Need to Know: August 10, 2020

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


You might have heard: Last year, The New York Times, BuzzFeed News, HuffPost and the Chicago Tribune shut down their Spanish-language websites (Digital Content Next)

But did you know: NBC News and Noticias Telemundo will team on bilingual reports on Latino community (Los Angeles Times)

The joint reports and investigative projects will run in English on NBC, MSNBC and the network’s streaming channel, while Spanish-language versions will air on Telemundo’s newscasts. At NBCU News Group, which owns Telemundo, people of color make up 27% of the staff, almost half of the network’s 50% goal. The only other Spanish-language news service from an American television network is CNN Español, which also collaborates with CNN.

+ Noted: The hedge fund acquiring McClatchy will appoint former Tribune CEO Tony Hunter as McClatchy’s new CEO (PR Newswire); G/O Media, owner of brands including The Onion, Deadspin, Gizmodo and Jezebel, laid off 15 video staffers (The Wrap); After allegations of workplace toxicity, WAMU’s general manager stepped down on Friday (DCist); The University of Tulsa and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma are asking female journalists to respond to a survey about their experiences with online harassment (University of Tulsa)


What Americans and the news media do — and don’t — understand about each other

As part of the Media Insight Project, a joint effort between API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, we surveyed journalists and members of the public to understand the miscommunication that often occurs between the two. See the most common misassumptions journalists make about their audiences, and vice versa — and how they could be hurting your newsroom. 


Why The New York Times is crowdsourcing information on COVID-19 medical bills (The New York Times)

Since February, Times investigative reporter Sarah Kliff has exposed the staggering costs of coronavirus treatment and testing, including one hospital bill for more than $400,000. Covering medical costs isn’t a simple task, because hospitals and doctors lobby against pricing transparency, making the true cost of care and what providers actually charge closely-guarded secrets. For years, Kliff’s reporting has relied on readers sharing their experiences with medical bills, and last week, the Times created a new form where readers can upload their COVID bills and provide other information on their treatment and ability to pay what’s owed.

+ A model for journalism entrepreneurship (LION Publishers); How the media is preparing for an election night that could go on for weeks (Fast Company)


New app helps journalists connect with scientists (International Journalists’ Network)

In Brazil, news outlet Volt Data Lab is developing Science Pulse, an app meant to pair the expertise of scientists with journalists’ ability to help credible research reach a broader audience. The platform gathers social media posts from scientists and their organizations, which reporters can examine to gain insight, build story ideas and discover sources. Volt Data Lab identifies potential scientists to include through university Twitter lists and other sources, then vets the account before adding it to the app.

+ Hong Kong police use national security law to arrest pro-democracy media tycoon (Bloomberg); Hong Kong foreign press says journalists being targeted in US-China stand-off (BBC)


Facebook relaxed misinformation rules for conservative pages (NBC News)

Under Facebook’s policy, the platform can reduce a page’s reach or block its ability to advertise if the page posts inaccurate information twice in 90 days. But NBC News found that conservative figures and news outlets like Breitbart didn’t face penalties after posting repeated falsehoods. According to internal discussions, employees feared that enforcing Facebook’s fact-checking policies would lead to allegations the company was biased against conservatives.

+ Related: Facebook fired an employee who collected evidence that conservatve pages received preferential treatment when it comes to misinformation (BuzzFeed News)

+ In response to the president’s ban on TikTok, the company is expected to sue the Trump administration (NPR)


Stop using the phrase ‘officer-involved shooting’ (Columbia Journalism Review)

Starting in the 1970s, the term spread from a few police departments to law enforcement agencies (and news outlets) across the country. Mya Frazier points out that 50 years later, this phrase is at odds with journalistic sensibilities that favor verbal precision, as well as current efforts to address racial bias in the industry. Instead of using the term, journalists can avoid the passive voice, as demonstrated in this AP headline that reports a police officer shot and killed a Black man. “Such examples are a reminder that as journalists, we serve readers best when we tell stories straight, at the sentence level,” Frazier writes.

+ Earlier: Wesley Lowery called the term a “clunky euphemism” in a piece from June about journalism, race and objectivity (The New York Times)


The Pudding’s process to go from idea to data story (The Pudding)

At The Pudding, which publishes data-driven visual essays, stories usually start with a question that can be answered with data and that hasn’t been addressed before in the same way. A key part of the process is changing tactics when things don’t quite work. Sometimes, The Pudding abandons ideas altogether, like one about the Florida Man trope that the team determined was classist and shamed people with mental health issues. Other ideas just need to be reframed. That’s how a story about the weather on Mars started out in the form of a welcome packet for new Martian residents and evolved into postcards the Curiosity rover sent to Earth.