Need to Know: Feb. 4, 2020


You might have heard: On social media, false news travels faster than the truth (MIT News)

But did you know: A false claim designed to suppress voting in Iowa is the latest example of how disinformation persists on social media (The Guardian)

Judicial Watch, a conservative foundation based in Washington, D.C., issued a press release Monday falsely claiming that eight counties in Iowa had more voters on their registration rolls than were eligible to vote. Despite the claim being debunked by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, it continued to spread on social media, with a boost from conservative media figures Sean Hannity and Charlie Kirk. Both Facebook and Twitter have declined to remove posts carrying the false information, although Facebook submitted it to its third-party fact-checking outfit, which indeed found it to be false. Facebook posts spreading the disinformation now carry a “false information/checked by independent factcheckers” label.

+ Noted: Tribune Publishing announces management transition, with Terry Jimenez assuming the role of President and Chief Executive Officer (PR Newswire); Trump campaign ejects Bloomberg reporter from Iowa news conference (Wall Street Journal); Apple News introduces special coverage of 2020 U.S. presidential election (MacRumors)


API is hiring a Community Manager to connect newsroom leaders and experts ahead of Election 2020

The contract-based Community Manager will build a real-time network of newsroom leaders and experts who will communicate throughout the 2020 election to combat disinformation and other threats to honest reporting, election integrity and voter suppression. This role is grant-funded through the 2020 election in November, with funds and tasks to extend to the end of the calendar year. Apply immediately if you are interested.


Publishers are growing audiences by producing less content (Digiday)

A more sophisticated understanding of audience metrics is helping publishers like the Guardian, The Times of London and Le Monde strip away the content that no one is reading, leading to significant boosts in traffic, longer dwell times and ultimately more subscribers. People read fewer articles online, said media analyst Thomas Baekdal. “Whether a digital magazine publishes 100, 500, or 1,000 articles makes no difference” to the reader, he said. “It’s the quality and interest of the articles that matter instead.”

+ Earlier: The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., switched from tracking page views and clicks, to tracking the amount of time readers spent with an article. The new metrics helped them cut back on stories no one was reading — ultimately reducing their daily story count by about half, and growing digital subscriptions by 250%. (Poynter)


An attempt to increase class diversity in U.K. journalism hits a PR bump as it expands and professionalizes (Nieman Lab)

It was undeniably a good solution to a persistent problem: Offer young, aspiring journalists a free place to stay (ideally with other journalists) when they arrive in London for unpaid or low-paid internships, thus removing a formidable cost barrier for many students coming from poor and working-class backgrounds. But as PressPad grew, the volunteer-run organization announced it would begin to impose fees on students taking advantage of its service. The blowback from many journalists on Twitter was swift, and PressPad was left scrambling to explain how its pricing structure would still ensure affordability for interns. (There are financial aid options and the opportunity for media outlets to subsidize their interns’ stay.) Critics were somewhat mollified. “It’s really difficult for anyone to come up with perfect solutions to massively entrenched problems, but at least @PressPadUK is trying,” tweeted journalist Jessica Bateman. “Seeing everyone rush to cancel it is so depressing.”

+ Infographic shows Saudi attacks on the free press since Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman came to power (Committee to Protect Journalists); Journalists from every major national news outlet left a Downing Street briefing in protest of tensions between Boris Johnson’s team and the media (Mirror)


Why companies are scrapping the annual performance review (Harvard Business Review)

Around the world, companies are replacing annual performance reviews with frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees. The problem with annual reviews (besides the fact that both managers and employees hate them) is that they “hold people accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future,” write Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis. “In contrast, regular conversations about performance and development change the focus to building the workforce your organization needs to be competitive both today and years from now.”

+ Democrats on Twitter are more liberal and less focused on compromise than those not on the platform (Pew Research Center), proving once again that “Twitter is not America” (Twitter, @JessAMahone)


Iowa caucuses prove the framing errors that shaped coverage in 2016 are being repeated (Columbia Journalism Review)

Despite declarations that horse-race coverage is dead, the reporting in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses has been “obsessed” with candidates’ performance in the polls, writes Jon Allsop — something made especially clear when news outlets were left flat-footed after the Des Moines Register poll was yanked for possible inconsistencies. Besides the horse-race focus, media outlets repeated other mistakes from the 2016 election, says Allsop, including amplifying candidates’ insults of each other and scrutinizing their electability — which can warp the public’s idea of who can win and who can’t. Meanwhile, good policy coverage has been largely neglected.

+ Related: “You can’t help it affecting how you’re thinking”: Journalists admit to being influenced by the spiked Des Moines Register poll (BuzzFeed News)


BuzzFeed News is recruiting teenagers to make election-themed TikTok and Instagram videos (Nieman Lab)

Maybe the BBC should steal this idea. BuzzFeed News is looking for three teen “ambassadors” to make weekly videos for TikTok and Instagram that “create meaningful conversations about U.S. politics” and “show what 2020 means for them and their peers,” according to the job description. The ambassadors will work remotely from swing states and areas typically overlooked in national political coverage, although they will go to New York for training from BuzzFeed News at the start of their work. “I feel it’s really important to pass the mic to them,” said Sara Yasin, BuzzFeed News’ director of news curation.

+ Earlier: The few publishers who are on TikTok are mainly using it to generate “fun” content (Digiday)