Need to Know: Jan. 22, 2020


You might have heard: “Even C-SPAN is piqued”: Senate puts limits on impeachment trial coverage (New York Times)

But did you know: As the impeachment trial gets underway, roped-off reporters and government-controlled cameras provide limited view of the proceedings (New York Times)

The opening hours of President Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history and the second of the mass-media era, did not make for very compelling television, writes Michael M. Grynbaum. Outside cameras are forbidden to record the trial; meaning that what viewers see and hear will be dictated by cameras and microphones controlled by Senate staff members, rather than an independent news organization. “Because these are the government set of controlled cameras, we are only able to see the podium and who is speaking,” said Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, commenting as part of Fox’s analyst team. “We are not able to see what is the emotion, what is the state of consciousness of the members of the Senate as all this goes on at considerable length.”

+ Noted: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press launches its Local Legal Initiative in five states, providing news orgs in those states with pro bono legal support (RCFP); American journalist Glenn Greenwald charged with cybercrimes in Brazil (New York Times)


Trust Tip: Explain that some journalists are biased on purpose (Trusting News)

“Accusations of bias are so ubiquitous that it’s no longer widely understood that some journalism is actually designed to persuade,” writes Trusting News Director Joy Mayer. This week’s edition of Trust Tips suggests some simple ways to explain to readers why your opinion content is supposed to be, well, biased — and how that differs from your other reporting. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


How Quartz used AI to sort through the ‘Luanda Leaks’ (Quartz)

Last year Quartz launched AI Studio, a machine learning tool that helps journalists sort through vast amounts of data — no coding or math skills necessary. The International Consortium for Investigative Journalists partnered with Quartz and AI Studio to expose how Isabel dos Santos, the wealthiest woman in Africa and the daughter of Angola’s former president, siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars in public money out of one of the poorest countries on the planet. Their approach — shown here on GitHub — “should be applicable to other cases where journalists or researchers have huge amounts of documents and don’t know what’s in them,” writes Jeremy B. Merrill.


Why press coverage of the royal family is, in many cases, ethically compromised (The Guardian)

The British press corps are hardly disinterested bystanders when it comes to the royal family. “All three of the major newspaper groups most obsessed with Harry and Meghan are themselves being sued by the couple for assorted breaches of privacy and copyright,” writes Alan Rusbridger. “There is, to any reasonable eyes, a glaring conflict of interest that, for the most part, goes undeclared.” Publishers including MGN Ltd, News Group, and News UK are forking out millions of dollars to settle multiple phone-hacking cases; a fact that compromises their coverage of the royal couple and casts serious concerns over its reliability.

+ “After Tony Hall’s resignation, the BBC’s next boss will need nerves of steel” (The Guardian); U.K. publishers are losing digital ad revenue due to “content blacklists” (The Guardian)


How to build a great relationship with a mentor (Harvard Business Review)

First you need to find one. Narrow down your options — and get clarity on what you want from the relationship — by defining your career goals and needs. Make them specific and measurable, suggests Mark Horoszowski. Then write a “job description” for your ideal mentor, and armed with this information, have a look around at your professional network for a suitable match. Before making the ask, see if the person would like to have an initial meeting, in which you learn more about their work and how it may align with your goals. “Spend time getting to know the person,” writes Horoszowski. “You probably want to talk less than 30% of the time.”

+ Publishers and marketers are mostly absent from key group deciding what comes after the third-party cookie (Digiday)


The New York Times is doing something about its ‘embarrassing’ opinion section (Vice)

Phil Corbett, standards editor for the Times, will now oversee the opinion department in addition to the newsroom, Times executives announced in an email to staff yesterday. The opinion section has lately been criticized for running highly controversial columns, and only this weekend generated much derision for its endorsement of two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Expanding the standards department to “review significantly more stories before publication” and “provide greater oversight and consultation in areas beyond traditional articles, including social media, audio, video, TV and newsletters” appears to be an acknowledgment that standards for opinion content are lagging, writes Laura Wagner.


What happens to news when journalists and historians join forces (Nieman Reports)

A project from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Villanova University’s Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest, and the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships at Drexel University is bringing historians and journalists together to provide historical context to reporting on issues like infrastructure, immigration, and the opioid crisis. “We’re at a very extraordinary time in American history, where agreeing to a common set of facts has become very difficult,” says Stan Wischnowski, the Inquirer’s executive editor. “When you combine high-impact journalists — with great track records of being accurate, fair, and thorough — with historians trained to dig up factual information, the driving force is getting to those common sets of facts in a way that makes it very clear to our audience that they can trust what we’re saying.”

+ Salt Lake Tribune’s editor expects “a lot of newspapers’ to explore nonprofit status” (Medill Local News Initiative); Are we seeing a “true digital media publishing breakthrough” into profitability? (Axios)