Need to Know: April 12, 2019

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


You might have heard: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces U.S. extradition after arrest at Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K. (The Guardian)

But did you know: Julian Assange’s arrest could end as a test for press freedom (CNN)

Assange has not been arrested under the Espionage Act for publishing classified material, as many press freedom advocates had feared, but under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, for allegedly engaging “in a conspiracy to crack a password” on classified DOD computer systems. Several prominent groups that advocate for the press say they are very concerned about the implications of Thursday’s charges, even though, as the Committee to Protect Journalists noted, “the indictment does not explicitly charge Assange for publication.” What it does do, CPJ said, is construe Assange’s interactions with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, “as part of a criminal conspiracy.” Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director, said “the potential implications for press freedom of this allegation of conspiracy between publisher and source are deeply troubling. With this prosecution of Assange, the U.S. government could set out broad legal arguments about journalists soliciting information or interacting with sources that could have chilling consequences for investigative reporting and the publication of information of public interest.”

+ Related: Traditional journalists may abandon Assange at their own peril (Washington Post)

+ Noted: The Seattle Times is launching a community-funded investigative team (Poynter); New plugin allows the far-right to “graffiti” any website (Columbia Journalism Review)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: Facebook plays election whack-a-mole as elections kick off in at least five countries around the world; is Singapore fighting fake news or free speech; and a Congressional hearing on online hate speech breaks down — shockingly — into partisan sniping.


Publishing news across platforms means earning trust across platforms (Medium, Trusting News)

If news is reaching people where they are, journalists should also be making sure that the reasons to trust it are also reaching people where they are, writes Laura Davis. Davis recently ran an experiment at USC Annenberg’s student newsroom to see how markers of quality journalism could be embedded into its daily newsletter (rather than only stories that live on its website; an acknowledgment that many news consumers never make it to a publisher’s website). Davis and her colleagues mocked up a newsletter that contained text boxes that briefly answered questions like “What don’t we know?” “Why did we choose this story?” “Why do we find this source credible?” Anticipate what questions the audience might have and try to helpfully answer those, suggests Davis. “My hope is that if you want to incorporate news fluency into your newsletter, we’ve done some of the legwork for you.”

+ Earlier: The idea of anticipating questions (or suspicions) from news consumers while also educating them on the tenets of ethical journalism comes from API’s report “Journalists can change the way they build stories to create organic news fluency.” In the report we’ve included templates for baking news fluency into standard stories, investigations, breaking news, opinions, live events and more.


EU tells Internet Archive that much of its site is ‘terrorist content’ (TechDirt)

Included in the list of takedown demands are a bunch of the Archive’s “collection pages” including the entire Project Gutenberg page of public domain texts, its collection of over 15 million freely downloadable texts, the famed Prelinger Archive of public domain films, the Archive’s massive Grateful Dead collection, and a page of CSPAN recordings. The demands were made according to the proposed EU Terrorist Content Regulation, which requires content removal within one hour as long as any “competent authority” within the EU sends a notice of content being designated as “terrorist” content. The law is set for a vote in the EU Parliament next week.

+ Before India’s election, voters feed on false information (AP); A fake news battle ahead of Indonesia’s election (Reuters)  


The problem with Captain America’s new ‘both sides’ website (Columbia Journalism Review)

Last week CNN reported that Chris Evans, the actor who plays Captain America, is developing a website that will present Democratic and Republican takes on the country’s most pressing matters — or what Evans is calling a “new civics engagement project.” The idea for the site stemmed from his own quest to find an unbiased source of information, he said. “I just thought, ‘Why isn’t there a place I can go to hear both sides of an issue in a succinct way that I can trust?’’” Evans plans to bring in politicians from both sides of the aisle — he’s already enlisted senators Cory Booker, Lisa Murkowski, Tim Scott, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Dan Crenshaw, a congressman — to answer a set of questions on hot-button issues. But some journalists have been quick to blast the “both sides” approach (“Are we going to hear both sides of voter suppression, for example? Both sides of the need for drastic action on climate change?”) and insist the project will merely allow politicians to broadcast party talking points.


The future of news is conversation in small groups with trusted voices (TechCrunch)

The surge in popularity of email newsletters and RSS feeds reflects a growing rejection of social media — in particular, receiving news through social media. But if these “old” technologies are to become the replacement, they need to take a new approach, not merely rehash past products, writes Chikai Ohazama. “In this day and age, we have become accustomed to having our friends and other people around when we read the news. Even if you don’t make any comments yourself, news exists in a public conversation and people’s reactions, whether they be from your friends or celebrities, are often part of the news itself … There is a product waiting to be built that is optimized for this purpose, and I’m sure companies large and small are trying to figure it out.”


In Charleston, local ownership means fewer layoffs (Poynter)

The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., hasn’t been hit with the same relentless waves of layoffs as have other local newsrooms — “At worst, we’re one or two people lighter than we were six years ago,” said Mitch Pugh, executive editor. The reason, he says, is because of the paper’s local ownership. Evening Post Industries is a family-owned business that 10 other South Carolina newspapers and 11 TV stations in seven different states. This year they’re planning to add 14 journalists to the Post and Courier newsroom, which, over the past two years, has grown digital subscriptions by 250 percent and brought in almost $900k in new product revenue. If those revenue trends are maintained, said Pugh, it will ensure the Post and Courier can continue to serve its community for years to come. “When I hear people say that you can’t make it work in local news, that really irritates me,” Pugh said. “You can if you have the right expertise, you’re willing to accept a small profit and you’re tied to the community. You can do it.”

+ How The Post and Courier grew digital subscriptions by 250 percent (Poynter); How The Post and Courier used a “mini-publisher” approach to create new revenue streams (Better News)


+ In a week filled with yearning for print, The New York Times went contrarian by publishing a print “newspaper” that takes on the most undesirable qualities of the internet — decontextualized thumbnail images, overlays, disorienting layouts, and a total lack of order. Why? Because “internet culture becomes culture, and it’s important to understand lest we find the world suddenly unrecognizable.” (Translation: Because it’s art.) (New York Times)

+ “AR is in the honeymoon phase VR was in two, three years ago” — publishers are breaking up with VR and beginning to experiment with the more-approachable, accessible AR (Digiday)

+ Cake and public radio, baked into one beautiful hashtag (Twitter)