Need to Know: January 18, 2023


You might have heard: Americans’ trust in media remains near record low (Gallup)  

But did you know: Why whistleblowers’ trust in journalists is fading (Substack, RQ1) 

As trust in media has fallen among the general public, a new study finds that prominent whistleblowers are also less likely to trust journalists. Of the 16 whistleblowers interviewed, many said that they would avoid the news media and attempt to self-publish their leaks today. Researcher Karin Assmann writes that more than half of the whistleblowers described the media as “corrupt, biased, politicized, self-serving, beholden to the government and neglectful of their sources.” She cites both specific examples of mistrust in journalists — like the example of journalists publicly naming the whistleblower without their consent — as well as a more general antagonism toward the press. 

+ Noted: Reuters to create 100 jobs and reboot paywall following London Stock Exchange deal (Press Gazette)


Trust Tip: Use snail mail to reach new audiences (Trusting News)

When launching a new solutions beat last year, Arizona Daily Star reporter Caitlin Schmidt wanted to make sure she was covering issues and solutions the community really cared about. To do this, she used newsroom subscription data to target certain zip codes where there was low engagement with the newspaper. Then, she mailed postcards to people in these zip codes that included a link to a community survey in both Spanish and English. While there were only a handful of responses, even just sending out these postcards can be a good way of creating a touch point with new communities and demonstrating the newspaper’s commitment to transparency and inclusive coverage. 


Blind news audiences are being left behind in the data visualization revolution (Reuters Institute)

As data visualizations become more common in news articles, those who can’t decipher visual information are often left behind. Alternative text is often missing from charts and graphs, and when it is available, it is often unhelpful. Many who produce data visualizations say that while they strive to make their work more accessible, they’re often not sure if they are succeeding. Johny Cassidy writes that the goal is to keep experimenting with new ways of communicating information while ensuring simple solutions like alt text become standard practice for newsrooms. 


Why news media around the world neglects the climate crisis (The Fix) 

Around the world, news media underreport on climate change, writes Charlotte Lavin. Some journalists say that while news outlets focus heavily on splashy topics like floods, they are less interested in covering climate change as a long-term issue. This is often due to budget and time constraints, which restrict the ability of journalists to focus on such a complex, sprawling issue. The future of climate coverage may lie in collaborative journalism projects that allow for cross-border investigations. 


Dozens of media companies set 2023 content deals with Twitter (Axios) 

Despite controversy about Elon Musk’s management of the platform, more than three dozen media companies have made content deals with Twitter in the first half of 2023. News outlets are slated to run content related to major sporting events as well as prominent conferences like CES and Davos. Many of these deals were signed before Musk took over, but Sara Fischer writes that there’s “little financial downside to staying in the content deals for publishers.” She adds that while many news outlets have tried to distance themselves from Twitter, it has proven “too useful” for most companies to give up. 


CNET’s article-writing AI is already publishing very dumb errors (Futurism)

Last week, CNET acknowledged that it was using artificial intelligence to write articles under the byline “CNET Money Staff,” with the site’s editor-in-chief saying that all articles are reviewed, fact-checked and edited before publication. But Jon Christian writes that one of the AI-produced articles includes “a series of boneheaded errors” that no one with even a cursory understanding of finance would make. This is particularly risky for articles aimed at those without any financial knowledge who could be misled by authoritative-sounding, but incorrect, information. 

+ Related: CNET added a correction to the story (Twitter, @Jon_Christian)