earlier: Research by API shows that Americans are skeptical of “the news media” in the abstract, but generally trust the news they themselves rely on

+ Noted: Research from Yale University suggests that labeling fake news on Facebook doesn’t work: The study found that tagging false stories as “disputed by third party fact-checkers” has a small impact on whether readers perceive the headline has true (Politico); Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is leaving the New York Times Co.’s board of directors, citing his new responsibilities at Uber (TechCrunch); RT says its associates in the U.S. were asked by the Department of Justice to register as foreign agents (Newsweek); Honolulu Civil Beat launched a bot last month around the questions, “How can a news organization use Messenger to start a genuine conversation with readers at scale? Can messaging be a viable way to field news tips from readers?” (Nieman Lab); Texas Observer adds a full-time rural reporter, a position funded by Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective (Washington Post); The FTC filed its first case against social media “influencers” last week, saying two popular online gamers posted messages endorsing a game without disclosing that they owned the company and sending 21 warning letters to other prominent social media influencers (Axios)


‘The most useful apps, tools and sites we used during Hurricane Irma’ (Poynter)
After evacuating Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma, Poynter’s Ren LaForme is sharing the apps, websites and tools he used to track the hurricane and its coverage by local news outlets. Some highlights: Snapchat’s global map feature shows public snaps from a specific area, Facebook’s map of live streams had verified, geotagged videos of Irma’s impact from the Caribbean into Florida, and Facebook Messenger and Zello can be good alternatives to texting when cell phone coverage gets spotty.

+ How to verify photos and videos on social media by confirming the time and place (MediaShift)


Where are the female journalists in UK newspapers? Most of the stories in the UK’s biggest national newspapers are written by men (European Journalism Observatory)
According to a recent European Journalism Observatory survey of four national newspapers in the U.K., the majority of news, business and analysis stories are written by men, and there’s more photographs on those pages of men than there are of women. Analyzing the Financial Times, Guardian, Times and Daily Mail, EJO found that 65 percent of stories in the news and business sections were written by men — and on the “comment” pages, 77 percent of articles were written by men. Earlier research has shown that more women are entering journalism as a profession than men. But Caroline Lees and Hannah Anson explain that this study shows “that despite figures showing more female than male journalists enter the profession, men appear to have higher-profile roles as their careers progress.”

+ A mayor in Brazil was arrested and accused of involvement with the 2016 death of journalist Maurício Campos Rosa (Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas)


Smartphones are driving all growth in web traffic — but not through apps (Recode)
According to new data from Adobe Analytics, smartphone are driving all growth in U.S. web traffic as the share of web traffic on tablets and computers has declined. There’s been a 68 percent increase in smartphone web traffic in the U.S. since January 2015, while both desktop and tablets saw declines in web traffic over the same time period. “All that smartphone web traffic, however, hasn’t translated to traffic on smartphone apps,” writes Rani Molla on the findings. “Americans have opened apps 22 percent less on smartphones and nearly 50 percent less on tablets compared with the beginning of 2016. The decline, however, didn’t extend to top apps by Amazon, Google and Facebook.”

+ Is artificial intelligence creating a dilemma in fair use? “In the context of commercial, expressive machine learning, no outcome seems desirable. If expressive machine learning weren’t fair use, an author could seek outsize remedies simply because her work ended up in a training dataset among thousands of other works. … Then again, if fair use gave companies carte blanche to train AI on copyrighted works without compensating authors, human creators would miss out on income that the spirit, and arguably the letter, of copyright law entitle them to receive. This would be a boon for AI and for those who stand to profit from it, but it’s not clear that society as a whole would benefit,” says Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society fellow Ben Sobel (Intellectual Property Watch)


When big networks fail to account for their mistakes, viewers’ trust is eroded and questions arise about their processes (Poynter)
In light of recent high-profile retracted stories by CNN and Fox News, former NPR ombud Alicia Shepard says, “Major news organizations demand accountability from government officials, corporations and others involved in powerful positions, but aren’t nearly as accountable about their processes or mistakes. … Until Americans get a better understanding of how newsrooms work and how mistakes can happen even with in-place safeguards, distrust of journalists will continue.” Given that CNN and Fox News haven’t been able to explain what went wrong in their reporting, Shepard argues: “Why should other companies or government officials be forthright with CNN or Fox?”

+ “What do The New York Times and The Guardian seeking philanthropic support have to do with Blodget’s pronouncement about Business Insider’s revised ambitions? All three developments are about media execs confronting the realities of the publishing economy circa 2017.” (Ad Age)


‘Local journalism is doing great work across the country while fighting cutbacks and tight budgets. But we need people to stop expecting news to be free’ (Guardian)
Local newspapers are critical when it comes to covering inequality in the U.S., Kathleen McLaughlin, who’s been working with the Guardian and Economic Hardship Reporting Project on their new On the Ground project, writes. These news organizations are producing impressive journalism while facing increasingly tighter budgets — but many readers expect that journalism to be available for free. What can you do about that? McLaughlin writes: “Find a news outlet valuable to your life and pay for it. Plain and simple. It’s not a long-term solution, but we need people to stop expecting the news be the same as air and sunlight – absolutely free.”

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

The American Press Institute

Our mission

We help transform news organizations for an audience-centered future.

Our programs for publishers focus on four things:

  • 1. Understand your audience
  • 2. Get your audience to pay
  • 3. Transform your culture
  • 4. Do your best journalism
  • Find out more about API »

API solutions for publishers

What we can do for you

API offers a suite of original tools and services for solving the biggest challenges in news:

  • Decide what beats to cover and how
  • Identify and develop the skills you need
  • Assess and improve your culture
  • Drive more reader revenue
  • Drive loyalty through accountability journalism
  • Make analytics work for you
  • Contact us to find out how »