Need to Know: December 11, 2018

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


You might have heardAfter years of growth, the use of social media for news is falling across the world (Nieman Lab)

But did you know:For the first time, social media outpaces print newspapers in the U.S. as a news source (Pew Research Center)

In a new Pew Research Center survey, one in five U.S. adults say they often get news via social media, slightly higher than the share who often do so from print newspapers (16 percent) for the first time since Pew began asking this question. In 2017, the portion who got news via social media was about equal to the portion who got news from print newspapers. Social media’s small edge over print emerged after years of steady declines in newspaper circulation and modest increases in the portion of Americans who use social media. Overall, television is still the most popular platform for news consumption — even though its use has declined since 2016. News websites are the next most common source, followed by radio, social media sites and — in last place — print newspapers.

+ Noted: Time Magazine awards its Person of the Year honor to Jamal Khashoggi, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, imprisoned Reuters journalists, and Capital Gazette staff (Time); McClatchy to centralize design jobs in North Carolina (Sacramento Bee); Anti-election meddling group makes A.I.-powered Trump impersonator to warn about “deepfakes” (CNBC); Feds investigate millions of falsely-attributed comments about net neutrality that were posted on the FCC website (BuzzFeed News)


Advice for aspiring explainer journalists (Vox)

These days, journalism is “less about producing new information than it is about gathering information already on the record, evaluating it, and explaining and contextualizing it for an audience, perhaps with some analysis and argumentation for good measure,” writes David Roberts. The best explainer journalists have mastered their subject matter and know far more than the average reader about the topic; a “reasonable expertise” that “just requires sustained attention — putting in the hours,” Roberts says. “From that niche, you can spread out.” Explainer journalists also network in a way that not only yields career opportunities, but improves their research and writing. “The people who have come to my favorable attention over the years have done so because they ask smart questions, or point to information or sources I hadn’t seen, or connect me with other useful people. Whatever their roles or intentions, they know and care about the subject matter; they want to learn and they want to share what they know.”


In Britain, a team effort to help local news survive (The New York Times)

In an unusual effort to revive coverage of local government, smaller news publishers in Britain can now get a share of the BBC’s license fee, the annual charge paid by every household with a television that has sustained the BBC as local newsroom budgets have shrunk. The money, 8 million pounds a year (about $10.2 million), is used by local newspapers and news sites to pay the salaries of additional reporters. In return for the financing, newspapers cannot use the new positions as an opportunity to cut newsroom staffs, and must assign the reporters to cover local government beats. The BBC and dozens of media organizations are allowed to republish the articles, creating a kind of wire service for local news. For the BBC, the arrangement also serves as a counter to critics in Parliament who say that it can crowd out commercial companies, or who argue that the TV license fee should be scrapped.


Protecting your journalism career from setbacks by thinking like an entrepreneur (Poynter)

With layoffs an unfortunate reality in the news business, it’s impossible to count on staying in one place for long. Journalists with an entrepreneurial spirit are constantly planning the next thing, says Roland Martin, host and managing editor of TV One Cable Network. Part of that planning is building your audience so they follow you from job to job, he told the audience at Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media. The other part is creating relationships with people at your current job. Befriend people in sales and marketing. Think of sources as potential partners or investors. “You have to be fully aware of what you represent when you talk to people,” Martin said. “As you build your career, think down the line. Today, I’m interviewing. Tomorrow, I may be pitching.”


Did The Washington Post pull its punches on Amazon and USPS? (Columbia Journalism Review)

A recent story about the US Postal Service and the rates it charges third-party shippers appeared to downplay Amazon’s role in the controversy, writes Mathew Ingram, who compared the Washington Post story to one written by The Wall Street Journal. While Ingram admits there is no actual evidence that the Post’s coverage was deliberately more favorable to Amazon, “a newspaper’s ownership can influence coverage in more subtle ways than outright calls for censorship, including self-censorship and the pulling of punches. And the price of being owned by one of the world’s richest men is that some will inevitably see bias even where it might not exist.”

+ Michael Bloomberg still doesn’t seem to understand how journalism works (The Washington Post)


Meet the Bottomless Pinocchio, a new rating for a false claim repeated over and over again (The Washington Post)

President Trump’s willingness to constantly repeat false claims has posed a unique challenge to fact-checkers, writes Glenn Kessler. “The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things, he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation.” To accurately reflect this phenomenon, The Washington Post Fact Checker is introducing a new category dubbed the Bottomless Pinocchio. This distinction will be awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation.

+ Related: Trump’s lies and disinformation require a new kind of media response (The Washington Post)

+ Podcasts are getting newsier: Before “The Daily” by The New York Times, five-day-a-week podcasts on current events were a rarity. Now ABC News, Vox, The Washington Post and other news organizations have gotten in on the game. (The New York Times)