Need to Know: February 21, 2019

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


You might have heard: 76 percent of Americans cite local TV news as a highly trusted source of news, the most of any medium (Poynter) and TV news is still Americans’ top news source (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Of the 180 collaborations in the Center for Cooperative Media’s database, only 7 percent involve local TV newsrooms (Nieman Lab)

“What’s driving [the growth of collaborations] are business models — papers are smaller and trying to look for ways they can still produce quality journalism,” said Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media. “Many local TV stations don’t see the value they would get out of collaboration.” “We are stubborn,” C.J. LeMaster, the chief investigative reporter at WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi, added. “Broadcasters in general, we like to stay in our silos but are still fiercely competitive among other stations. I think that sometimes hurts us in ways we could use as opportunities for partnerships with members of the print media and nonprofits.” Add to that competitive instinct the long history of friction between TV and print journalists. “They often have different ideas about what’s most newsworthy, and they don’t always trust each others’ editorial instincts,” writes Christine Schmidt. Over the next days, Schmidt will publish three case studies showing how nonprofit news organizations have collaborated with local TV newsrooms.

+ Noted: Controversial publisher booted from alma mater’s hall of fame after pro-KKK editorial (Montgomery Advisor); The International Center for Journalists launches benchmark global survey that will yield unprecedented data on how news organizations are adapting to the digital age (ICFJ); U.S. digital ad spending will surpass traditional in 2019 (eMarketer); Apple plans on combining iPhone, iPad, Mac apps by 2021 (Bloomberg); Carol Rosenberg, the foremost reporter on Guantánamo Bay, has joined The New York Times to cover the detention camp and other national security stories (The New York Times); Medium is launching four of its own subscription publications — with more to come (Digiday)


Why online comments go bad (and how to make them better) (RTDNA)

Online harassment has dramatically increased over the last five years, and news sites’ comments sections can quickly descend into chaos as uncivil, profane or even threatening comments hijack rational conversation. The negativity rife in comment sections is harmful not only to individual journalists but also to news outlets overall. While some newsrooms have shut down their comment sections completely, it is possible to shift the tone and generate more constructive engagement. The Trusting News project has found that “engaging authentically” in the comments section can increase trust in news organizations, and suggests journalists “reward productive comments and publicly challenge harmful ones,” including fact checking users’ comments, engaging proactively (especially with valid feedback and questions), and addressing comments that are antagonistic or sarcastic but not yet abusive.

+ How The Seattle Globalist elevated diverse voices (and recruited new talent) through its community media workshops (Gather)


Rethinking foreign reporting at the AP (Columbia Journalism Review)

AP, once the “de facto determiner of most of the international news that appears in the U.S. press,” has been quietly shrinking its global footprint over the last two decades, closing foreign bureaus, phasing out the salaried “expat package” for correspondents, and relying more on local stringers and staffers. AP officials say the changes are necessary, and even beneficial when it comes to using fewer expats in favor of local reporters. For decades, the AP has been criticized for a colonialist reporting model, with well-paid, often Ivy League-educated reporters parachuting in to filter local events, and especially America’s many wars, through a uniquely Western lens. Meanwhile, local fixers, translators and stringers earned far less, with little status or influence over the narratives told about their countries.


Why traditional solutions to burnout don’t work — and what to try instead (RTDNA)

Coping mechanisms for easing burnout often include advice to exercise, meditate, do yoga, or try a new hobby. While these activities can and do help, they may also feel like adding another obligation to an already ballooning to-do list. So instead of doing more, why not try doing less? First try cutting down your task list, delegating what you can and even eliminating items that don’t line up with your team’s goals. When asked to take on a new task that would add too much to your workload, you can offer a choice (“yes, but that means dropping x other task”), or show how it doesn’t advance goals. It’s also important to stop multitasking or, more accurately, switching rapidly back and forth between tasks. Pause for a moment to enjoy completing a task, and take some time every once in a while to look over some recent work you really enjoyed. And when you’re home, if you find yourself saying “I should” to an endless list of chores, challenge yourself to occasionally change that to “I want” and do something rewarding — or absolutely nothing — instead.


A robot commits libel. Who is responsible? (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

For news organizations, algorithms generating compelling narratives are an exciting prospect. Most major news organizations are already conducting experiments with their own robot reporters. Yet, for all their advantages, bots, like their human predecessors, are vulnerable to mistakes. In the news business, one of the worst mistakes is committing libel. So how should courts treat cases in which a robot generates a defamatory statement? The “actual malice” standard that plaintiffs in libel cases must meet — proving that news organized knowingly or recklessly published false information — can’t be applied to robots, who don’t make conscious choices while producing content. But while a bot cannot act with actual malice, its designer can. “News organizations are going to have to be really careful about who it is that they are hiring to engage in these kinds of tech development areas,” says Amy Kristin Sanders, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. To some extent, algorithms can replace the reporter. They shouldn’t replace the editor — “the first line of defense against a lawsuit,” Sanders says.


How one NPR host is changing the way we hear the news (Vox)

In a period of uncertainty for the media, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, has emerged as an important commentator on both the economics of the industry and the importance of representing people whose stories have historically been ignored. “We need to rethink the way we talk about representation in media,” she told Vox reporter Anna North. “The way I like to discuss it is people getting on the air who have direct experience of what it is that they’re talking about. We’ve become so accustomed to the pundit class just glibly talking about everything under the sun.” Garcia-Navarro says her goal is to retrain her audience’s expectations about who holds authority on a certain topic. For her, authoritative subjects are those who are directly impacted by a story — “If we bring people on who can actually speak to the subject at hand because they have experienced something directly relevant to the conversation, I think we naturally widen the field of the voices that we hear.”

+ What Poynter’s going to do with $5 million for journalism ethics (Poynter)