Need to Know: February 1, 2019

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


You might have heardIn July, New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger and President Trump engaged in a fierce public clash over Trump’s threats against journalism, after Sulzberger said the president misrepresented a private meeting and Trump accused The Times and other papers of putting lives at risk with irresponsible reporting (The New York Times)

But did you know: Trump and A.G. Sulzberger discuss allegations of ‘fake news’ and their repercussions in another Oval Office meeting (The New York Times)

In an unusual arrangement, Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger joined two of the paper’s White House correspondents in an interview with President Trump on Thursday, and took the lead in questioning the president about his attacks on the press. “We’re seeing leaders of journalistic organizations saying very directly that governments feel like there is a climate of impunity that’s been created,” Sulzberger said, referring to foreign leaders who are increasingly using the term “fake news” to justify suppressing independent scrutiny. “You know the United States and the occupants of your office historically have been the greatest defenders of the free press.” “And I think I am, too,” Trump responded. “I want to be. I want to be.” When pressed on whether his rhetoric emboldens foreign leaders to crack down on the press in their countries, Trump said “I don’t like that.” But he routinely repeated his personal grievances about the American press, saying, “I do think it’s very bad for a country when the news is not accurately portrayed,” he said. “I really do. And I do believe I’m a victim of that, honestly.”

+ Noted: Online News Association announces the members of the 2019 Women’s Leadership Accelerator (ONA); Reporters at Insider have been told to take a week off from tweeting at work and to keep TweetDeck off their computer screens (Associated Press); Publisher Jay Penske purchases the remaining 49 percent of Rolling Stone (Vanity Fair)


The week in fact-checking

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually (formerly “The Week in Fact-Checking”): Greek minister pushes Soros conspiracy; YouTube is changing its algorithms to stop recommending conspiracy theory videos to users; and Canada is spending $7 million on digital literacy and misinformation awareness campaigns ahead of this fall’s election — making it the latest of at least 40 countries around the world that have taken action against misinformation.


Journalism has a gender representation problem. Bloomberg is looking for a solution. (Poynter)

Last year Bloomberg, which has a company-wide mandate to increase the number of women experts quoted in stories, added a CMS feature that allowed reporters to track source diversity. It has also created New Voices, an initiative that provides media training for high-level women and other diverse executives, after hearing feedback that many potential sources didn’t feel equipped to go on TV. Since the program’s launch in March 2018, the share of women interviewed on Bloomberg TV increased from 10 to 15 percent, and the share of female Bloomberg journalists interviewed on air increased from 28 to 34 percent. The number of women panelists at Bloomberg LIVE events has almost doubled in the past year. “It’s great that we’ve made progress, but we need to keep pushing,” said senior executive editor Laura Zelenko. “We should be doing better, and know that there’s a lot more work to do.”

+ Earlier: I analyzed a year of my reporting for gender bias (again) (The Atlantic); This BBC journalist created a system to make sure more female experts got on air (Poynter)


How a rural women’s paper became a muckraking phenomenon in India (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

In the 1990s, a group of rural women set out to provide an antidote to illiteracy and injustice in Uttar Pradesh, the heart of rural India. Their goal was to empower other rural women in small, neglected towns and villages where illiteracy was high and problems associated with an uninformed public were thriving. Eventually, what started as a four-page experiment to inform women who were learning to read and write became a newspaper that exposes everything from the malfunctions of local government to the mistreatment of women. The staff now consists of 25 women, ”all from rural and Dalit families” — referring to the lowest rank of India’s caste system — “who have been brought up in the same villages and towns they report on,” says editorial manager Pooja Pande. The newspaper, which has risen to national attention, has helped make rural journalism in India a movement, as its reporting challenges a deeply entrenched system of neglect in one of the country’s poorest regions.


How pushing buttons on Facebook pushes your buttons (Fast Company)

People used to visit Facebook for online socialization and interpersonal communication. But now their reasons are more passive, having to do with the desire to be entertained and the simple fact that checking Facebook is convenient, writes Saleem Alhabash. “Facebook users, for the most part, have moved from being hyperactive — endlessly posting about the ins and outs and ups and downs of their lives — to being, simply put, habitual lurkers.” This passive behavior, researchers have found, emphasizes our impulses and decreases the opportunities for us to think more thoroughly about our perceptions, attitudes, and decisions. “People mindlessly scroll, clicking automatically. Messages come at people nonstop, trying to convert them into consumers by exploiting those habits. And even at times when that conversion likelihood is low, brands can just try again, and again, and again and again.”


Google and Facebook should be allies of quality journalism, not its gravest threat (The New York Times)

Google and Facebook’s philanthropic investment in the news industry — each has promised to spend about $300 million over the next three years — is not going to save journalism, writes David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance (which is affiliated with API). The money will be thinly spread across a vast news landscape, and much of it will undoubtedly be used to encourage further use of Facebook and Google products. Instead, Chavern argues, the tech giants should pay to distribute news on their platforms — which they refuse to do, although they license many other types of content, including music and live-streamed sports and entertainment content. They could also stop hoarding information about publishers’ readers and invest in quality journalism through their algorithms. “Facebook and Google talk incessantly about how they are improving the world. Why not do something genuinely good for all of us and support journalism instead of destroying it? And it wouldn’t even have to be that hard. There is plenty of money and quality content to go around. All it would take is a little enlightened self-interest and a real commitment to the continued existence of quality news.”

+ Earlier: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti says his company could eventually merge with other online publishers in order to negotiate better terms with tech platforms like Facebook. (The New York Times)


Connecting the dots: Engaged journalism, trust, revenue, and civic engagement (Medium, Impact Architects)

Across the news industry, organizations large and small, commercial and nonprofit, single issue and daily news are experimenting with “engagement.” To what effect? Nonprofit consulting firm Impact Architects talked to four news organizations to find out how they are using engagement practices, and found that all work hard to put their relationships with their local communities first, and that they are able to clearly articulate a shared mission with their communities. They cultivate and listen to sources throughout the community, rather than in niche sectors or in the upper echelons of power, and produce journalism that is relevant, reflects lived realities and meets their audiences’ needs. “But relationships take time,” writes Lindsay Green-Barber. “Funders of engaged journalism must take into account the fact that journalism organizations that are working in, with, and for communities require time and resources to build authentic relationships that put the principles of transparency, positivity, and diversity into action consistently.”

+ “This means a lot to me personally — that Parkland parents felt we channeled the grief into something productive and used the power of the press the way it was intended” — South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman, reacting to an open letter from parents of victims in the Parkland school shooting, asking the Pulitzer Committee to recognize the Sun Sentinel for its coverage in the aftermath (Twitter, @BrittanyWallman)

For the Weekend

+ The inside story of Beto O’Rourke’s short-lived alt-weekly (Mother Jones)

+ What the $5M price of a Super Bowl ad could buy in digital media: 6.3 million paid clicks on sponsored Amazon ads, 2.5 million paid clicks on Amazon search ads, 1.7 billion impressions on either Instagram or Facebook, 195 ads on TED Radio Hour…it goes on. (Digiday)

+ “Most of Facebook’s friends are updating their privacy settings and just trying to coexist”: How Facebook went from friend to frenemy (The Conversation) and here’s what your brain looks like off Facebook (The New York Times)