Need to Know: Dec. 2, 2019


You might have heard: Trump discussed claims of “fake news,” and their impact, in a meeting earlier this year with the New York Times publisher (New York Times)

But did you know: Despots — as well as leaders of democratic governments — have invoked the term ‘fake news’ to discredit independent journalism (New York Times)

President Trump has tweeted out the term “fake news” more than 600 times, with a notable increase in the weeks since the impeachment inquiry was launched. Following his example, leaders of more than 40 foreign governments have used the epithet to discredit journalists in their own countries and abroad. The weaponization of the term against the news media comes at an “already perilous moment for the supply of information about the world as it truly is,” writes the Times Editorial Board. “The capacity of news organizations to produce this kind of journalism — and to reach an audience that will listen — is contingent and fragile. Mr. Trump shows no sign of seeing this bigger picture, or, perhaps, of caring about it. So it falls to the rest of us … to tell the truth about a free press, to proclaim its value, in the United States and around the world.”

+ Noted: The Institute for Nonprofit News launches the Dorothy Kunes Cross Fund to support women in journalism (INN)


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How Newsday uses newsletter audience data to increase subscriptions (INMA)

Looking to satisfy readers’ appetite for political corruption coverage, Newsday launched a pop-up newsletter to cover the trial of one of the most powerful politicians on Long Island. More than 5,000 people signed up for the newsletter within 10 days, and more than 1,100 of those email addresses were new — an important KPI. Over its three-month run, the Power on Trial newsletter averaged a 50% open rate; Newsday’s highest since it began tracking newsletter metrics. Much of the content from Power on Trial was also featured in a weekly curated newsletter called In Case You Missed It, which features stories that have high engagement scores and the most paths to conversion over the past week. In Case You Missed It is sent to two audience groups: non-subscribers and subscribers at risk of canceling. In the first two months after launch, the non-subscriber edition averaged a 25% open rate and led to more than 30 conversions. For subscribers with declining engagement, engagement levels increased from 5% to 7%.

+ Related: Looking for ways to better reach specific audiences? You can test your hypotheses and run experiments using API’s Metrics for News. Learn more here.


Malta’s prime minister quits in crisis over journalist murder (The Guardian)

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced his resignation Sunday evening, after a police investigation into the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia linked the crime to members of Muscat’s administration. Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 after her reporting uncovered corruption in the highest levels of Malta’s government. The investigation’s findings have triggered protests on the island nation and calls for Muscat’s resignation. Muscat will step down on Jan. 12, 2020.

+ Related: How the Times of Malta is combating the rumors and disinformation swirling around the Caruana Galizia case (Times of Malta)


Your work emails contain subtle clues about your emotional state (Quartz)

People who are less happy tend to use personal pronouns (“I” and “me”) more than average, and words relating to other people (like “he” or “she”) less, according to James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to using personal pronouns more than third-person pronouns, people who are less happy tend to talk about the present much more than the future. Pennebaker has used his findings to develop a tool that analyzes employees’ (anonymized) verbal and written communications for insights into their satisfaction and wellbeing. The tool is one of several new approaches in the business of figuring out how employees are feeling at work.


Why TV networks may be afraid of investigative stories (Los Angeles Times)

There is a deepening concern among some veteran journalists and producers that network TV news divisions are avoiding controversial enterprise stories that could pose financial risks from litigation and aggravate their corporate owners, writes Stephen Battaglio. The networks’ reluctance to pursue such stories are compounded by declining ratings and public distrust of the media. Risk management is now a major element of running a news division, writes Battaglio. “If you speak to any reporter who has chased down a story, whether it be for a month or two to seven months, everybody has a version of their story getting killed,” said Rich McHugh, who was the NBC News producer on Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein. “I’ve heard from 50 reporters and producers who’ve said, ‘Yeah, I’ve had my story killed, it was infuriating, they said we didn’t have it.’”

+ How the Pirate Act could impact news flowing to underrepresented communities (The Verge)


The coming of age of open-source journalism (New York Times)

Leaked documents and interviews with whistle-blowing sources will always be a part of investigative journalism. But thanks to the rise of digital technology, and the easy availability of data that has gone with it, reporters have more ways to get stories than ever before. Internet sleuths who comb public data, a practice known as open-source journalism, have broken major stories and solved mysteries surrounding cases like the Jamal Khashoggi murder and the Russian government’s attempt to kill a former spy now living abroad. With its emphasis on raw facts, open-source journalism is particularly effective at a time when readers all along the ideological spectrum have become skeptical of the news media.

+ Earlier: How reporters at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shared their analysis of public data on playground safety incidents at city parks (OpenNews)