Need to Know: August 3, 2018

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


You might have heard: In February Facebook launched a subscriptions accelerator for local news publishers (TechCrunch)

But did you know: Now Facebook plans to launch a membership accelerator for local news (Facebook)

The three-month pilot program is designed to help news organizations with membership models “take a bold step forward in their membership approach and execution,” the company announced yesterday. The accelerator comes as part of an additional $4.5 million investment by Facebook in local news projects, part of which will expand the subscriptions accelerator program. In the “bootcamp-style” membership pilot, publishers will collaborate in-person once a month, receive one-on-one coaching, participate in weekly trainings, and receive grant funding to tackle projects tailored to their specific business needs — all while documenting their work to be shared with publishers around the world.

+ Noted: 59 percent of TV newsrooms and 13 percent of radio newsrooms report profitability in 2017 (RTDNA); Poynter and Koch Foundation launch program to improve student journalism and model civil dialogue through campus news coverage (Poynter); Report for America is accepting applications from newsrooms interested in hosting the next class of corps members, for which it pays half the salaries (Report for America); Senate Democrats introduce resolution condemning White House attacks on the media (Washington Free Beacon); Upworthy/Good lays off almost entire editorial staff (Twitter, @lheron)


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 a redesigned code of principles from the International Fact-Checking Network; how conspiracy theories are hijacking YouTube searches on celebrities; and what happens when fact checkers are targets of online hoaxes.


Texas Monthly tests a strategy for stopping readers who use ad blockers (Lenfest Institute)

The Texas Monthly wanted ad-blocking readers to understand why digital advertising is an important part of its business, so last month the magazine launched an experiment. When readers using ad blockers arrived at its website, they got a interstitial message with two options. They could sign up for Texas Monthly’s newsletter to keep their ad blocker on, or whitelist the site. (Or, simply dismiss the message.) While the majority of ad-blocking readers are just dismissing the interstitial, some are whitelisting the site, and the magazine has seen a slight increase in newsletter signups. Still, the experiment has allowed Texas Monthly to be more transparent about its advertising practices, says Brett Bowlin, director of digital strategy.

+ The two most common reasons for journalists to break “off the record” promises: the source is lying, or the source goes on record (Poynter); Check freelance fees before you pitch with Who Pays Writers (


How the U.K. plans to deal with fake news (U.K. Parliament)

A British parliamentary committee has issued several recommendations for stopping the spread of misinformation on social media, including rejecting the term “fake news” in favor of “misinformation” or “disinformation,” applying accuracy and impartiality regulations to online media, and creating a group of experts to research how misinformation spreads and how fact-checking can help stop it. However, many fact-checkers argue that the report fails to account for the potential of government overreach, write Poynter’s Daniel Funke and Alexios Mantzarlis.

+ Chinese dissident arrested at home during live TV interview (The Guardian)


3 questions about AI that nontechnical employees should be able to answer (Harvard Business Review)

When leaders invest in artificial intelligence, much of their attention goes to hiring machine learning experts, or paying for tools, writes Emma Martinho-Truswell. “But this misses a critical opportunity. For organizations to get the most that they can from AI, they should also be investing in helping all of their team members to understand the technology better.” A basic understanding of AI can help employees identify useful ways that AI could make their organization more efficient. That means being able to answer these questions: How does AI work? What is it good at? What should it never do?


Should you major in journalism? Eight stories from journalists who didn’t (Nieman Lab)

Even as journalism jobs vanish, the number of new graduates with a degree in journalism or a related field is on the rise, writes Marlee Baldridge. She spoke with eight working journalists who didn’t major in journalism about the decisions they made — and asked what advice they had to offer to others. The main takeaways? Major in a subject that really interests you, which could later become your beat. Intern for your student paper. Find a mentor who can connect you with people in journalism. Go after journalism internships, and be prepared in the beginning, to work more for less. “If you decide that maybe journalism school isn’t a great fit for you,” said Miami-based reporter Sammy Mack, “then take every opportunity to build up the skills that you will need in journalism outside of your curriculum.”

+ The New York Times takes heat over appointing Verge reporter Sarah Jeong to its editorial board after controversial tweets surfaced; both NYT and The Verge stand by Jeong (The Wrap); Related: Far-right propagandist Mike Cernovich targets journalists by digging up their “fireable tweets” (HuffPost)


AP reporter who observed 400+ executions in Texas retires (AP News)

Associated Press journalist Michael Graczyk, who witnessed and chronicled more than 400 executions as a criminal justice reporter in Texas, will retire Tuesday after nearly 46 years with the news service. Graczyk may have observed more executions than any other person in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, reports Nomaan Merchant. Millions of readers in Texas and beyond relied on his coverage of capital punishment in America’s most active death penalty state. Noreen Gillespie, the AP’s deputy managing editor for U.S. news, said the significance of Graczyk’s work “can’t be underestimated.” “Mike’s description of what happens in an execution is how the world and most of the country knows how that happens,” she said.


+ Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley have “weaponized social media, and we are all paying the price” (The New York Times)

+ Blast off: Florida Today created an augmented reality rocket launch app that combines the live coverage of rocket launches with an educational tool to teach users about the underlying science. “We were looking at Pokèmon GO and how that used real settings and augmented reality, and … what we could do that freshens up our launch coverage, which is very successful and attracts a huge audience,” said news director Mara Bellaby. “We applied for an internal contest at Gannett to see if we could win and get help from a corporate team to build something. We won. And in those discussions, the format … really took shape.”

+ Educators: Here’s a useful timeline of the history of public broadcasting in the U.S. (Current)

+ When crime comes for the crime writer (Vulture)