Need to Know: Feb. 24, 2020

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


You might have heard: Twitter will ban ‘deceptive’ faked media that could cause ‘serious harm’ (The Verge)

But did you know: Digital edits, a paid army: Bloomberg is ‘destroying norms’ on social media (The New York Times)

On Friday, Twitter suspended 70 accounts that posted identical content in support of billionaire and presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg. The accounts followed his campaign’s move to pay 500 people $2,500 a month to post pro-Bloomberg content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Bloomberg’s campaign messages have become almost ubiquitous after spending about $400 million on ads on social media, television and radio. Bloomberg’s campaign also edited a clip of last week’s Democratic debate to make it appear he performed better than he did, leading Twitter to say it could label the video as misleading.

+ Noted: Men’s Journal lays off entire editorial staff (WWD); With half a million international subscribers, The New York Times builds UK breaking news team (Digiday); Condé Nast agrees to end the use of NDAs across the entire company (The Daily Beast)


How might we reimagine opinion journalism for our digital, polarized age?

Newspaper opinion sections can be polarizing — and in an age of fragile trust in local news, many newsrooms are unwilling to risk driving away readers. We look at three newsrooms that are reinventing their opinion sections, turning them into venues for engaging, inclusive dialogue around local issues. 


These students are learning about fake news and how to spot it (The New York Times)

The Stanford History Education Group tested students on their ability to assess information online, finding that two-thirds couldn’t distinguish between news and ads on Slate. More than half didn’t recognize that a video claiming to show election fraud was a hoax. Amid growing concerns about the impact of misinformation, a Brooklyn middle school is one of the first in the United States to incorporate news literacy into its English curriculum. Students are required to take an hour of news literacy instruction every week for three years. Fourteen states require elementary and secondary schools to teach media literacy skills.


How to build a good reader revenue model: lessons from Spain and the UK (Reuters Institute)

A new report from Reuters examines how news organizations in the UK and Spain are approaching subscriptions. Most of the UK’s national publications have built paywalls during the last few years, while in Spain, prominent newspapers started experimenting with digital subscriptions and paywalls just last fall. One of the things to consider is user experience, writes Eduardo Suárez. Site packaging matters, but making it easy for readers to subscribe, donate or unsubscribe is equally important.

+ The Sun records £68m loss amid falling sales and hacking damages (The Guardian); Wall Street Journal reporters protest a headline that led the Chinese government to revoke three journalists’ credentials (The Washington Post)


Many tech experts say digital disruption will hurt democracy (Pew Research Center)

The Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked about 1,000 tech industry, business and policy leaders how they think technology may impact democracy by 2030. Almost half said that technology will mostly weaken democracy. Some respondents expressed concerns that technology deteriorated journalism’s business model, while increasing tribalism and misinformation through social media. Others are more optimistic about the future. University of Illinois Springfield associate vice chancellor Roy Schroeder said that deceptive information is not a new problem, adding, “Truth is resilient and durable.” 


We have entered the Trump Unbound era — and journalists need to step it up. (The Washington Post)

Margaret Sullivan calls for abandoning “neutrality-at-all-costs journalism” for a new model that avoids bothsidesism and describes the world fairly. Out of fear they may be called biased or anti-Trump, nonpartisan journalists sometimes downplay or choose not to report certain stories, she argues. “In this new era, my prescription is less false equivalence, more high-impact language and more willingness to take a stand for democracy,” Sullivan writes.


A pipeline runs through Southern news deserts (Columbia Journalism Review)

This month, the Supreme Court will decide if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can resume construction after more than a year in hiatus. “All three states crossed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have a dearth of local newspapers,” CJR’s Lyndsey Gilpin reports, citing University of North Carolina data. As a result, updates about permits, protests, hearings, lawsuits, and risks are covered inconsistently or not at all. “The absence leaves ample space for powerful campaigns by…the pipeline’s developers and buyers of its natural gas, as well as industry-aligned lobbyists and politicians, to shape the pipeline narrative,” Gilpin writes. “Another result is misinformation and confusion about the status of a massive energy project that affects tens of thousands of people, several endangered species, and a variety of fragile ecosystems.” 

+ What happened between E. Jean Carroll and Elle magazine? (The New York Times)