Need to Know: April 24, 2018

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


You might have heard: Facebook’s standards and processes for removing posts have not been previously available to the public, and the company’s content moderators have been criticized by activist groups for some of their choices: In 2016, Facebook’s moderators removed a photo of a child fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War, saying the child’s nudity violated its policies (New York Times)

But did you know: Facebook released the internal guidelines it uses to decide what content to ban, adding a layer of transparency to a process that’s been shrouded in mystery (Washington Post)
On Monday, Facebook published its “Community Standards,” its 27-page internal guide for its human censors. Those guidelines determine what content is banned, covering topics from hate speech to misrepresentation to disinformation. “The move adds a new degree of transparency to a process that users, the public, and advocates have criticized as arbitrary and opaque,” Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tracy Jan write. In particular, activists and other Facebook users have called for an appeal process when posts are taken down, especially given that users are not provided a reason why a post was removed. Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert said that she hoped that publishing the guidelines would start a conversation: “We are trying to strike the line between safety and giving people the ability to really express themselves.”

+ Earlier: Facebook said in 2017 that it was hiring 3,000 content moderators to “review the millions of reports we get every week” after a live video showed a murder and live confession in Cleveland (Recode)

+ Noted: The Chicago Sun-Times is launching a paywall, which it says is “key to our long-term strategy to become profitable again”: A digital subscription will cost $7.49 per month (Chicago Sun-Times); Former Vice Media employee Saher Shakir is suing the company after she says the company blamed her for being assaulted while on assignment (NBC News); Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen is placed on leave while the company investigates his stories on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing: WEEI radio host Kirk Minihane scrutinized Cullen’s column and found “several inconsistencies” (Deadspin)


How the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel focused on prioritizing with a ‘Stop Doing’ list
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel created — and continually updates — a list of newsroom activities that don’t contribute to its audience-centric strategy in an effort to find time and resources to devote to more meaningful tasks.


Why the tone of ‘voice-of-God’ editorials doesn’t work online (Poynter)
Newsday is trying to move from un-bylined “voice-of-God” editorials to editorials that start conversations with their community, discussing what they should cover, how they work and what the newsroom is working on. Amanda Fiscina, research and digital production manager for Newsday’s opinion team, explains that part of this shift is because “voice-of-God” editorials don’t translate well to online: Readers don’t have a sense of the reporting that went into them, and they tend to tell people what to think, rather than starting a conversation.


11 inspiring data journalism projects from around the world (Data Journalism Awards)
GEN has announced the 11 projects on the shortlist for the “public choice” category in its Data Journalism Awards. The projects come from nine countries, and the winner will receive $1,801 USD in prize money. Voting is open on the projects until May 15, and winners will be announced at the Data Journalism Awards 2018 Ceremony and Gala Dinner in Lisbon during the GEN Summit.


Google has far more personal data than Facebook does. Why aren’t we talking about it? (Wall Street Journal)
“As justifiable as the focus on Facebook has been … it isn’t the full picture,” Christopher Mims writes. “If the concern is that companies might be collecting some personal data without our knowledge or explicit consent, Alphabet Inc.’s Google is a far bigger threat by many measures: the volume of information it gathers, the reach of its tracking and the time people spend on its sites and apps.” With data from Google accounts, Google Analytics, its ad marketplace and more, Mims writes that Google is part of a larger, systemic problem that’s largely been linked to Facebook so far.


Why are people afraid to talk to reporters? Many people see journalists as powerful people who are part of powerful institutions (Zocalo Public Square)
“Understanding how non-journalists see the news media is an essential step in rebuilding public trust,” Ruth Palmer writes. One thing Palmer has learned from talking to people who became the focus of news stories is that most people see journalists as powerful people: They have a much larger audience than the average person does through social media, and they control how stories are presented to the public. “The idea that many citizens feel like David to the news media’s Goliath may be hard for journalists to stomach or believe. It is the exact opposite of how journalists normally think of themselves,” Palmer writes. “If news institutions want to regain long-waning public trust, they need to address the widespread perception that the news media is more interested in serving itself than the public. They would do well to highlight not just their accuracy, but their care, empathy, and ability to listen to the little guy.”

+ Why diverse online communities don’t trust journalists: “The stories you are talking about are people’s lives. When we talk about stories mainstream media doesn’t cover, we’re talking about, ‘Can our people have water to drink?’ ‘My cousin got shot.’ ‘My cousin got deported,’” Sydette Harry says. “So, when you come into these communities and you use them as stories, as objects, you are literally dehumanizing them and this has been the history of journalism.” (Knight Foundation)


Economic Hardship Reporting Project is starting a fund for journalists laid off by the Denver Post (CJR)
The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a project housed at the Institute for Policy Studies in D.C., is creating a fund to help journalists laid off by the Denver Post continue their work. The organization is setting up a $10,000 fund, which will provide support for up to eight former Denver Post journalists to produce feature-length stories on economic hardship and income inequality. The project’s executive editor Alissa Quart says that the creation of the fund is somewhat of a public statement against Alden Global Capital: “We’ve been sort of focused like a laser [on] supporting staff that are being laid off when there’s a bad actor involved like Alden Global Capital,” she told CJR.