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Need to Know: April 30, 2018

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


You might have heard: Since the fall, the US Department of Justice has been overhauling its manual for federal prosecutors (NYU School of Law)

But did you know: The Justice Department deleted language about press freedom from its internal manual (BuzzFeed News)

The Department of Justice removed a subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” in changes to a manual for federal prosecutors, reports BuzzFeed News. Other changes include new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media. Reporter Zoe Tillman overviews press-related changes in context of other additions and deletions, comparing changes with earlier versions via Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

+ Noted: McClatchy reports more sharp revenue declines and a net loss for the first quarter of 2018 (Poynter); As EIC of Religion News Service is ousted, staff fears loss of editorial control (Columbia Journalism Review); Apple News ramps up its video push while publishers wait on revenue (Digiday); ‘Mass firing’ at conservative site RedState (CNNMoney); Denver Post ‘guts’ cannabis news vertical; former editor considers buying it (Marijuana Moment); AP style change: Two objects don’t have to be in motion before they collide (Poynter)


9 ways you can help fact-checkers during a crisis (Poynter)

When disaster strikes, it’s a safe bet that journalists aren’t too far behind. But citizens are often quicker, writes Daniel Funke. From the recent demonstrations in Iran to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., social media users have played an increasingly vital role in the dissemination of spot news during a crisis, sharing first-person accounts, photos and videos. At the same time, it’s exceedingly difficult to verify information in a breaking news situation. With that in mind, here’s a list of things that citizens can do to make it easier for journalists to verify their posts, like holding your camera or phone steady, focusing on details, showing a landmark, and more.


The BBC goes for solutions journalism in its latest global series on the individuals and communities tackling divisions in our society (

Teams at the BBC have been working in collaboration for their latest global series ‘Crossing Divides’, which uses solutions journalism — an approach to reporting that highlights answers to problems as opposed to focusing on the issues themselves — to show how people across the world are tackling the divisions in society such as age, religion, race, politics and class. The project features stories across BBC News outlets, from why a Yorkshire Dales farmer is working with asylum seekers to how a Kenyan prison is using mindfulness to create a different relationship between prisoners and prison officers.

+ BBC concerned about fraudsters mimicking them on WhatsApp (The Drum); Suicide bomber in Kabul — disguised as a reporter — detonated a bomb while among press pack, killing nine journalists and 16 others (Press Gazette)


Real people are turning their accounts into bots on Instagram — and cashing in (BuzzFeed News)

Instagram posts are racking up fake engagement. Some users are utilizing a paid service that automatically likes and comments on other posts for them. It’s called Fuelgram, and it will use the accounts of everyone who paid a small sum to like and comment on your posts. Fuelgram makes posts appear more popular than they are, tricking Instagram’s algorithm into spreading them further, sometimes right into the Explore tab. Renee DiResta, policy lead at Data for Democracy, believes this level of manipulation is deeply corrosive. “The engagement is fundamentally manipulated; the content you’re seeing, you’re seeing because someone gamed an algorithm … That’s not the system that we want to live in.”


For the sake of journalism, stop the White House correspondents’ dinner (The Washington Post)

The 2018 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner should be the last, writes Margaret Sullivan. “It never has been a particularly good idea for journalists to don their fanciest clothes and cozy up to the people they cover, alongside Hollywood celebrities who have ventured to wonky Washington to join the fun,” says Sullivan. “But in the current era, it’s become close to suicidal for the press’s credibility. Trust in the mainstream media is low, a new populism has caught fire all over the Western world, and President Trump constantly pounds the news media as a bunch of out-of-touch elites who don’t represent the interests of real Americans. The annual dinner — or at least the optics of the dinner — seems to back him up.”


The Joy Reid controversy, from homophobic blog posts to a hacking claim, explained (Vox)

MSNBC host Joy Reid was accused of writing homophobic blog posts. Reid at first said she was hacked — then apologized. Reid on Saturday apologized for her past “hurtful” remarks about LGBTQ people, following the resurfacing of homophobic blog posts from the mid-to-late 2000s. But she also said that she still doesn’t “believe” that she wrote the blog posts, suggesting — without evidence — that they were the result of an elaborate hack, writes German Lopez. The host of MSNBC’s weekend show AM Joy has been under fire for newly uncovered blog posts published on Reid’s now-defunct blog, the Reid Report, in the mid-to late 2000s that repeatedly mocked gay people and specific individuals who were allegedly gay.

+ What The New York Times got right and wrong about AIDS and gay issues in the 1980s and 1990s, according to six LGBTQ staffers (The New York Times Style Magazine)

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