Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: August 9, 2018

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: In 2017, 25 percent of Americans said they supported draconian limits on the press (Poynter)

But did you know: 43 percent of Republicans want to give Trump the power to shut down media (Daily Beast)

In a new survey of 1,003 American adults, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Nearly half (48 percent) said they believed the “news media is the enemy of the American people,” while 79 percent said “the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly.” Meanwhile, 12 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Independents agreed that the president should be able to shut down news outlets, and 12 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Independents agreed that the media is the enemy of the American people. Ironically, 85 percent of all respondents believed that “freedom of the press is essential for American democracy.”

+ Anti-press sentiment among Americans is by no means new: In 1979, 22 percent of Americans agreed that “the President has a right to close down a newspaper that prints stories that he feels are biased or inaccurate.” (Twitter, @aedwardslevy)

+ Noted: Tribune calls off $3.9 billion Sinclair media deal (CNN); ProPublica to expand Local Reporting Network to focus on state governments (ProPublica); New York Times Co. reports $24 million profit, with two-thirds of revenue coming from subscriptions (The New York Times)

TRY THIS AT HOME

How a Connecticut publisher got 5 major foundations to support local journalism (Poynter)

Bruce Putterman, publisher of The Connecticut Mirror, worked with local foundations to secure $100,000 in funding, sponsorship for two in-depth series, two or three planned events related to the projects and money for the Mirror’s general operating expenses. He and Democracy Fund’s Teresa Gorman shared tips for collaborating with foundations: Make sure the project you’re proposing is specific enough to start right away; do your research on each foundation, looking at their strategies, grantees and other writing; build relationships before making the pitch (and yes, this can take time); and be visible about where you are in this process. Doing things like speaking on panels and writing about what you’re learning “ups your chance at them coming across your work, and it also shows that you’re a collaborative organization that is open to change, learning, and has insights into what works and what doesn’t,” said Gorman.

+ To ensure transparency and establish boundaries around editorial control, Putterman worked with our guiding principles for funders of nonprofit media

OFFSHORE

In Germany, a news site pairs up liberals and conservatives for civil conversation (Nieman Lab)

German national news site Zeit Online likens its “My Country Talks” initiative to “political Tinder.” It matches people based on their responses to a short online survey about the country’s most divisive political issues, and connects them for one-on-one conversations. The initiative has so far been well-received, with 600 pairs meeting in person in June 2017 and three-quarters of pairs giving positive feedback. This year, Zeit Online will run My Country Talks with a dozen other media organizations scattered throughout the country, each soliciting new participants, culminating in what all hope will be thousands more safe, productive meetings on Sept. 23. “The thing that made this successful, I think, is in part because we do not advertise it as a meet up at all,” deputy editor-in-chief Maria Exner said. “We start by asking people’s opinion about something, not by asking them to meet with somebody to talk politics.”

OFFBEAT

Gatekeepers or censors? How tech manages online speech (The New York Times)

Apple, Google and Facebook this week erased from their services many — but not all — videos, podcasts and posts from the right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars site. Twitter left Jones’s posts untouched. These differing approaches exposed how unevenly tech companies enforce their rules on hate speech and offensive content. Facebook has faced the biggest public outcry over what it allows on its platform, and has changed gears in its handling of Jones’s content, but it’s unclear whether this signals a shift in its policy, or is merely a response to an isolated case. Google’s YouTube has the most explicit guidelines of what is and isn’t allowed, but has wrestled with the subjective interpretation of those rules. And Twitter has been more permissive of controversial content than its social media peers, with executives calling it “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

+ Related: With audiences shrinking by the millions, Alex Jones urges Infowars fans to fight back, and send money (The New York Times)

UP FOR DEBATE

Journalist Austin Tice has been missing in Syria for six years. Is it still news? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Reporting on hostages can put their families in a difficult situation, posing a moral issue for journalists, writes Joel Simon. Austin Tice’s parents have expressed concern over certain types of reporting, like probing coverage of behind-the-scenes negotiations, that they fear could jeopardize the sensitive efforts to get Tice back safely. “Journalists first and foremost have a responsibility to cover the news and keep their readers informed,” writes Simon. “Their interests may diverge from those of hostage families who are understandably seeking to manage and control information in ways that will further the resolution of their case.” Simon spoke with Terry Anderson, a former AP bureau chief who was held hostage for seven and a half years in Lebanon, who said that news judgement alone cannot drive the agenda, especially when a reporter is the victim. “It’s a fellow journalist, for Christ’s sake,” Anderson argued. “If you can find a way to cover it, you have a moral obligation to do so.”

+ Yesterday the Knight First Amendment Institute called on Facebook to create a “safe harbor” for journalists and researchers investigating the inner workings of the platform. Would it help? (Nieman Lab)

SHAREABLE

How Times photo interns trusted their gut and made the front page (The New York Times)

The interns, who stood out for their “striking combination of technical skill, journalistic rigor and elevated visual aesthetic,” have had assignments in and around New York City as well as longer-term projects that take them further afield. They’ve met every week with mentors to review work and receive feedback. The photographers all come from a variety of backgrounds with different aesthetics, but each was encouraged to trust her own eye — and, more important, her gut. Intern Marian Carrasquero said she was told by Times photo editor Morrigan McCarthy that she didn’t have to shoot in the style of The New York Times, “because there’s no such thing.”

+ Viral story about pair of elderly Germans who escaped to a metal festival turns out to be wrong (NPR)

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