Need to Know: July 13, 2018

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


You might have heard82 percent of Americans have “some” or “a lot” of confidence in local news organizations (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Russian influence campaign sought to exploit Americans’ trust in local news (NPR)

New findings from the investigation into Russia’s information attack against the United States during the 2016 election cycle show that the Internet Research Agency, Russia’s propaganda arm, created fake social media accounts that posed as local news sources. Using names such as @ElPasoTopNews, @MilwaukeeVoice, @CamdenCityNews and @Seattle_Post, these accounts posted real local news, not misinformation — in an apparent effort to build trust and readership for some future, unforeseen effort. “If at any given moment, they wanted to operationalize this network of what seemed to be local American news handles, they can significantly influence the narrative on a breaking news story,” Bret Schafer, a social media analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, told NPR. “But now instead of just showing up online and flooding it with news sites, they have these accounts with two years of credible history.”

+ Noted: Bustle owner Bryan Goldberg wins bankruptcy auction for (Wall Street Journal); Business Insider columnist quits after editors delete her op-ed on Hollywood portrayal of trans individuals (CNN); Journalists from across the country line up to volunteer for the Capital Gazette after newsroom massacre (The Washington Post)


The week in fact-checking

As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes a look at tech giants’ recent efforts to combat fake news, a game to improve media literacy, and a study that found susceptibility to fake news is due more to laziness than partisanship.


How to reinvent a legacy brand (Fast Company)

This month, the 118-year-old MIT Technology Review launches the first issue of its redesign, featuring a new visual identity and editorial look for both its website and print edition. The strategic overhaul, led by Pentagram designer Michael Bierut, offers important lessons in how to revamp a legacy brand at a time of rampant disruption. “I see myself more as a chef, going into the pantry to see what ingredients I’ve got, and figuring out how to work with what’s in the kitchen,” says Bierut on his careful balancing of the publication’s historic qualities with modern design elements. Bierut and his team relied on infographics, illustrations and custom typographic treatments to convey the complex, analytical stories for which the Review is known, taking publications like the Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg for examples. They also selected punchy, sans-serif typefaces to bring visual clarity and news-driven urgency to the stories, using a modern update on Helvetica called Neue Haas Grotesk as the primary typeface.  

+ A helpful glossary of GDPR terminology (Digiday)


Inside Colombiacheck, the fact-checking network launched during the FARC peace talks (ICFJ)

In the fall of 2016, Colombians voted against a peace agreement with FARC rebels by a margin of less than 0.5 percent. In the midst of the negotiations leading up to the referendum, an investigative journalism association in Colombia launched Colombiacheck to battle the fake news that was spreading rapidly on social media. “We believe, as well as the academics, that the [referendum] results were due to the huge amount of fake news,” says Dora Montero, an investigative journalist and co-founder of Colombiacheck. “The referendum was the first call to get an overview on misinformation and create a strategy, which we are still working on.”


Work in an age of automation (Project Syndicate)

“Instead of studying for two decades and working for the next four, workers will need to engage in continuous learning and adaptation” to compete against automation and artificial intelligence, write Susan Lund and Eric Hazan. A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute found that demand for social and emotional skills that machines lack such as the ability to work in teams, lead others, negotiate, and empathize will rise sharply; as well as demand for certain higher cognitive skills that involve creativity and complex problem-solving. However, machines are already making inroads into some of these areas, including writing, quantitative and statistical capabilities; highlighting the potential for automation and AI to displace even white-collar office workers.


Facebook proves it isn’t ready to handle fake news (BuzzFeed)

On Wednesday afternoon, Facebook invited a handful of journalists to its New York offices for a question-and-answer session with its head of News Feed John Hegeman. The goal: to convince reporters that Facebook has finally found purchase in its long fight against misinformation. But it didn’t go as planned, writes Charlie Warzel. When challenged by CNN’s Oliver Darcy on why the company has allowed Infowars, a leading purveyor of conspiracy theories, to remain on the site, Hegeman replied that “I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards.” His uncomfortable response shows that Facebook’s misinformation fight is “rooted in a decade-old philosophy of dodging notions of political bias and censorship at all costs,” argues Warzel. “The result is a near-pathological resistance toward taking a stand against actors that brazenly flaunt Facebook’s rules. And by doing so, Facebook plays into the hands of those who seek to wage information war.”

+ BuzzFeed reporter Davey Alba documented the Q+A between reporters and Facebook representatives (Twitter, @daveyalba)


This map shows where news deserts are in the U.S. (Columbia Journalism Review)

The Media Deserts Project maps reductions in local news coverage across the U.S. by using geographic information systems down to the ZIP code. The goal is to identify the scope of the problem and, in so doing, help community members and journalism entrepreneurs design localized solutions. Users can search by state, county, and ZIP code to find what daily media are operating there, what formats and platforms are used, and what regulatory conditions might be affecting local access to news.

+ Non-white journalists describe risks and repercussions of covering protests in the U.S. (Committee to Protect Journalists); In wake of Capital Gazette shooting, WDBJ anchor shares how her newsroom survived tragedy (Poynter); How “moral injury” takes a toll on journalists (GroundTruth)


+ Dan Rather on Trump, Nixon, and why he never worked in network news again (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ The promise and the pitfalls of WikiTribune’s model: “On the one hand, it’s admirably transparent,” writes Laura Hazard Owen. “If you’ve always wanted to peek inside a news organization’s Slack channel, here’s a chance, sort of. On the other hand, it’s as annoying as any public Slack — dominated by the same men (its 150-ish users are about 90 percent male), rife with nitpicking, aggravatingly earnest discussion.” (Nieman Lab)

+ “Google was not a normal place”: Brin, Page, and Mayer on the accidental birth of the company that changed everything (Vanity Fair)

+ Visual storytelling lessons from Humans of New York (ICFJ)