Need to Know: Dec. 5, 2019


You might have heard: The number of fact-checking organizations has quintupled since 2014, with 210 active groups now operating in 68 countries (Duke Reporters’ Lab)

But did you know: Fact-checking is a booming industry — but its ties to traditional journalism are weakening (Columbia Journalism Review)

As local news shrinks, fact-checking initiatives are growing, thanks to a surge of philanthropic investment that’s coming from outside the news industry. According to the 2019 Duke University Reporters’ Lab census, last year 87% of fact-checking organizations were part of, or affiliated with, a media company; as of this September, the figure is 65%. Much of the funding is coming from Facebook and Google, writes Emily Bell, which could be causing the fact-checking industry to flex “to suit the priorities and the ideologies of the tech companies now paying checkers’ salaries.”

+ Noted: Apple News launches daily email newsletter that curates the “best stories from the most trusted sources” (9to5Mac); Missouri School of Journalism modernizes with major curriculum overhaul (RTDNA); The Washington Post launches its first Spanish-language news podcast (Nieman Lab)


Research on public curiosity about journalism offers ideas for building trust (Medium, Trusting News)

A recent study from the Center for Media Engagement captured the questions readers typically have about news stories. Many of those questions had to do with reporter bias and sourcing. Trusting News, an affiliate of API, covers ways to proactively answer those types of questions, like explaining your approach to covering crime or politics, how you work to include multiple perspectives, and who you spoke to for a story and why.

+ Earlier: “Explain your process” box improves perceptions of a news organization (Trusting News)


Texting should be ‘about serving audiences, rather than hawking news’ (Poynter)

Messaging audiences via SMS isn’t a novel idea — newsrooms have been tinkering with the format since the early aughts. But in looking back at how we’ve talked about texting over the years, much of the focus has been on how it could benefit newsrooms rather than audiences. “It’s time to restart that conversation, but this time with our audience-focused approach,” Ren LaForme writes. “What do audiences want and how can we help them? Up-to-the-minute sports scores? Weather updates? Road closures due to storms or construction? Story updates from popular writers? Newsrooms have information that audiences want, and texting is often the best, timeliest, most convenient way to get it to them.”

+ Earlier: During last year’s midterm elections, The Philadelphia Inquirer sent daily texts about local election issues to readers who signed up (Lenfest Local Lab); El Tímpano is testing out texts as a way to reach immigrant communities (International Journalists’ Network); “I’m not too good to text people”: How Doug Lesmerises, sports reporter for, banters with readers via text (Poynter)


Journalism groups in the U.K. are pushing back against political messaging that’s masquerading as news (Press Gazette)

Warnings have been going around the American press about politically-funded sites that are designed to look like local news outlets. Networks of the deceptive sites, backed by both conservatives and liberals, have cropped up as we inch closer to the 2020 elections. But in the U.K., which faces the same problem, journalism advocacy groups are taking action. The Society of Editors is rallying its members to expose publications that “seek to pass off as real, independent newspapers.” Meanwhile, six local media publishers have written to political leaders in the U.K. calling for them to end the campaign tactic and instead help ensure the future of sustainable journalism. The Press Gazette has also published an op-ed demanding that all U.K. political parties cease imitating newspapers in their campaign material.

+ Mexican news publisher Grupo Reforma found that when readers were given the option to “Subscribe with Google,” its subscription rate increased by more than 40% than if readers were to subscribe on their own (Laboratorio de Periodismo); The Telegraph marks “huge milestone” as number of digital subscribers surpasses print (Press Gazette)


How to overcome your (checks email) distraction habit (Harvard Business Review)

Distraction is the biggest barrier to meaningful, satisfying work, writes Maura Thomas. Yet for many of us, distraction has become a habit, something we regularly seek out — which not only decreases our ability to do meaningful work, but also our desire to do it. To break the habit, Thomas suggests keeping a log throughout the day of when we are distracted and why. “Once you become aware of the cues” — reaching for your phone the moment a task has become boring or difficult, or working in a spot where you can be easily interrupted — “you can find ways to overcome them … Over time, you will begin to understand what works and what does not in your unique situation.”


To evolve, newsrooms must become more democratic (Medium, Simon Galperin)

News organizations aren’t typically structured very democratically. Top-down decision-making and lack of transparency around everything from editorial processes to staffing decisions can cause employees to feel like they don’t have a stake in their own careers. At SRCCON:LEAD, a conference on leadership in journalism and technology, attendees identified several ways to introduce democratic processes into a newsroom — without changing the org chart. Many of their ideas had to do with editorial processes; for example, conducting surveys or holding votes to determine editorial agendas, or establishing mechanisms that allow employees to stop stories collectively. Others were about staff performance and evaluation, like setting transparent project metrics that include newsroom satisfaction surveys.


Aspiring and early-career journalists, this one’s for you (Poynter)

As a grad student at the University of Iowa, the pinnacle of Sara Baranowski’s career ambitions was to be a political reporter at a big daily newspaper — namely, The New York Times. But after 13 years at the Iowa Falls Times Citizen, a family-owned weekly in a town of 5,000 people, Baranowski has a different definition of success. For her, success is “making a difference in a community through my work. I do that by providing information and telling people’s stories, ultimately making it a better place for everyone — and having control over what I do and how I do it.” Although she acknowledges that further down her career path, her idea of success could change and evolve, she realized that her early dreams of working at a big-city newspaper reflected other people’s ideas of success — not necessarily her own. For now, she writes, “I’m editor of the Iowa Falls Times Citizen. It’s an incredible job in a great town. And I’m proud of it.”