Need to Know: July 3, 2018

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


You might have heardNew Jersey approves $5M in state funding for the Civic Information Consortium, a collaborative nonprofit effort to invest in local news (

But did you know: Why the Civic Info Bill in New Jersey is such a huge deal (Free Press)

The consortium, which will be a collaboration among five of the state’s leading public higher-education institutions, could help fund innovative media and technology projects in New Jersey for decades to come. Many of the projects will target the information needs of underserved communities, low-income communities and communities of color in the state, which has suffered from thousands of newsroom layoffs and dozens of outlets shutting down due to media consolidation, as well as challenges related to being in the shadow of the New York and Philadelphia media markets.

+ Reaction: “Hard to overstate how amazing this news is. Let’s roll out a case study of this campaign and get to work in the other 49 states.” (Twitter, @MollydeAguiar)

+ Noted: Facebook hires Spiegel CEO Jesper Doub, one of its harshest critics, to lead news media partnerships in Europe, Middle East and Africa (Digiday); Harvey Weinstein faces new criminal charges that could carry life sentence (Los Angeles Times); Brian Ross and producer Rhonda Schwartz to leave ABC News after more than 20 years with company (Variety); A contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur and other publishers that rely on unpaid or low-paid guest content has been promoting clients in his articles for years (BuzzFeed News); High school educators have been clamping down on students who publish articles on protests, sexuality and other hot-button issues (New York Times)


This open-source Twitter bot helps you surface stories on anything (Freedom of the Press Foundation)

Yesterday Freedom of the Press Foundation released a free Python software program called Track The News, which it built to power its Twitter bot that tracks FOIA information in news stories. Track The News can be used to monitor reporting or other information surfacing on particular topics in real time. “We’ve built it to be flexible about what it can monitor,” writes Parker Higgins. “It can take any collection of RSS feeds as inputs, and check for any words or phrases, with either case-sensitive or -insensitive matches. In that way, it works like a public-facing news alert, but with even more options in terms of inputs.”


As mob lynchings fueled by WhatsApp messages sweep India, authorities struggle to combat fake news (The Washington Post)

Five people were killed by a mob in India on Sunday after rumors spread on social media that they were child traffickers, the latest in a string of lynchings tied to fake social media messages that have left officials stunned and grappling with ways to control the rising violence. More than a dozen people have been killed across India since May in violence fueled mainly by messages on the WhatsApp service. As India’s government weighs what to do, local authorities have been left to tackle fake news as best they can, issuing warnings and employing low-tech methods such as hiring street performers and “rumor busters” to visit villages to spread public awareness.

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


Planning for ‘reactive work’ may be the best option for busy managers (Business Insider)

A recent Harvard Business School study that looked at the time-management practices of 27 CEOs found that those who had a personal agenda were most productive and effective at work. They also planned for “realistic reactive time,” scheduling only about 60 percent of their days and leaving the other 40 percent to address employees’ needs or other unexpected demands. “Intentional flexibility is key, for CEOs and for managers at any level,” writes Shana Lebowitz. “If nothing else, leaders will save themselves the frustration involved in seeing their carefully crafted minute-by-minute agenda blown to pieces.”


Could AI be used to conduct ‘rote’ interviews on behalf of journalists? (Columbia Journalism Review)

As AI technology advances to the point where it can make routine calls on behalf of users (booking restaurant reservations, for example, or inquiring about holiday hours), what are the implications for journalists? Could it be used for “simple information solicitations,” like calling sources to confirm quotes or facts, or gather information about routine events like sports, crime or bad weather? While such interactions represent a “narrow slice of the conversations that reporters have on a day-to-day basis, there are still some opportunities there,” writes Nicholas Diakopoulos. “News organizations that see a future in data-driven, structured, and automated content should invest in adapting [AI] technology to better suit journalism.”


Can the man who invented the World Wide Web also be the one to save it? (Vanity Fair)

The World Wide Web, which Tim Berners-Lee had intended as a radical tool for democracy, has merely exacerbated the challenges of global inequality. It has become a platform monopolized by Facebook, Google and Amazon, which control almost everything we do online, from what we buy to the news we read to who we like. Along with a handful of powerful government agencies, they are able to monitor, manipulate, and spy in once unimaginable ways. Shortly after the 2016 election, Berners-Lee felt something had to change, and began methodically attempting to hack his creation. The idea is simple: re-decentralize the Web.

+ Cardi B, live events, fewer issues: Meet the new Rolling Stone (The Wall Street Journal)