Need to Know: August 10, 2018

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


You might have heard: Researchers are mapping “news deserts,” looking for areas where news and information is lacking (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: Local media presence doesn’t necessarily mean communities’ information needs are being met (Duke University)

In a new study published by Duke University, researchers examine the news deserts question by looking at the journalistic output of local media and the information needs it serves. In an analysis of 100 U.S. communities not situated in major markets, researchers found that only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local. The study also found that less than half (43 percent) of the news stories provided by local media outlets are original; and just over half (56 percent) addressed critical information needs — issues pertaining to emergencies and risks, health, education, civic life, political life, transportation, environment and planning or economic development. “We wanted to assess the health of local journalism on a scale that hadn’t been done before, and in doing so we confirmed that the problem is as bad as we thought, maybe even worse,” said Philip Napoli, lead author of the study.

+ Noted: Tronc in talks to be acquired by hedge fund Donerail Group (Reuters); Despite net loss of $1.4 billion, News Corp revenue climbs 29 percent (The Wall Street Journal); Backed by a new grant, ProPublica calls for project ideas to investigate state governments (ProPublica); Reporters Committee reminds journalists of legal assistance hotline ahead of this weekend’s demonstrations in Charlottesville and D.C. (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)


The week in fact-checking

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. The latest edition of “The Week in Fact-Checking” newsletter includes the latest on the showdown between tech giants and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; how to be a better fact-checker; and a fact-checking mantra to live by.


Oakland’s El Tímpano experiments with new ways to reach Latino immigrants (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

“Before piloting a reporting outlet to serve Oakland’s Spanish-speaking immigrants, we wanted to hear from them first, rather than making any assumptions about what would be the best format to report about, with, and for this community,” writes Madeleine Bair, founder of El Tímpano and a Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow. As they talked to immigrants, community organizers, educators and church leaders about what approaches they find most effective in reaching this population, two strategies came up again and again: in-person engagement and mobile messaging. Bair will use GroundSource, an SMS-based reporting technology, as the platform to pilot El Tímpano’s text message strategy. “It will be one of many approaches El Tímpano explores to develop local, empowering journalism to serve Oakland’s Latino immigrant community,” Bair writes. “We hope that what we learn may help other newsrooms and communities design innovative approaches to local news that serve diverse communities.”

+ The team behind the Panama Papers investigation shares its favorite data journalism tools (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)


Myanmar’s prosecution of two reporters is a test of the country’s nascent democracy (Reuters)

In December 2017, after exposing a massacre of Rohingya Muslims during a military operation in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested. On July 9, a judge charged the two under the Official Secrets Act, a law that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. The courtroom saga showed the murky confluence of military and civilian rule in this ethnically fractured nation of some 50 million people, writes Tom Lasseter. To dignitaries in Western capitals, from Pope Francis to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, their incarceration would become a test of press freedom in Myanmar, and how far the country has traveled toward a more open society. It has also laid bare dangerous divisions among the reporters’ fellow citizens, many of whom consider them traitors for their work.

+ Jason Rezaian: Journalists’ Day in Iran is a joke that isn’t funny (The Washington Post)


Facebook is changing business Pages to make them less dependent on News Feed (Buffer)

As most content from Facebook Pages struggles to gain traction in the News Feed, Facebook has taken steps to create value for business Pages by making it easier for people to interact with businesses and find their information. “Essentially, the Facebook Page is becoming more like a website for your business,” reports Ash Read. Among the changes: the ability for Facebook users to post recommendations, customizable “action” buttons featured near the top of a Page, more visibility for Facebook stories, events ticket sales, and job postings.


As journalists face constant attacks from the White House, teaching news literacy gets harder (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Scholars who work and teach what’s now considered a politicized subject like journalism have seen their jobs become harder, reports Teghan Simonton. When news reports are criticized as “fake news,” and journalists are called the “enemy of the people,” Reeder and other professors say the landscape of teaching journalism or news literacy has changed. Several instructors say they experience tension in their classes, and adjust their curricula as a result. “You frame the course as … not what to think about the news, what to think about President Trump but how to think about the news, how to empower yourself,” said one professor.


As newspapers cut, grassroots solutions fuel a resurgence of local journalism (Poynter)

Public emergencies like the California wildfires are a stress test on the state of increasingly beleaguered local news, as lives are at stake over people’s ability to access information about their community. In Mendocino County and hundreds of other communities across the country, grassroots local journalism initiatives are emerging to fill the gaps. Many are members of LION, a nonprofit with 225 members in 45 states that supports the publishers of local independent online news organizations. Its membership — both for-profit and nonprofit sites, niche and general interest — has doubled in the past few years. The Institute for Nonprofit News, which supports both local and national nonprofit news organizations, has experienced similar growth. Matt DiRienzo, LION’s executive director, writes “There’s a framework in sight for replacing — and in some cases exceeding — the local journalism we’ve lost.”

+ Subscription publishers wrestle with password-sharing (Digiday); Media boost security as Trump ramps up ‘enemy’ rhetoric (Politico)


+ In defiance of the plummeting value of most digital media companies, the CEO of German publisher Axel Springer, Mathias Doepfner, is on a mission to prove that digital content is going to be a profitable business with “very satisfying margins.” “Journalism is not going to die just because distribution is digital,” he says. “I think the opposite: Journalism is going to be better.” (Bloomberg)  

+ “Every story is a jobs story”: As automation and outsourcing threaten American workers (an Oxford study predicts that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will be replaced by tech within 20 years), journalists can play a critical role in guiding the conversation away from despair and toward solutions (Poynter)