Need to Know: July 19, 2021

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


You might have heard: A new ‘digital violence’ platform maps dozens of victims of NSO Group’s spyware (TechCrunch) 

But did you know: More than 180 journalists were identified for surveillance by Israeli spy firm’s clients (The Guardian)

Government clients of NSO Group pegged journalists from The New York Times, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Reuters and other news outlets around the world for potential surveillance, The Guardian reported. NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware product, which it sells to governments, can extract data from cellphones and use their microphones to overhear conversations. NSO Group has said its clients must use Pegasus to fight terrorism or other crimes, but Mexico, India and other countries were among those who used it to identify journalists as potential targets for surveillance.

+ Noted: The New York Times suspended a sports reporter who didn’t disclose a deal to write a book with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps (The Daily Beast); In New York, Buffalo News employees went on a byline strike against Lee Enterprises’ pension freeze and design outsourcing (WBFO)


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How North Carolina newspaper Chatham News + Record started reporting in Spanish (Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media)

In response to the pandemic hitting Chatham County’s Hispanic community the hardest, The Chatham News + Record created a Spanish-language section called La Voz, or “the voice” in Spanish. A year into what started as a temporary, three-month project, the section has resulted in much higher engagement with the local Latinx community. While covering the impact of COVID-19, the paper aimed to also celebrate the Hispanic community, and businesses that have appeared in its coverage told the newsroom they’ve had more customers.

+ Earlier: Why the Indianapolis Star began translating stories into Spanish and launched La Estrella, a Spanish-language newsletter (National Press Club Journalism Institute)


Gender equality gap in worldwide news media narrows slightly (Press Gazette)

The World Association for Christian Communication’s Global Media Monitoring Project studied thousands of print, TV and radio news stories in 2020 and found that since 2015, the number of reports by women has grown slightly to 40%. In the news stories studied in the project, about a quarter of the story subjects and sources were women, up from about a fifth in 1995. The study found that newsrooms with female journalists were more likely to represent women in their coverage and sources.


Surgeon general calls on tech platforms, journalists to address COVID-19 misinformation (U.S. Surgeon General)

Last week, the surgeon general published a report that urged social media and other technology platforms to redesign algorithms known to spread misinformation. The report recommends tactics educators, journalists and other stakeholders can use to fight misinformation, which “has caused confusion and led people to decline COVID-19 vaccines, reject public health measures such as masking and physical distancing, and use unproven treatments.” The report encourages media organizations to focus on speaking with local, credible sources, avoid headlines that repeat a falsehood and anticipate their audience’s questions.

+ How white allies can support their colleagues of color (Source)


New Anthony Bourdain documentary deepfakes his voice to create clips of written quotes (The Verge)

A documentary film about Anthony Bourdain used AI technology to manufacture audio versions of written quotes from the late chef, TV host and writer, presenting ethical questions. In an interview with The New Yorker, Morgan Neville, the filmmaker behind the Bourdain documentary, doubted viewers could identify the AI-generated quotes, adding, “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.” 

+ Related: New Yorker staff writer Helen Rosner called the technology “eerie” and said that the film used the AI-created audio with permission from Bourdain’s estate (Twitter, @hels)

+ Earlier: Last year, CJR reported that it had become common for filmmakers to pay for access to subjects and get clearance to use audio and video clips (Columbia Journalism Review)


New book details a reporter’s fight to expose Epstein’s crimes — and earn a living (The New York Times)

In her book that debuts tomorrow, Miami Herald investigative journalist Julie K. Brown gives a behind-the-scenes look at how she uncovered the crimes that led to Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest. That story is intertwined with the everyday struggles of being a newspaper journalist, as Brown describes receiving a 15% pay cut in 2009, taking out payday loans to make ends meet, juggling her Epstein coverage with other assignments and paying her own expenses to avoid justifying them to management. Michelle Goldberg writes that while reading Brown’s book, she “kept thinking of all the malfeasance likely to go unexposed as many once-formidable newspapers outside of New York and Washington either shrink or disappear altogether.”

+ A VICE Media study found that 90% of Gen Z are willing to pay for content if it offers better quality, experience or convenience (Digital Content Next)