Need to Know: August 30, 2018

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


You might have heard: How a tariff on Canadian newsprint is threatening American newspapers (The Washington Post)

But did you know: The United States International Trade Commission voted Wednesday to eliminate the newsprint tariff (The New York Times)

The United States International Trade Commission on Wednesday overturned a Trump administration decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint, saying that American paper producers are not harmed by newsprint imports. The unanimous decision by the five-member body eliminates tariffs that have been in effect since January, handing a win to small and medium-size newspapers, which have struggled to absorb the cost of higher newsprint and have made cuts, including layoffs, as a result. However, while the tariff ruling offers a reprieve to newspapers, publishers say it may not result in jobs coming back or pages being restored. Instead, it likely accelerated cost-cutting that would have eventually occurred anyway, given the industry’s declining readership and revenue. Jay Seaton, the publisher of The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel in Colorado, said the changes newspapers made in response to the tariffs were probably inescapable “for newspapers who want to remain viable long into the future.”

+ Noted: The Associated Press signs on with journalism blockchain startup Civil (Digiday); The Atlantic hires Alex Hardiman, head of news products at Facebook, as chief business and product officer (The Atlantic); Facebook announces the international rollout of Facebook Watch, its video destination for episodic content (Variety); Sources say Donerail Group plans to purchase Tronc in up to $700 million deal; if completed, Donerail would sell Tronc newspapers to individual buyers (Nieman Lab); Sinclair countersues Tribune Media over failed tie-up (Reuters)


Collaborations between journalists and academics can increase impact (Poynter)

When The Ohio County Monitor in rural Kentucky launched a new subscription program last fall, the brothers who run the hyperlocal news site sought to more deeply connect with their readers. So Dustin and Lee Bratcher decided to take a listening tour across the 600-square-mile county, often rising before dawn to attend “liars tables” — male-only breakfast gatherings at general stores. A pair of university researchers, Andrea Wenzel and Sam Ford, came along for the ride. Their resulting study, “Engaged Journalism in Rural Communities,” won a new research prize aimed at fostering stronger ties between media professionals and scholars. “From a scholar’s perspective,” writes Jake Batsell, “the paper shows how theoretically driven research can bring timely insight to professional strategy. And for professionals, it shows the promise of initiatives to meet audiences where they already are, and invite them to contribute on their own terms.”

+ A quick guide to finding funding for your local journalism project (Poynter); plus, principles to help ensure editorial independence for nonprofit-funded news


A ‘pop-up newsroom’ will track misinformation during Sweden’s elections (Medium, Fergus Bell)

Sweden is heading towards a close election that could have a significant impact on the country’s political landscape. In a real-time news environment, and amidst growing concerns around “fake news,” the stakes are high for election coverage. Supported by the Google News Initiative, Pop-Up Newsroom Riksdagsvalet 2018 will see more than 100 journalists gathered in one place to monitor information flowing across digital sources in the final days leading up to the Sept. 9 election. Sweden’s media houses and Swedish voters will be able to ask the newsroom to turn its attention to specific subjects as the elections get underway.


Meet the teens who refuse to use social media (The Guardian)

“While many of us have been engrossed in the Instagram lives of our co-workers and peers, a backlash among young people has been quietly boiling,” writes Sirin Kale. One 2017 survey of British schoolchildren found that 63 percent would be happy if social media had never been invented. In another study of Generation Z (people born after 1995), half of those surveyed said they had quit or were considering quitting at least one social media platform. When it comes to Gen Z’s relationship to social media, “significant cracks are beginning to show,” said one researcher. Meanwhile, as young people increasingly reject social media, older generations increasingly embrace it: among the 45-plus age bracket, the proportion who value social media has increased from 23 percent to 28 percent in the past year.


What role should communities play in the journalistic process? (Medium, Keegan Clements-Housser)

With citizen journalism on the rise, and traditional newsrooms no longer the gatekeepers of news, it’s no longer a question of if communities will play a role in producing news, but how, writes Clements-Housser. That question formed the backbone of his research at the University of Oregon, during which he found that 80 percent of individuals surveyed supported a local news model where they had some say in how their news is produced, and 63 percent said the quality of their local news would benefit if they helped newsrooms identify newsworthy topics. All 11 of the newsrooms Clements-Housser also surveyed agreed with this last point, although only three had formal policies for utilizing content produced by members of the community. “Clearly, there remains quite a bit of ground to cover before the journalism industry finds a consistently good collaborative fit with the public,” he writes.


When I say “news,” you say “fake”? (Center for Media Engagement)

In a study with the News/Co Lab on consumer news awareness in Fresno, Calif., Kansas City, Mo., and Macon, Ga., researchers asked respondents to write down the first word that came to their minds when they were shown three terms: news, local news, and the name of a local news organization. “Fake” was overwhelmingly the most common response in all three surveys for the term “news.” For “local news,” positive words like “community” and “good” and negative words like “biased” and “boring” were prevalent. The Telegraph in Macon also elicited “outdated,” and The Fresno Bee and The Kansas City Star drew the word “liberal.” “It was striking that the word ‘fake’ came to mind so readily when respondents were presented with the word ‘news,’” researchers commented, although “fake” was not the word that came to mind for local news or for the specific news outlets. “Among potential criticisms the respondents seemed to have about the news is they saw it as biased and lacking transparency. They also did not seem to feel the news organizations engaged with them, and they felt low trust for the news organizations.”

+ Related: Another study found that “exposure to talk about fake news may lower individuals’ trust in media and lead them to identify real news with less accuracy.” So — should journalists stop using the term “fake news”? (Poynter)