Need to Know: January 12, 2021


You might have heard: Why the Capitol attack is about more than misinformation (The Boston Globe)

But did you know: Mob thinking has become stronger and more frequent as more news and information has moved online (Axios)

In the wake of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Sara Fischer and Alison Snyder explore how mob thinking has grown online. With so much information, people are more likely to trust sources over substance, using heuristics — a sort of mental shortcut for fact checking — that allow them to trust information from certain people automatically. The digitalization of news, which was sped up even more by the pandemic, has more people using heuristics to determine what’s true and false. One study found that the more information is available on social media, the less likely a user is to personally fact check that information. These heuristics are often based on identities like race and politics, and play a part in levels of trust in science and medicine.

+ Noted: The Chicago Tribune and its parent company will leave their downtown office space at the end of the month (Twitter, @chicagotribune); Major public radio stations send joint protest to New York Times in fallout over collapse of “Caliphate” series (Twitter, @davidfolkenfilk)


Podcast: Use Slack to host cultural conversations in your newsroom (It’s All Journalism)

Corine Chin and Lauren Frohne are video journalists at The Seattle Times. They wrote a piece for Better News on how the Times is using Slack to lower barriers, expose insensitivity, and allow conversations about cultural issues that can arise from their stories. Better News host Michael O’Connell talks to Chin about how newsrooms can use Slack to facilitate similar conversations. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Table Stakes newsroom training program.


How North Carolina Health News is prioritizing inclusive sourcing (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

While newsrooms may have good intentions about making their sourcing more diverse and inclusive, it’s nearly impossible for this to actually happen without accountability, writes Melba Newsome. One outlet tackling the problem is North Carolina Health News, which has inserted a question into its standard story template that requires the writer to provide demographic information — including race/ ethnicity, age, gender, pronouns/gender identity, political party, geographic location, income and disability — about every source in the story. “Just asking reporters to think about this has moved the needle some,” said editor and founder Rose Hoban.

+ Earlier: Wisconsin Public Radio developed a short survey to send to sources asking for basic demographic information (Reynolds Journalism Institute) 


Der Spiegel’s experience suggests free subscription trials are less effective than paid ones (What’s New In Publishing)

German news magazine Der Spiegel, one of the largest media outlets in Europe, has been experimenting with various monetization models since launching a website in 1994. Since 2018, Spiegel+ has offered full access to the entire website and digital magazine, with a free trial to start. During the pandemic, the site began experimenting with paid trials, and found that when they offered a one-month trial for €1, conversion rates increased. The site then experimented with higher-priced trials — €5 per month or €30 for three months — but found that €1 produced the best conversions. Initial results show that paid trial readers are more likely to keep their subscriptions than free trial users.


The scramble to archive Capitol insurrection footage before it disappears (MIT Technology Review) 

In the hours after a mob of President Trump’s supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol last week, a thread on Reddit was created to archive videos taken by and of the rioters. The videos, uploaded by Redditers to a server in New Zealand, were being removed from social media for violating terms of service, but the collectors felt that it was important to preserve this footage for history. Similar efforts are underway by journalism project Bellingcat, digital collective, and search engine Intelligence X. The user who started the Reddit thread says they intend to submit the data to the Library of Congress.


Margaret Sullivan calls websites of local news outlets ‘horrendous’ (Twitter, @sulliview)

In a short Twitter thread, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote, “I’m a big fan and supporter of local news but god their websites are horrendous.” Calling these websites  “a terrible experience” and “awful,” Sullivan added that poor design and user interfaces “gives the distinct impression that these people don’t know what they’re doing. The very opposite of the sense of authoritative knowledge and competence that you want in a news organization. It undermines credibility. Which is all there is.” The poor experience, she writes, has likely pushed users away from news sites and towards social media platforms like Facebook.

+ Related: Many in the industry agreed “100%” — Kyle Pope at CJR called the online experience “one of the unmentionables” when trying to save local news outlets, and an urgent issue to address before “even sympathetic people may start to wonder if they’re worth saving” (Twitter, @kylepope); Cierra Brown Hinton of Scalawag says it’s a result of the business model: “We say digital transformation like it’s past tense; it hasn’t happened” (Twitter, @iolabhinton)


Borderless Magazines is reimagining immigration journalism to make it more responsive (Nieman Reports)

Over the last decade, the number of news outlets serving immigrant communities in Chicago has nearly halved, while the immigrant population has grown. Borderless Magazine is focused on being “more responsive to the information needs of our multicultural and multilingual communities” through multilingual reporting, mentoring and community outreach. The magazine, which covers labor, justice and advocacy issues, published in Spanish, Filipino and Mandarin as well as English last year. Borderless also mentors emerging journalists from immigrant backgrounds, and conducts listening sessions with leaders of immigrant-serving organizations to elicit feedback on important issues within immigrant communities.