Need to Know: April 19, 2019

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


You might have heard: 80 journalists were killed worldwide in 2018, up from 65 in 2017; more than half were deliberately targeted (Reporters Without Borders)

But did you know: Just 8 percent of countries have a media climate considered ‘good’; The U.S.’ is considered ‘problematic’ (Time)

Journalists around the world are seeing increased fear and violence in their line of work as media freedom faces further decline, according to data published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Thursday. The 2019 World Press Freedom Index categorizes the media climate in more than three-fourths of the 180 countries and territories studied as “problematic,” “difficult” or “very serious.” Just 8 percent have a media climate considered “good.” The U.S., Venezuela, Brazil, Iran and China saw their rankings drop. Of those five, China — which a separate report by RSF said is ramping up its interference and spread of propaganda not just locally, but in international media — is ranked lowest at 177, while the U.S. fell three spots to 48. This marks the first time the country’s media climate has been labelled “problematic” in the index. RSF made reference to the attack on Maryland paper Capital Gazette last June, when a man opened fire at the publication’s offices, killing five members of staff.

+ A 29-year-old journalist was killed in what Northern Ireland police are calling a “terrorist incident” (BuzzFeed News)

+ Noted: Mueller report proves “fake news” to be true (Poynter); The National Enquirer is being sold for $100 million to James Cohen, CEO of Hudson News (Washington Post)


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: why fact-checkers couldn’t contain misinformation about the Notre Dame fire; three-quarters of Britons think fake news should be a crime; and 16 Spanish media outlets unite to fact-check the general election later this month.


Are you a ‘coach’ or a ‘fixer’? (RTDNA)

Who among us hasn’t looked at a piece of copy, written by someone else, and done a last-minute edit or rewrite? Some of us do this repeatedly, day after frustrating day — because we’re fixers. “Fixers improve products the only way they know how: by re-doing the work of others,” writes Jill Geisler. Meanwhile, the person whose work we’re fixing isn’t learning. They may not even be aware that their work is being corrected, or they’ll see changes after the piece is published and feel resentful, like they’re being micromanaged or disrespected. Coaches, on the other hand, don’t just focus on fixing the product. They have conversations with writers that lead them to discover ideas and solutions — and do the upgrade work themselves. The easiest way to transition from a fixer to a coach? “Sit on your hands,” advises Geisler. “Seriously.” If you can’t touch the keyboard, you can only talk someone through improving a story, helping them become a better writer and you become a better coach.


WhatsApp has become a hotbed for spreading Nazi propaganda in Germany (BuzzFeed)

German WhatsApp users are spreading far-right propaganda through the use of stickers and chain letters, and the company is doing little to stop it, despite local laws forbidding the use of Nazi imagery, reports Karsten Schmehl. In nine WhatsApp groups that BuzzFeed News has observed since October, tens of thousands of messages have been sent among its far-right participants. Among them have been symbols glorifying the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler, deeply anti-Semitic images created using WhatsApp’s “sticker” function, and messages seeking to incite violence and threats against leftists or refugees.


We Are Europe uses design sprints to tell local stories (Engaged Journalism Accelerator)

Google’s Design Sprint methodology is a five-day process usually employed by product teams to quickly develop functionalities or new products for users. But We Are Europe, a nonprofit media collective based in Brussels, discovered it can also be a useful tool for multimedia storytelling. Working with local reporters in Chisinau, Moldova, for its series “Edges of Europe,” the team spent the first day brainstorming story topics and angles, and invited local experts to the meetings to offer context. On the second day the team ranked the story ideas, using a decision matrix to examine the potential impact of the top story, and came to a decision. The final three days were used for interviewing, writing, filming and editing. On the final day they produced a “prototype” of the story, which they shared at a screening where local residents were asked for feedback to incorporate in the final product. “The sprint process is a way we hope to reach a younger audience,” said Ties Gijzel, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Are We Europe. “Working with locals helps us verify the story and presents it in a compelling, digital and interactive way.”


‘Facebook teams with rightwing Daily Caller in factchecking program’ (The Guardian)

In an article published Wednesday, The Guardian’s Sam Levin reported that Facebook is partnering with, which Levin described as being “part of the Daily Caller,” “a rightwing website that has pushed misinformation and is known for pro-Trump content.” The article emphasized the Daily Caller’s reputation for spreading misinformation. But Alexios Mantzarlis, the former head of Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network, and Will Oremus, a reporter for Slate, were quick to highlight key points that were underreported in the article. “The reality is not as bad as this story makes it sound,” tweeted Oremus. “[] is owned by the Daily Caller but editorially separate. Reading through its fact-checks, they appear to be surprisingly evenhanded so far.” Mantzarlis, pointing out that has been certified by IFCN, tweeted “The @factchecknet code of principles — love it or hate it — evaluates whether *fact-checking units* respect [IFCN] rules … It is their method and their fact checks that should be analyzed, not [the Daily Caller’s].”


A wild plan to crowdsource the fight against misinformation (Wired)

In a recent TED Talk, Claire Wardle, one of the world’s leading misinformation experts, offered a bold two-part suggestion for winning the war against misinformation. The first part: using regular people to fight misinformation via a “Wikipedia of Trust” — a back-end contributor model where people could volunteer to flag, decipher, and catalog fake memes and bot activity, and add crucial cultural context to images and information that could be malicious rumors. The second: urging people to donate their (anonymized) social media data to Wardle’s research group, Civic, so researchers can see information the way users are seeing it. Because social media feeds are algorithmically tailored to each user, researchers are hindered in their efforts to understand how misinformation is surfacing and flowing through social networks. “Can we build out a global network of people who can donate their data to science?” Wardle challenged her audience.


+ The newspaper industry is thirsty for liquidity as it tries to merge its way out of trouble (Nieman Lab)

+ Another journalism win, on top of this week’s Pulitzer announcements: A San Francisco hospital is overhauling its abnormal and aggressive billing tactics after a Vox report exposed them. (H/t to Poynter’s Morning MediaWire newsletter for this one.) (Vox)

+ The student reporters of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., submitted a special memorial issue for the victims of the 2018 shooting to the Pulitzer Committee. They didn’t win, but they earned a special mention from administrator Dana Canedy: “These budding journalists remind us of the media’s unwavering commitment to bearing witness, even in the most wrenching of circumstances, in service to a nation whose very existence depends on a free and dedicated press. There is hope in their example.” (New York Times)

+ The most measured person in tech (Susan Wojcicki) is running the most chaotic place on the internet (YouTube) (New York Times)