Need to Know: Feb. 20, 2020


You might have heard: Many Americans say made-up news is a critical problem that needs to be fixed … by journalists (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Concern about influence of made-up news on the election is lowest among those paying the least attention (Pew Research Center)

A whopping 82% of Americans say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the potential impact of made-up news on the 2020 presidential election, a recent Pew Research survey found. About half (48%) placed themselves in the “very concerned” category. The survey also found that the more closely people are following political and election news, the more likely they are to be very concerned. Interestingly, people aged 18 to 29, who are assumed to spend the most time on social media, where fake news thrives, are less concerned about the impact of fake news on the election; whereas the majority of those over age 65 said they are very worried.

+ Noted: Bloomberg bankrolls a social-media army to push message (Wall Street Journal); This year’s Polk Award winners have been announced, including The New York Times’s 1619 Project (New York Times); China expels three WSJ reporters (Wall Street Journal)


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Newsroom mentoring programs should prioritize dealing with online harassment (Poynter)

Although young journalists may be savvier than their older colleagues when it comes to engaging audiences on social media, they also are more likely to need support when it comes to dealing with harassment on those platforms. “Young reporters are on the front lines of online engagement and get the brunt of the attacks,” writes Andrea Martin. A formalized mentoring program can help prepare young journalists to respond effectively to uncivil, accusatory and threatening comments from users on social media. Here are some resources for incorporating harassment training into your mentorship (or internship) program.

+ Three ways media coverage of coronavirus can perpetuate stereotypes and fuel xenophobia toward Asian Americans (Twitter, @aajaseoul)


Australia has 17 million Facebook users and seven Facebook fact checkers (BuzzFeed News)

Nearly one third of Australians get their news from Facebook, so those seven fact checkers — who work for two third-party organizations, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Australian Associated Press (AAP) — have an outsized role in filtering the information that gets through to them. By comparison, the U.S. and Canada have 190 million active Facebook users and 26 U.S. fact checkers working full-time to verify information on Facebook.


Why some people don’t vote (and how news orgs might reach them) (Knight Foundation)

More than 100 million Americans are eligible to vote — but don’t. Who are they and what’s on their minds in 2020?” The Knight Foundation yesterday released a landmark study on America’s non-voters and found that many lack faith in our democratic institutions and engage less with news. However, more than a third are college graduates and are middle-class or wealthier. They’re also spread across the political spectrum. The study showed that people ages 18-24 are less informed, less interested in politics, and less likely to vote in 2020 than non-voters overall, which suggests we could be losing a generation of voters.


Podcasting’s golden age is just beginning (What’s New in Publishing)

We’ve been hearing a lot about the oversaturation of podcasts and how some publishers, not seeing an immediate return on their investment, are beginning to pull back from podcasts. But podcasts haven’t peaked just yet, writes Esther Kezia Thorpe. The difficulty of building audiences is not an over-saturation issue, but a discoverability one — and many platforms, including Spotify, are beginning to invest heavily in tools that make it easier for listeners to find podcasts. Another reason some publishers have been disappointed by podcasts is that their expectations are too high. “I’ve been surprised by how many publishers dive head first into creating super expensive narrative podcasts,” said media analyst Simon Owens. “The production cost for these run into the six figures…and guess what? Most won’t pull in a million downloads. I’d advise most publishers to walk before they run.”

+ On the other hand: Spotify listeners don’t seem to be nearly as into news podcasts as Apple listeners are (Nieman Lab)


Journalism needs a strategy to bridge the chasm between the now and the next (Nieman Reports)

“A central challenge for the industry is whether innovation, new platforms, and alternative ownership structures can progress fast enough to make up for the loss of legacy journalism,” writes Ann Marie Lipinski. It’s a challenge that is playing out right now in Chicago and across the country, as legacy newspapers, weakened by the decline in ad revenue, are folding or being consolidated and sold off to hedge fund “vultures.” In Chicago, a dozen journalism startups have cropped up since the Chicago Tribune began ailing, but the reporting staffs of all of those startups combined cannot yet replicate even the shrunken capacities of the Tribune. While those outlets need investment, so do legacy newsrooms like the Tribune, which often help to set the agenda and amplify reporting from other local news outlets.