Need to Know: January 10, 2019

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


You might have heard: Younger Americans are more likely than older Americans to think most news reports are fairly inaccurate, according to our 2018 Media Insight Project study

But did you know: People older than 65 share the most fake news, a new study finds (The Verge)

Older Americans are disproportionately more likely to share fake news on Facebook, according to a new analysis by researchers at New York and Princeton Universities. Older users shared more fake news than younger ones regardless of education, sex, race, income, or how many links they shared. In fact, age predicted their behavior better than any other characteristic — including party affiliation. Across all age categories, sharing fake news was a relatively rare category. Only 8.5 percent of users in the study shared at least one link from a fake news site. But older users skewed the findings: 11 percent of users older than 65 shared a hoax, while just 3 percent of users 18 to 29 did.

+ Noted: Nieman Foundation announces the 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows (Nieman Foundation); Shorenstein Center announces Spring 2019 Fellows (Shorenstein Center); Orlando Sentinel launches fact-checking feature for local politicians and civic leaders (Orlando Sentinel); Media Legal Defence Initiative, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the International Fact-Checking Network announce new legal support for fact-checkers (Media Defence)


How a Buffalo News reporter discovered ‘digital deserts’ in Buffalo (Poynter)

Using data from the Census Bureau, the Buffalo News’ Caitlin Dewey found that while 80 percent of the Buffalo area is online, low-income pockets there have fallen off the grid, creating a troubling digital divide, or what the News aptly called “digital deserts.’’ Dewey, who returned to her hometown paper three-and-a-half months ago after spending six years at The Washington Post, said it took about two weeks to put together a story using data that had never been collected before at the neighborhood level. “The disparity was pretty enormous,’’ Dewey told Poynter on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, it’s not unique to (Buffalo), but it revealed a pretty disheartening pattern.’’

+ Earlier: “Known but not discussed”: Low-income people aren’t getting quality news and information. What can the industry do about it? (Nieman Lab)


This German publisher is trying to build a hyperlocal social network (Nieman Lab)

In 2016, German regional newspaper joined with Lokalportal, a digital community hub, to create what Lokalportal co-founder Sebastian Penthin calls a hybrid between a local newspaper and a local social network. “We learned hyperlocal life is more than just the exchange; it’s ‘I want to know what’s going on and perhaps I can participate in it,’” Penthin said. “We need a partner, we need journalists, a hyperlocal newsroom which is the driver of the community.” The content is split into feeds: “for me,” the specific neighborhood users register to, news, official info (where the reporters and local authorities can share), community groups, and snapshots (a photo-sharing feed like Instagram). As for its business model, Lokalportal is emphasizing advertising relationships with local small businesses. “They miss an opportunity to advertise in the newspaper where you don’t get people between age 25 and 35 or the region was too big and Facebook and Google was too complicated,” Penthin said.


Why brands need to make 2019 their most human year ever (Fast Company)

Real engagement — between employees and customers — can be your organization’s competitive advantage when everyone else is focusing on bots and AI, writes Ryan Paugh. Take a cue from T-Mobile, which replaced customer service bots with teams of 30-40 agents who live in customers’ regions, understand local concerns, and, over time, build relationships with callers. Or the online pet retailer, Chewy, which sends handwritten holiday cards to customers and sympathy gifts when a pet dies. It’s important to find ways to create emotional connections with your community, says Paugh. “A few handwritten notes might not directly lead to an increase in valuation, but you’ll be well on your way to distributing a strong message to your community that your company is filled with living, breathing humans who care about other humans. And in this hyper-digital world that we all now live in, that’s what’s going to set your business apart in the long-term.”


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a perfect foil for the pro-Trump media (BuzzFeed News)

For those who’ve been paying attention to the new, online dynamics of our fractured and chaotic political media ecosystem over the past three years, there’s something familiar about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s extremely online persona, writes Charlie Warzel. It appears to be immediate, organic, and unfiltered. Her feeds are equal parts proactive and reactive. And, crucially, they are relentless, keeping Ocasio-Cortez in the news cycle. She’s an insurgent, internet-native political force. Which makes her a perfect foil for the pro-Trump media; something that has not gone unnoticed. “AOC is using social media to show exactly what the transition to power is like, and will give a front-row seat to her day to day experience in Congress,” pro-Trump Twitter personality Jack Posobiec tweeted, calling her livestreams a form of “reality politics” and hinting that Trump has been urged to do the same.

+ Trump’s Oval Office address was a pure propaganda opportunity. Networks shouldn’t allow it next time. (Washington Post)


Quartz AI Studio launches an open-source platform to help journalists use machine learning (

In November 2018, Quartz launched its AI Studio, a U.S.-based project that helps journalists use machine learning to write better stories. The machine-learning tools available via the platform can help journalists analyze data even if they have no coding or math skills. Project lead John Keefe explained that computers can accomplish various tasks, such as categorizing (for example, marking messages as “important” or “spam”) or spotting patterns within huge datasets, whether these are words, numbers or pictures. Finally, artificial intelligence comes with some capability to make predictions based on what happened in the past. “Machine learning can help solve these problems and Quartz tries to bring these solutions to smaller newsrooms that often haven’t got resources to do this themselves,” said Keefe.

+ Publishers are mostly recycling YouTube videos for IGTV (Digiday)