Need to Know: January 9, 2019

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


You might have heardTrump’s border address sparks “extraordinary” debate inside and outside TV networks (CNN)

But did you know: Anchors scramble to fact-check Trump after prime-time address (The New York Times)

The decision by major broadcast networks to carry Trump’s address live set off a fierce debate over journalistic responsibility in an age of unusual mendacity in politics. Michael M. Grynbaum reports that anchors responded by delivering a tough-minded assessment of his nine-minute remarks, reeling off several immediate correctives to some of his misleading claims. Granting a president airtime to address the nation is normally an easy decision for network executives. But Trump’s public statements have been marked by untruths and misleading claims, and liberals wondered why news outlets would defer to a president who on Monday labeled journalists “the Enemy of the People” and “crazed lunatics.”

+ “We could be fact-checking his speech, but we want to try something different”: Minutes before Trump’s address, BuzzFeed News shared its prior reporting on border security and immigration in a Twitter thread that gave context to the speech (Twitter, @BuzzFeedBen)

+ Noted: MuckRock and DocumentCloud will roll out a subscription plan in early 2019, with subsidies available (MuckRock); The Atlantic launches a three-month reporting residency designed to cultivate public service journalists (The Atlantic); Twitter will test new conversation features in a beta program involving thousands of volunteer users (Engadget); Journalist Pelin Ünker sentenced to jail in Turkey over Paradise Papers investigation (The Guardian); NBCUniversal is slashing even more TV ads, pushing away from the old advertising model that networks relied on for decades (Axios)


How Charlotte’s NPR station, WFAE, fought news fatigue (and found a hit) with a music podcast (Better News)

Music and arts coverage had been shrinking in recent years in Charlotte, N.C., even as the Charlotte populace and local music community continued to grow. So WFAE launched a daily music podcast to amplify the voices and work of that community. “Before we started producing the podcast, we used local market knowledge, perspective and presence to write up the target audiences for this podcast (and, in return, what they needed out of a local music podcast),” wrote audience engagement manager Joni Deutsch. As soon as the music submission call-out began, Deutsch began receiving messages from regional arts organizations, venues, museums, breweries and businesses to collaborate on local music initiatives around the podcast. “It’s clear that this podcast couldn’t come at a better time for the community.” This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


Improving coverage of women’s sports (Nieman Reports)

Women’s sports in the U.S. receive only 4 percent of sports media coverage. But more and more, female journalists, athletes, and coaches, as well as fans of women’s sports, are advocating for better women’s sports coverage. They’re introducing new voices and experimenting with different approaches to coverage in niche publications. They’re showing how women’s sports and women’s perspectives on sports can be entertaining, compelling, and potentially money making. “That’s crucial,” writes Shira Springer. “If women’s sports stories don’t lead to more subscriptions or more viewers, then decision-makers question whether those stories are worth the investment of time, money, and talent.” By devoting prime real estate to women’s sports, The Seattle Times and the Minneapolis Star Tribune are two examples of publications challenging the bottom-line, metrics-driven thinking that leads editors to prioritize men’s coverage as the safest bet.  

+ How to use Twitter search to find exactly what you’re looking for (Espirian)


Memes counter disinformation, spread awareness of pollution in Beijing (Columbia Journalism Review)

As recently as 2011, the Beijing government restricted data collection and reporting on the city’s notorious smog, pushing a narrative that the hazy air was due rather to fog. But as pollution levels worsened, many Beijing residents took to the internet, and in particular, memes, to evade government censorship while expressing their growing fears about the issue and disseminating what reliable information they had about local air quality. “Different types of media have different audiences and impacts, and internet memes play one role in the bigger picture,” writes An Xiao Mina. “While people posted photos, selfies, and GIFs to discuss the impacts of pollution on their lives, the number of news articles, broadcasts, documentaries, and international conversations increased.”

+ Earlier: Memes are “packaged for virality,” making them an effective way to fight misinformation, like this Spanish news outlet does (Poynter)

+ Related: A guide to anti-misinformation actions around the world (Poynter)


Don’t reply to your emails: The case for inbox infinity (The Atlantic)

Since the idea of “Inbox Zero” was first coined in 2007, it has become what many people consider the pinnacle of digital organization. Countless tools and rituals have since been developed to help people manage their inboxes and cut back on email. And yet we’re still exchanging more email than ever. People sent and received 269 billion emails a day in 2017. By 2021, that number is projected to reach more than 333 billion. “In 2019, I suggest you let it all go,” writes Taylor Lorenz. “There is simply no way for anyone with a full-time job and multiple inboxes to keep up with the current email climate.” If you choose to adopt Lorenz’s “inbox infinity” approach, make sure you are upfront about your inability to respond to emails in a timely way (or at all). “You can start by messaging close contacts and family members, providing them with alternative ways to reach you,” she suggests, or set up an automated response to help set expectations.  

+ Behavioral research to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions (Journalists’ Resource)


Do the networks have to give equal time? In a word, no. (Poynter)

The “equal time” question, which received fresh attention leading up to yesterday’s presidential address, has its roots in the Fairness Doctrine (abolished in 1987), which tried to ensure that TV networks devoted equal time to opposing voices on controversial issues. But the underlying principle of the doctrine, when applied to different scenarios, was found in some cases to have a dampening effect on free speech. In the 1974 case Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, the Miami Herald published editorials criticizing Pat Tornillo, a candidate for the Florida legislature. Tornillo wanted the Herald to publish his responses; the paper refused. A Florida statute then required newspapers to publish responses to criticisms. The court said the law was unconstitutional. “We were left with this hard-to-justify difference in how much right you have to demand equal time on the air and in print,” writes Al Tompkins. “If one was not a violation of a free speech right, why was the other?”


Local public meetings are a scrape and a tap away, on City Bureau’s Documenters tool (Nieman Lab)

Chicago nonprofit City Bureau is paying Chicago residents $15/hour to attend and take notes on public meetings (and to attend training on doing so beforehand). It’s part of its Documenters program, which has also yielded a volunteer-built app that tracks information on public meetings, such as where and when they’re happening and what are the outcomes. “The goal is not to produce content for media outlets,” said City Bureau co-founder Darryl Holliday. “It’s to repair broken bridges with local government, to get people to the meetings, get their voices heard, and figure out the line between where the active citizen and journalist is.”

+ What can we learn from newspaper design and readers’ willingness to pay for the news  —  while we can? The Missouri School of Journalism is looking for a research fellow to explore the role design plays in getting readers to subscribe to print news. (Medium, Damon Kiesow)