Need to Know: Dec. 21, 2018

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


You might have heard: US newsrooms use mobile alerts to define their brand (The Tow Center for Digital Journalism)

But did you know: US Newsrooms view mobile alerts as a standalone platform (The Tow Center for Digital Journalism)

In 2017, the Tow Center at Columbia University did a deep dive into mobile push alerts, publishing a report in collaboration with the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab that looked at newsrooms’ push notification usage and strategy. But a year is a long time in the world of push alerts — and, of course, mobile phones. As the year anniversary of the study approached this past June, they decided to conduct another round of data collection to see what, if anything, had changed. What they found is that while the basic form and appearance of push notifications may not have evolved dramatically in the intervening 12 months, it’s the strategic thinking around newsroom usage that has.

+ Noted: Ex-Senate staffer James Wolfe sentenced to two months in leak probe for lying to the FBI after he had been linked to a NYT reporter after DOJ seized her phone and email records (The Washington Post); Adam Sharp, Twitter’s former head of news, has been named president and CEO of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Deadline); Times Square News Year’s Eve event will celebrate journalism and its official charity will be the Committee to Protect Journalists (Broadcasting & Cable)

API Update

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. In the latest edition of “The Week in Fact-Checking” newsletter, some of the top fact-checking stories from 2018, including how to spot a deepfake, how well can you tell factual from opinion statements, and a guide to anti-misinformation actions around the world.

+ College journalism students: Apply now to be the American Press Institute Summer Fellow for 2019. Applications should be submitted no later than Jan. 6.


How to get your newsroom ready to fight disinformation in 2019 (

In a bid to continue to tackle misinformation globally, nonprofit organization First Draft has been working in the US and Brazil over the last six months, monitoring different types of information disorder. Its research has shown that the current information threat online is not false content, but rather misleading posts and comments designed to deepen existing divisions in society. “Increasingly, the types of content that we’re seeing are actually genuine, but misleading. It might be genuine imagery, but recycled,” said Claire Wardle, who leads First Draft, speaking at the Google DNI Innovation Forum. “The most effective disinformation is that which taps into our emotional responses,” she said, noting that it is designed to reinforce “your” position and denigrate the other side.

+ The top 10 tools for journalism in 2018 (and 10 other things to bookmark) (Poynter); The Kansas City Star goes deeper into transparency and engagement (News Co/Lab)


As Cameroon spirals into civil war, its journalists are being arrested and imprisoned on a charge of ‘fake news’ for trying to report on the violence (The Washington Post)

In Cameroon, where English-speaking separatists are fighting the largely French-speaking government to establish a new nation, journalists covering the violence are increasingly finding themselves behind bars on a surprising charge: fake news. The latest case centers on the killing of an American missionary from Indiana, who was shot dead 12 days after his family moved to the central African country in October. In the immediate aftermath of his death, in one of the country’s unstable regions, Cameroonian journalist Mimi Mefo Takambou sought to find out who killed him. But after she cited social media reports that claimed the Cameroonian military had shot Charles Wesco, she was accused of publishing fake news online and later arrested.

+ “GDPR will ultimately be good for the industry”: Guardian CRO Hamish Nicklin on 2019 plans (Digiday)


How to select and develop individuals for successful agile teams: A practical guide (McKinsey Quarterly)

To survive and thrive, many organizations are making the effort to become more agile. Whereas traditional organizations seem mechanical, hierarchical, and linear, agile organizations feel more organic: they balance stability with dynamism and can adapt for an ever-changing, unpredictable future. The personal characteristics that lead to success in an agile organization differ from those in a traditional organization. Much depends on the talent, whether developed or recruited. Broadly, people who flourish in an agile organization need to have the following three capabilities: First, they handle ambiguity without losing focus; second, they concentrate on outcomes over processes; and third, they work and contribute by being a team member.


Ad boycotts of Tucker Carlson Tonight were inevitable after people publicly objected to racist messages and Fox News abdicated its role of supervising a host (The Washington Post)

In October, Tucker Carlson boasted about how he could say anything he wants to say on his prime-time Fox News program. On Dec. 13, Carlson said on his program that immigration makes the United States “dirtier,” not to mention more poor and more divided. The next day, at least 15 companies announced they would reevaluate advertisements on the program. Fox News’s response? We support him. “The recent work of Sleeping Giants and Media Matters is no deus ex machina,” writes Erik Wemple. “It’s an extension of very reasonable and long-standing critiques of Carlson’s divisive programming. At most organizations that self-identify as news purveyors, the criticism might have prompted intervention by leadership, also known as editing … As Carlson and Hannity attest, laissez-faire editorial policies have their charms — as well as their perils: If ownership won’t police the hateful content, someone else will.”


The Fresno Bee and the war on local news (GQ)

Local newspapers like The Fresno Bee have long been endangered institutions in America, and that was before California Rep. Devin Nunes began waging a public campaign against his hometown paper. It’s not that local newspapers like The Fresno Bee are perfect, writes Zach Baron. It’s that they contain news. Lose them and you lose the basic building blocks of any political or social conversation, which are facts. Information. Are your schools good or bad? Does your air have poison in it? What exactly does Devin Nunes do every day in Washington, when he’s not in Fresno? You either know or you don’t. “The question I had, going up to the Bee for the first time, was basically: What is it like to do this job at this time? Their congressman is running ads against them. They’re worried about the future of journalism and the future of their jobs. They’ve got a bunch of yellow safety vests hanging in the newsroom for covering wildfires. They’re trying to write about water and food and transit and politics: all the things that will ultimately determine the fate of the state. How do they do it?”

For the Weekend

+ Der Spiegel journalist messed with the wrong small town: Two residents of Fergus Falls, Minn., detail what Claas Relotius of Der Spiegel fabricated and got wrong when he visited to write about US rural support of Trump  (Medium, Michele Anderson)

+ The funny, the weird and the serious: 33 media corrections from 2018 (Poynter)

+ Be wary of parachute journalism, and also parachute research: A new study in the British Medical Journal serves as an example for all journalists who swoop in and out of academic papers without much care (Journalist’s Resource)  

+ 18 lessons for the news business from 2018 (Nieman Lab)

Need to Know will be on a holiday break next week. The next newsletter will be on Jan. 2, 2019. Thanks for reading and see you next year!