Need to Know: August 23, 2018

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


You might have heard: Americans are skeptical of “the news media” in the abstract, but generally trust the news they rely on

But did you know: Trust in news is up, especially for local media (Poynter)

After decades of declining trust in the press, coupled with relentless rhetorical attacks on the media by President Trump, there’s finally some good news: Trust in media is up since last year, and the great majority of Americans trust their local news sources. The new Poynter Media Trust Survey found 76 percent of Americans across the political spectrum have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in their local television news, and 73 percent have confidence in local newspapers. That contrasts with 55 percent trust in national network news, 59 percent in national newspapers and 47 percent in online-only news outlets. The findings “really underscore that local and national news are different animals; people perceive them differently,” said Joy Mayer, director of the Trusting News Project. “Most local journalists are not covering things that relate to national politics. They may be covering high school sports, local business, education and crime affecting their communities.”

+ Noted: Reveal to launch initiative in four American cities that will facilitate investigative reporting collaborations among local news outlets (Reveal); The International Center for Journalism has an opportunity for a yearlong fact-checking fellowship in partnership with the Raleigh News & Observer and PolitiFact (ICFJ); McClatchy announces staff reductions of 3.5% among other cost-cutting measures (CNN); Trump campaign and National Enquirer publisher hatched plan to bury damaging stories, Cohen prosecutors allege (The Washington Post); The National Enquirer may not have a viable First Amendment defense against Cohen probe (CNN); CNN suspends contributor Paris Dennard following sexual misconduct report (Hollywood Reporter)


11 Facebook page optimizations for small publishers (Medium, Ned Burke)

Ned Burke identifies 11 often overlooked or under-optimized features that can be important elements for developing audience on Facebook — opportunities that are “perhaps the lowest hanging of fruit on Facebook, but can deliver some of the best returns on the small amount of time invested.” Updating your Facebook page is especially critical now, as Facebook has just rolled out updates that put the spotlight on profile content rather than posts. Among his suggestions: Make your cover photo count (it should reinforce your brand; at the very least, make sure it is a high-resolution image). Revisit your “call to action” button (“Donate” is a big ask for first-time visitors; you might ask them to subscribe to your newsletter instead). Fill out as much as you can in the “About Us” section. Make sure your photos and video modules reflect your best work by selecting “featured content” for display instead of the default “most popular.” And a bonus tip: Remember to check your page often from the perspective of a regular user. “By default, you will not see your own page the way ordinary users will  —  and that can lead to some embarrassing oversights.”

+ Two Twitter lists for keeping up to date on journalism research: Journalism Researchers by Damon Kiesow and Media Research by Dylan McLemore (h/t Gather); How to determine whether a health study merits coverage (Journalist’s Resource)


Investigative journalists propel #MeToo reporting at China’s universities (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Investigative reporting on sexual abuse cases in Chinese media has seen a major uptick as growing numbers of victims open up and speak out about their ordeals, prompted by the #MeToo movement in the West. Three cases at China’s top universities have been on the front lines of #MeToo reporting in China — and they appear to be just a hint at the enormity of the problem. Reports and discussions, including victims’ disclosures on social media and coverage by traditional media sites, have all been targets of swift government censorship. Meanwhile, journalists and an emerging community of supporters are trying to keep the stories alive by re-posting them on multiple platforms, playing a game of cat-and-mouse with internet regulators.

+ 8 worldwide journalism opportunities to apply to in September (International Journalists’ Network); The southern Indian state of Kerala is running classes on fake news in 150 schools to enable kids to spot viral hoaxes (BBC)


Lincoln and the art of transformative leadership (Harvard Business Review)

Author Doris Kearns Goodwin examines Lincoln’s leadership during a period of transformation and upheaval, and carves out key takeaways for today’s leaders — especially those managing through difficult transitions that may be demoralizing staff. One of the most important: acknowledge when failed policies or initiatives call for a change in direction. Welcome conflicting viewpoints, but know when to set aside indecision and act. Be attuned to the emotional needs of your team, which can give you valuable insights into what motivates people. Get over past resentments, and don’t be controlled by angry impulses. Protect your colleagues from blame; accepting your responsibility as a leader for the failures of your team. Many of Lincoln’s actions and policies stemmed from his powerful emotional intelligence, writes Kearns Goodwin. “…His empathy, humility, consistency, self-awareness, self-discipline, and generosity of spirit … proved indispensable to uniting a divided nation and utterly transforming it.”


What makes a good metric? (Medium, Chris Moran)

“The question ‘should this be a metric?’ needs to be asked before ‘how can we build this metric?’” writes Chris Moran. After crowd-surfing opinions on Twitter, and working from his own experience, he boils down the five qualities of a good metric. First, is it relevant to your newsroom’s core business goals? Is it measurable? Can you do something positive and impactful with the data? Is it technically robust (can you track it over a year, and if so, will it still be relevant)? Can it be easily understood? “Obviously, all metrics have the capacity to go wrong,” writes Moran. “Decent culture has to be established around any number to avoid warped behaviour.”

+ Here’s the Twitter thread started by Moran where people weighed in on how to define an effective metric (Twitter, @chrismoranuk)


What are your ideas for helping local news? (Poynter)

Maybe it’s time to look at small solutions to big problems, writes Kristen Hare. Last week Carolyn Fox, managing editor of The Times-Picayune, began sharing ideas on Facebook for small actions she plans to take to support local news: “When I Google a big story and see a selection of news links to click, I’ll click the one that comes from a locally based source over a national source … I’m going to tweet and Facebook more great work from our local competition … I’ll encourage my friends and family and social network to subscribe to local news, digital or paper … I’ll try harder to go to local news sites directly when big stories break.” Among her other ideas: give subscriptions to local papers or news sites as gifts; think about when to aggregate and link to local news instead of using the AP for breaking news; curate Twitter lists of local news and journalists. “We all tend to follow WaPo/NYT/WSJ people,” writes Fox, “but if I follow the San Jose Mercury News, for example, I’ll get some ideas for my newsroom, and share their interesting stories to my (albeit small) Twitter following.”

+ A Q&A with Elisabeth Goodridge, editorial director of newsletters at The New York Times (Medium, Mollie Leavitt)