Need to Know: August 15, 2022


You might have heard:  Fox News parent has to face defamation suit over vote-rigging claims (Bloomberg News) 

But did you know: Defamation suit about election falsehoods puts Fox on its heels (The New York Times)

Dominion Voting Systems’ libel suit against Fox Corp. is “one of the most extraordinary brought against an American media company in more than a generation,” writes Jeremy W. Peters. In the lawsuit, Dominion cites dozens of unfounded accusations that Fox made against the voting technology company. Experts say the $1.6 billion case is unique because it doesn’t involve just one disputed statement. And the suit not only presents a possible financial liability for Fox, it has the potential to deliver “a powerful verdict on the kind of pervasive and pernicious falsehoods — and the people who spread them — that are undermining the country’s faith in democracy,” Peters writes.

+ Noted: Gannett lays off journalists after dismal earnings report (Deadline); New York Times taps Bank of America amid ValueAct challenge (Reuters); After Roe v. Wade reversal, readers flock to publications aimed at women (The New York Times) 


API is hiring a part-time Audience Engagement Trainer

Are you a freelance trainer or audience engagement expert? API is hiring a part-time audience engagement and training contractor with some web development knowledge to support news organizations who use API’s products, including Metrics for News and Source Matters, from now through January. We are seeking applicants with some technical knowledge of HTML, CSS and RSS who are eager to help set up, onboard and train newsrooms who use our unique tools. To apply, please send a resume as a PDF with a paragraph on why you are interested to and, with the subject line API Audience Contractor. The application deadline is Friday, August 26.


Kelly Kennedy on breaking the burn pits story (The War Horse)

For years, the military used “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan to get rid of discarded chemicals, unexploded ordnance or medical waste, exposing soldiers to toxic fumes. Kelly Kennedy — then a staffer for the Military Times — was the first reporter to cover the burn pits, acting on a tip that others had doubted. In the end, she says, it wasn’t that hard to make connections between the burn pits and the health problems of soldiers exposed to them. “But no one else had done it,” she told Sonner Kehrt. The story has new relevance with the enactment last week of a law extending benefits to these soldiers. Kennedy is now managing editor of The War Horse, a nonprofit site that covers the human impact of military service.


Journalists at U.K. newspaper group vote to strike in pay dispute (The Guardian)

Journalists at the Mirror, Express and dozens of regional newspapers in the U.K. have voted to stop work for four days over the next month. They are arguing that the papers’ offer of a 3% increase in pay is insufficient in light of cost-of-living increases. The local outlets are owned by the publishing group Reach, whose chief executive, Jim Mullen, has said that the company cannot offer more than a 3% raise without risks to its sustainability. The strike, writes Jim Waterson, “creates the prospect of a newspaper that has recently warned about the threat of ‘militant unions’ itself being affected by industrial action.“


‘The Boys’ author Katie Hafner on her path from journalist to novelist (The Washington Post)

After years of writing news and non-fiction, Katie Hafner published her first novel last month. But to do the book, she had to grant herself permission to make stuff up. “Even now, having sent my novel out into the world, I find that a reporter’s fact-abiding mind-set can be hard to shake,” she writes. When a friend wanted to discuss the book’s characters, she felt uneasy, and had an urge to apologize that she had “invented those people and everything about them.” Writing fiction, she says, can be paralyzing for a reporter. 


We thought Murdoch’s news outlets were abandoning Trump. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago (CNN)

After the last hearing by the House Jan. 6 committee, newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch carried editorials critical of Donald Trump, prompting stories about “widening cracks” between the Murdochs and Trump. But after the FBI’s search at Mar-a-Lago, it became clear that Trump still has Murdoch’s backing, writes David Zurawik. “There was neither hesitation nor mixed messaging,” he writes. “Fox hosts were all in with Trump against what the former president characterized as ‘weaponizing’ of the Justice Department against him.”  

+ Related: The problem with conservative media defending Donald Trump (Poynter)


How ‘pink slime’ journalism exploits our faith in local news (The Washington Post) 

The journalist who coined the term “pink-slime journalism” 10 years ago says it persists today as “part of a growing right-wing propaganda project cosplaying as a network of nonpartisan local newspapers.” In his home city of Mobile, Alabama, writes Ryan Zickgraf, pink slime manifests itself in the form of a site called the Mobile Courant. Such sites regurgitate news releases, pass off newsless content optimized for search engines, sneak it into people’s news diets and exploit the public’s trust in local news.