Need to Know: August 17, 2018

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


You might have heard: Yesterday, in an effort spearheaded by the Boston Globe, more than 300 U.S. newspapers denounced Trump’s attacks on media in coordinated editorials (NPR)

But did you know: The Senate adopted a resolution backing the free press (Reuters)

The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution affirming support for a free press and declaring that “the press is not the enemy of the people.” The vote came the same day that hundreds of U.S. newspapers launched a coordinated defense of press freedom and a rebuke of President Trump for denouncing some media organizations as enemies of the American people. “We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat and an author of the resolution. “Today, every senator upheld that oath by sending a message that we support the First Amendment, and we support the freedom of the press in the face of these attacks.”

+ President Trump’s response: “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!” (Twitter, @realDonaldTrump); “It plays into Trump’s narrative that the media are aligned against him”: The San Francisco Chronicle explains why it did not join the editorial crowd on Trump (San Francisco Chronicle); Journalists took a stand, now they must defend their work “through action, not just with editorials” (Medium, Joy Mayer)

+ Noted: The Investigative Editing Corps is looking to provide expert volunteer help to local newsrooms that want to do investigative reporting (Medium, Rose Ciotta); Judge scolded the South Florida Sun Sentinel for publishing confidential but legally obtained information, but did not rule on a school district request that the newspaper be held in contempt (Sun Sentinel)


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 an investigation into fake academic journals; false and misattributed photos from the bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy; and a look inside the thriving business of manipulating views on YouTube.


‘Headline Hoedowns’ and how The Texas Tribune integrated SEO into its newsroom (Medium, Emily Roseman)

When chief audience officer Amanda Zamora first joined The Texas Tribune, she launched a daily meeting called the “Headline Hoedown.” Anyone who had a story coming out the next day was invited to gather around a table with her and the rest of the audience team at 3 p.m. With a whiteboard and marker on hand to take down ideas, the group brainstormed search versus social headlines, thinking through the best keywords for the search version. This daily habit trained editors and reporters to think strategically about their stories’ headlines and the opportunity SEO brings to their pieces. Now, the daily 3 p.m. team meeting happens in a Slack channel, and “Headline Hoedowns” take place any time of day.

+ Earlier: The Dallas Morning news does a similar daily exercise called the Headline Rodeo (Poynter)


How The Globe and Mail is covering cannabis, Canada’s newest soon-to-be-legal industry (Nieman Lab)

For The Globe and Mail, the legalization of cannabis is an enormous business story that touches every part of its newsroom. The paper’s overall cannabis coverage push includes a three-pronged approach: It will build out coverage for a cannabis hub on its main site; invest in events, with a series starting Aug. 22 that explores the Canadian landscape after legalization; and it will soon launch a very pricy subscription product, initially in email newsletter form, which will be its own premium tier on top of a regular Globe and Mail subscription. “I think what [the Globe and Mail is] doing is smart,” said Nushin Rashidian, co-founder of Cannabis Wire. “Canada’s industry is roughly the size of California’s, but their real value proposition is the fact that all these companies are going global or going to go global, so their potential subscriber base is actually massive.”

+ In China, fighting clickbait by teaching people how to write (Columbia Journalism Review); Two Latin American paywall success stories (WAN-IFRA)


Inside the research lab teaching Facebook about its trolls (Wired)

The Digital Forensics Research Lab, a scrappier, substantially smaller offshoot of the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Atlantic Council, has a team of 14 spread around the globe, led by 28-year-old director Graham Brookie. Using open source tools like Google Earth and public social media data, they analyze suspicious political activity on Facebook, offer guidance to the company, and publish their findings in regular reports on Medium. “It’s an evolving, somewhat delicate relationship between a corporate behemoth that wants to appear transparent without ceding too much control or violating users’ privacy, and a young research group that’s ravenous for intel and eager to establish its reputation,” writes Issie Lapowsky.


How to discuss the far right without empowering it (The Atlantic)

On Sunday night German broadcaster ZDF ran a major interview with Alexander Gauland, the leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which capitalized on anti-refugee sentiment to earn its first-ever seats in the German Parliament last fall. But the interviewer didn’t bring up the question of refugees at all, instead pressing Gauland on issues like climate change, retirement and digitalization, to which Gauland struggled to supply responses. “There is a legitimate question to be asked about whether, insofar as it avoided asking a far-right leader about what is clearly his party’s signature issue, [Thomas] Walde’s interview was journalistically problematic,” writes Emily Schulteis. “ZDF defended Walde’s line of questioning in a statement following the interview’s airing, saying Walde ‘addressed topics that have great meaning for the people of this country.’ Ultimately, the interview also highlighted the strategy some German politicians have told me they see as the most effective one against the AfD: to hold them to the same standards as other politicians, and watch them fail to deliver anything substantive.”


Said something you’d like to forget? CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski won’t let it go. (The Washington Post)

“Kaczynski’s four-member group — known as KFile after its 28-year-old founder — may be the foremost practitioner of the journalistic equivalent of dumpster diving,” writes Paul Farhi. “Their reportorial MO is simple, if tedious: They dig through social-media posts, old audio and video recordings and forgotten speeches, articles and books to find troubling comments uttered or written by the people they’re investigating. KFile didn’t pioneer this archaeological approach (political campaigns on the left and right have been doing ‘opposition research’ for decades). But in the social-media age, it can be a highly effective journalistic technique.”

+ Related: “Fireable tweets”: These same techniques are often employed against journalists, to great effect (Twitter, @Cernovich)


+ “We actually lost subscribers over the crossword.” The Peterborough Examiner’s Kennedy Gordon explains that ignoring reader feedback, even over a non-journalistic element like the crossword puzzle, can damage a newspaper’s relationship with its audience. “It goes beyond just the puzzle itself. When you ignore that kind of feedback, you’re doing your readers a disservice,” said Gordon. “They just think right off the bat the relationship they have with the paper has become a little more one-sided if we’re not listening to them.”

+ How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump: Zeynep Tufekci explores how digital technologies went from instruments for spreading democracy to weapons for attacking it. “To fully understand what has happened, we also need to examine how human social dynamics, ubiquitous digital connectivity, and the business models of tech giants combine to create an environment where misinformation thrives and even true information can confuse and paralyze.” (MIT Technology Review)

+ What I learned about writing from listening to Aretha Franklin (Poynter)