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Need to Know: April 6, 2018

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


You might have heard: The percentage of Americans who gets news from TV is decreasing and those who do get news there are older (Pew Research)

But did you know: Local TV is doing way better than you’d think, a new report suggests (Nieman Lab)

We should not be underestimating local TV news, suggests a new report from the Knight Foundation — especially as a source of online news outside the largest markets. “No other existing news medium appears to have more advantages right now than local TV news,” write the authors of the big five-part report. “When I say ‘television,’ people just think of a television program,” Karen Rundlet, Knight’s director of journalism. “They don’t think: This station has a website and that website is the community’s No. 1 leading source of information, more than newspapers or radio.” In many smaller markets, however, that is the case. Knight’s report makes the case that local TV may not be shrinking so much as spreading out.

+ Noted: The Atlantic fires columnist Kevin Williamson after first defending some of his earlier commentary, including that women should be hanged for having abortions (The Daily Beast); Twitter has suspended more than 1.2 million terrorism-related accounts since late 2015 (Recode); Facebook gets accreditation from Media Rating Council for first of three audits it committed to, validating ad impressions on Facebook News Feed and Instagram (Axios); Sinclair rescinds donation pledge to NPPA for legal advocacy following a statement regarding recent comments and coordinated messaging about the media made by the broadcast group (NPPA), and three political candidates vow not to advertise on Sinclair TV stations, and Sen. Richard Durbin asks Sinclair for information about its “must-run” stories (The Washington Post)


The week in fact-checking

As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes why people stink at fact-checking, a lesson plan and an online course aimed at helping students develop fact-checking skills, both houses of the Malaysian government passed a bill outlawing fake news, and highlights from International Fact-Checking Day.


Why ProPublica did two versions of the same story (Poynter)

A teenager told police all about his gang, MS-13. In return, he was slated for deportation and marked for death. The 7,000 word story was released by ProPublica and New York Magazine. The next day, engagement reporter Adriana Gallardo and interactive journalist Lucas Waldron and Hannah Dreier posted a Twitter thread that included Facebook video of text exchanges. “Hannah [Drier]’s story is laced with key moments that unfold over exchanges between Henry and his friends, fellow gang members, and between him and the Suffolk County homicide detective who later turned his back on him,” said Gallardo. “It seemed like an opportunity to bring the reader even closer to the story. We had primary evidence that could tell visually parts of the story. It is also something everyone can relate to; the daily venting via text with people you care about.”

+ A startup media site says AI can take bias out of news (Motherboard)


People spend 11 minutes per day on Norwegian news aggregator app Sol (Digiday)

Sol, an aggregated news site from Norwegian magazine and news publishing group Aller Media, launched an app in December to gain new, younger readers. Sol uses a combination of algorithms and human editors to surface content people are interested in, in order to keep them in the app longer. So far the average daily dwell time is 11 minutes, according to CEO Jan Thoresen, and the app is particularly popular with women between 18 and 24 years old, Thoresen said. “The ongoing challenge for the content industry is that we’re losing control of distribution, and we can’t expect Google and Facebook to take care of us,” said Thoresen. “We need to reinvent the way news is distributed in a feed way. We focus on creating habits. The strategy is around the quality; we call it thinkbait rather than clickbait.”

+ Pakistan’s largest TV network Geo says it has been forced off the air on cable TV in over 80% of the country after critical reporting on the military (The New York Times)


3 insights from Reddit’s first major redesign (Fast Company)

With 330 million users, Reddit isn’t just the self-described front page of the internet, writes Mark Wilson. To many people, it is the internet. But almost a year and a half ago, the company began to reckon with its aging platform. Its code base was a decade old, making new features laborious to roll out. Visually focused subreddits looked exactly the same as news or political subreddits. While Reddit could go deep into any subculture, it was still too esoteric, and sometimes caustic, to broader audiences. Here are three lessons that any company can learn from Reddit’s complex redesign that managed to alienate just about no one: Forget secrets and keep the community updated instead, remember that users come in many flavors, and give people the option to revert back.


Stuck in third place, should CNN abandon its “food fight” formula? (The Hollywood Reporter)

Despite its down-the-middle news brand, the network trails rivals Fox News and MSNBC in viewers and weathers daily attacks from the White House as critics bemoan a “clash model” of staging partisan debates that’s now “outmoded.” On air blow-ups, while uncomfortable to watch for some viewers, are increasingly part of the CNN brand, writes Jeremy Barr. Regularly staging “food fights” (in the words of one veteran television executive) that go viral but don’t necessarily make viewers more informed, people inside and outside the company say. As CNN has become the most visible media target in the current polarized political climate, frequently on the tongue of a president with 50 million Twitter followers, the network’s ratings are still a work in progress.


The perfect watchdog for the Trump era is a journalist in West Virginia (Huffington Post)

Two days after graduating from West Virginia University in 1991, Rob Byers joined the Charleston Gazette as a full-time reporter in the state’s capital. Although Byers wasn’t from the state, he had grown up the son of a coal miner in southwestern Pennsylvania. Byers rose to executive editor while continuing to be a watchdog on the coal industry’s collapse, devastating flooding, Pulizer Prize-winning coverage of the opioid crisis, and more. No editor seemed better suited to cover the American Rust Belt under Trump. He was made for this moment. And then, on March 26, Byers was laid off. “When you lose a job in West Virginia and you are at all interested in staying in West Virginia,” he said, “you immediately come to the realization about the lack of job opportunities there are in West Virginia.”

+ So what is that, er, Trusted News Integrity Trust Project all about? A guide to the (many, similarly named) new efforts fighting for journalism (Nieman Lab)


+ ‘It has to be perfect’: At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, students knew that while preserving a record of normal school activities in their yearbook, they would have to include the story of a tragedy, too (The New York Times)

+ Inside the woke civil war at The Times: Catalyzed by the Trump presidency, roiled by flash points like Glenn Thrush, Bret Stephens, and Bari Weiss, a generational conflict not seen since the 60s is besetting the New York Times (Vanity Fair)

+ American broadcasting has always been closely intertwined with American politics (The Conversation)

+ The shooting at YouTube showed how bad Twitter’s misinformation problem is: Twitter is the beating heart of breaking news. But its usefulness is offset considerably by a growing chorus of trolls, hoaxers, and irresponsible commentators. And it’s only getting worse (BuzzFeed)

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