Need to Know: July 17, 2019

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


You might have heard: False news spreads faster than truth online thanks to human nature (TechCrunch)

But did you know: Bad news travels the fastest online (Nieman Lab)

Journalists allocate news value to disasters and other negative news, while positive stories don’t usually make front pages. A University of Muenster study tracked articles from 28 German news outlets and how they spread between newsrooms, finding that news regarding negative outcomes spread more quickly than other stories. Among the fastest-spreading stories were negative stories regarding public figures, while stories slowed when they broke in the middle of the night or affected an overly-broad group of people, like the workforce. Joshua Benton notes that “the fact that stories that impact more people spread more slowly says something about our collective desire to reduce complicated phenomena into individual, human stories.”

+ Noted: ‘Something worth saving’: Historic Ebony photo archive to be auctioned off to pay creditors (USA Today); Apple plans to bankroll original podcasts to fend off rivals (Bloomberg); Streaming startup Quibi to create daily news show with NBC (Wall Street Journal); West Coast offense: Los Angeles gets a new hub for podcasting to match WNYC Studios out east (Nieman Lab)


Trust Tip: Ask for feedback regularly (Trusting News)

To better understand what your audience thinks of your work, Trusting News Assistant Director Lynn Walsh recommends going beyond occasional reader surveys to ask for feedback in daily stories. Your audience’s answers may reveal holes in your coverage or areas that need clarification. Another idea is publishing an explainer for potentially controversial content that encourages readers to focus on your reporting, rather than issues they have with the topic, as WCPO did here. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 

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Top tips and tricks for going global with FOI (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

If your newsroom has a story that crosses borders, you might consider launching a records project that makes use of international Freedom of Information laws. FOI is an umbrella term for laws that allow the public to request documents or data from the government and other public organizations. Before you dive in with formal requests, though, you could save time by pursuing your desired information elsewhere, like data portals that are already public. One resource worth looking into is FOI logs, which list a public body’s previous records requests and whether or not the request was approved. The logs, like this one for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will show you if another organization has requested the information and give you a sense of requests most likely to succeed.

+ The ultimate guide to building scalable web scrapers with scrapy (Smashing Magazine)


Young journalists demand better work-life balance and worry about poor pay, study shows (Press Gazette)

Young journalists have an idealistic view of journalism, yet they harbor concerns of job insecurity, low pay and poor work-life balance, according to new research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Editors from the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden told researchers that young journalists and students are highly motivated and tech-savvy, but burnout and anxiety remain issues for that cohort. Among the possible causes of burnout, the report listed “the rapid pace of organizational change, the fragility of prospects, pressures to combine work and family life, discrimination in all its forms, or the disturbing effect of online harassment, particularly against female journalists.”


How brands can use throwbacks to evoke nostalgia among consumers (Adweek)

Research shows that nostalgia triggers feelings of warmth, belonging and positivity, yet this link to memory and the past is often untapped by marketers. Netflix’s Stranger Things, the wildly popular science fiction series set in the 1980s, connects to its audience in part through its mastery of nostalgia geared toward millennials who associate that decade with their childhood. The most recent season of Stranger Things also inspired related product launches from Coca-Cola, Burger King and H&M. Chris Keune writes that during an era when advertising is burdened with a strong association with privacy violations, nostalgia-centered campaigns can increase brand loyalty.

+ Why everyone at the office should care about workplace culture (Ideo)


Congress wants to solve deepfakes by 2020 (Slate)

As concerns grow over deepfake videos, artificial footage that makes imaginary scenarios appear real, legislators have suggested that social media regulation aimed at curbing this technology could be on the horizon. States including California, New York and Texas have already introduced legislation targeting deepfakes, but Nina Iacono Brown writes that Congress’ potential regulation is as frightening as deepfakes themselves. Successful legislation would require a balance with the First Amendment and an understanding of technology’s tendency to evolve, she argues, adding that “laws are unlikely to deter those outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts (say, a foreign power intending election interference) or those who have the technological ability to remain anonymous.”


A woman secretly taped an NFL player accused of child abuse. A TV station is taking heat for editing it. (Poynter)

KCTV received a slew of criticism from viewers who believed the station had acted unfairly when it ran a series in April on Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who was convicted of domestic abuse five years ago and faced a child abuse investigation. The story relied on audio allegedly made by Hill’s fiancee, Crystal Espinal, but when the entire 11-minute recording was released by radio station 610 AM in Kansas City, fans bashed KCTV for the way it edited the tape. Although some sports writers said the tape didn’t contain any revelations, KCTV News Director Casey Clark addressed the criticism on air and told Poynter that the station had verified the audio with Espinal and Hill’s acquaintances before the stories aired.