Need to Know: Jan. 8, 2020


You might have heard: Democrats and Republicans show signs of coming together on a typically polarizing issue: the news media (Washington Post)

But did you know: McConnell backs bill to give news outlets leverage over Big Tech (Bloomberg)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is cosponsoring a bipartisan bill that would grant news organizations a four-year exemption from anti-trust laws, allowing them to band together to negotiate financial terms with platforms like Google and Facebook. If passed, the bill could pave the way for publishers to regain a piece of the online advertising market, or establish mechanisms by which tech platforms would pay publishers for their content.

+ Noted: Internal memo written by a Facebook executive warns company not to tilt scales against President Trump and offers a candid look at debates raging inside Facebook (New York Times); Federal judge holds freelancers to new California labor law (Los Angeles Times); Facebook bans deepfakes, but the new policy may not cover the controversial Pelosi video (Washington Post); Tumblr is rolling out an internet literacy initiative to help combat misinformation and cyberbullying (The Verge)


Trust Tip: Tell your audience what you think of ‘fake news’ (Trusting News)

Audience complaints about bias and media manipulation are likely to ramp up as we approach the 2020 election, but that doesn’t mean journalists should ignore them. Instead, they should make an effort to respond to “fake news” claims and explain how their news outlet works to check facts, vet sources and be fair in its reporting. Lynn Walsh, assistant director of Trusting News, offers a couple useful examples. 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 to use your phone to spot fake images surrounding the U.S.-Iran conflict (Poynter)

Military conflicts — like the one that is sparking between the United States and Iran — are usually surrounded by false images and outdated videos that go viral on social media, writes Cristina Tardáguila. It happened in Turkey the other day. To avoid that misinformation scenario, the International Fact-Checking Network developed a step-by-step guide to teach citizens how to verify images, from asking simple and rhetorical questions to using reverse image search on cell phones.


Singapore minister says it’s a coincidence that its fake news law was first applied to politicians (Reuters)

Singapore’s fake news law, the most comprehensive of its kind to be enacted by any government, is designed to rapidly throttle what the government determines to be false information. The first few cases brought under the law, which took effect in October, were against political figures and parties opposing the incumbent party — which Singapore’s communications minister said Monday is “an unfortunate convergence, or coincidence.” Human rights groups and political opponents have protested the law, saying that it would be used as a tool to suppress criticism of the government.


Bots are destroying political discourse as we know it (The Atlantic)

Artificial personas — whether they’re made of artificially-generated text or social media chatbots — are becoming sophisticated enough to take over political debate, writes Bruce Schneier. They can post on social media, leave comments on others’ posts and on websites, send personalized texts, and — we can imagine — write letters to the editor and to government officials. “They will be replicated in the millions and engage on the issues around the clock, sending billions of messages, long and short,” writes Schneier. “Putting all this together, they’ll be able to drown out any actual debate on the internet. Not just on social media, but everywhere there’s commentary.”


5 business models for local news to watch in 2020 (Medium, Trust, Media & Democracy)

“Predictions are a tricky business, but there is one sure thing for 2020: local news publishers cannot depend on the old ways of doing business,” writes Mark Glaser. As the presence of chain newspapers is dwindling in American towns and cities, independent and nonprofit news organizations are rising up to take their place. Many of them are experimenting with innovative new business models, including community ownership (see: The Devil Strip in Akron, Ohio); converting to nonprofit (The Salt Lake Tribune); establishing government support mechanisms (New Jersey’s Civic Info Consortium); merging public media with digital media (LAist and KPCC in Los Angeles); and establishing state-level ecosystem support (The Colorado Media Project).


USA Today tests bilingual content with new series (Digiday)

USA Today is launching a new series, Hecho en USA, that will tell stories in both Spanish and English about the lives of Spanish-speaking Americans. Historically, Latino-focused brand extensions and Spanish-language products have been difficult for publishers, said Ken Harding, a senior managing director at FTI Consulting. The New York Times recently canceled its NYT en Español project, and last month Tribune Publishing shuttered its Chicago-based Spanish-language weekly newspaper and site, Hoy, after 16 years of publication. But USA Today believes its new series will offer a unique value proposition for a demographic that mainly sees itself covered through the lens of immigration. “There haven’t been many good success stories,” said Harding. “I think the allure has always been a big market that is underserved. The carrot out there is that it is a huge, growing and dominant audience in some states.”