Need to Know: July 3, 2019

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Facebook unveils plans to fight misinformation about census (Politico)

But did you know: Facebook News Feed changes downrank misleading health info and dangerous ‘cures’ (Tech Crunch)

Hoaxes surround health information on social media, and Facebook announced yesterday that the platform is using its algorithm to limit the spread of misleading health content. A month ago, Facebook altered its algorithm to reduce “the spread of posts that make exaggerated or sensational health claims, as well as those trying to sell products or services based on health-related claims,” according to Tech Crunch. Facebook made its announcement after a Wall Street Journal story that found Facebook and YouTube users post inaccurate information on miracle cures that can receive millions of views.

+ Noted: The Times-Picayune was absorbed by the Advocate in New Orleans yesterday. Here’s what happened to its staff. (Poynter); Instagram is Gen Z’s go-to source of political news — and it’s already having an impact on the 2020 election (Business Insider);  The Atlantic taps BuzzFeed’s Linzee Troubh to head TV, film development (Variety); NBC News hires Alison Morris from Fox’s NYC station as full-time anchor for streaming service (Variety)

API UPDATE

Trust Tip: If you publish a graphic image, explain why (Trusting News)

Last week, we learned the names of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, after a widely-circulated Associated Press photo captured them face down alongside the bank of the Rio Grande. When journalists decide to include disturbing photos in their coverage, Trusting News Director Joy Mayer suggests explaining why. This is the approach USA Today took last week, when they shared the decision-making process that went into publishing the image of Martínez and his daughter, who drowned while attempting to cross into the United States. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 

TRY THIS AT HOME

2020 census: How undercounts and overcounts can hurt US communities (Journalist’s Resource)

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, several groups were undercounted or had low response rates during the most recent census. For instance, the 2010 census undercounted the black population by about 2 percent and undercounted residential renters by about 1 percent. Inaccurate counts have significant implications that journalists should be aware of, Denise-Marie Ordway writes, because the census determines how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are given to each state, as well as the distribution of federal program funds. Research suggests reasons for undercounting residents may include confusion regarding the census questionnaire or privacy concerns.

+ Earlier: Making census news reach hard-to-count communities (Medium, LAist/KPCC)

OFFSHORE

BBC continues to slash pay for male journalists in push for gender parity (Press Gazette)

The BBC set a goal to do away with its gender pay disparity by the end of 2020, and salary figures released yesterday show that the corporation has reduced its median gender pay gap. The BBC cut the salaries of its most prominent male broadcasters, including Jeremy Vine, who earned up to £750,000, or about $943,000 in U.S. dollars, in 2017 as the corporation’s highest-paid journalist. BBC’s highest-paid female on-air journalist is Sophie Raworth, who earns a salary of £270,000 after a £60,000 increase. In a statement, the organization BBC Women said, “There has been some progress in the last two years, but many women at all levels of the BBC are locked into slow, inefficient and demoralising internal processes. New equal pay cases are still emerging and staff are yet to have confidence that pay inequality is in the past.”

OFFBEAT

Endless AI-generated spam risks clogging up Google’s search results (The Verge)

Some technology experts have raised concerns that AI systems can be used to create scores of content in the game of search engine optimization. Fractl, a content marketing agency, used an open-source tool called Grover to make a blog with AI-generated text. Even the headshots of the blog’s authors were the result of AI. For now, AI-generated text isn’t difficult to spot due to its tics, like repeating specific words. At the same time, web searches using virtual assistants, which provide fewer answers than a traditional search, may cut down on spam in search results.

UP FOR DEBATE

Youngstown paper closure shows shift in chains’ approach to buying media properties (Nieman Lab)

Just days after its 150th birthday, The Vindicator, based in Youngstown, Ohio, announced it would shut down in late August. Joshua Benton writes, “I don’t think this is a Youngstown story. I fear we’ll look back on this someday as the beginning of an important (and negative) shift in local news in America.” On the heels of reports that the journalism industry faces its worst job losses since the Great Recession, Benton claims that many of the people behind family-owned newspapers like The Vindicator “want to get out” of the business, and have wanted to do so “for generations.” Yet no chains opted to buy the paper in an industry built on a mix of cuts and consolidation.

+ Earlier: How the first U.S. city with no daily newspaper will help Trump in 2020 (Philadelphia Inquirer)

SHAREABLE

Reporting, Illustrated (Columbia Journalism Review)

In a rundown of the use of comics in journalism, Laura Thorne writes that this form “offers an antidote to the churn of the news cycle, inviting us to take a closer look at the pressing matters of our time.” Artists reveal subjects in a way that journalism alone can’t, while using an array of traditional reporting techniques like in-depth interviews and embedding in a place or with a particular subject. In one collaboration, Peruvian illustrator and author Jesús Cossio created the multimedia piece “The War for Water” with the journalist group OjoPúblico, or Public Eye. The piece explores the Tia Maria gold mine, which spurred protests that led the government to send hundreds of police.

+ Earlier: Covering news issues with comics: 7 good questions with Jake Halpern