Need to Know: July 30, 2018

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


You might have heard: In a speech last Tuesday, President Trump gestured to members of the press and told his audience, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” (The Washington Post)  

But did you know: On Sunday, Trump clashed with New York Times publisher over the president’s threats against journalism (The New York Times)

President Trump unleashed a series of tweets Sunday accusing journalists of being unpatriotic and endangering lives, after New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger released a statement claiming the president misrepresented a private meeting between them on July 20. Mr. Trump originally described the meeting on Twitter as “very good and interesting,” and said they discussed how the term “fake news” had morphed into the phrase “enemy of the people.” In his rebuttal, Sulzberger wrote, “I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

+ Noted: Les Moonves and CBS face allegations of sexual misconduct (The New Yorker); U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to decide by Aug. 1 whether to maintain a newsprint tariff that newspapers say is crippling their industry (USA Today); Twitter shares experience worst single-day percentage drop since 2014 after reporting declining users (CNBC); Mexican reporter who had sought asylum in the U.S. released after 8-month ICE detention (National Press Club)


What journalists can learn from community organizers (Free Press)

The principles and practices community organizers use can be powerful tools when adapted to the newsroom, but it’s an approach most journalists aren’t familiar with. Free Press’ News Voices project, which helps newsrooms take an organizing approach to trust-building and newsgathering, created a guide for journalists looking to implement some of the following techniques in their work: mapping your community to identify local influencers; forming a reciprocal relationship with community members rather than a transactional relationship; meeting face to face whenever possible; listening to concerns and perspectives instead of listening for quotes; following up; and always asking the right questions — What types of information do people need? Who else should I talk to? What stories are we missing? What needs to be reframed?


Democracy at risk due to fake news and data misuse, MPs conclude (The Guardian)

Democracy is at risk unless the government and regulators take urgent action to combat a growing crisis of data manipulation, disinformation and so-called fake news, a U.K. parliamentary committee is expected to say. In a report leaked ahead of its official publication date, the committee adds to the growing calls for tougher government regulation of social media companies. It accuses them of profiting from misleading material and raises concerns about Russian involvement in British politics.

+ Facebook deletes hundreds of posts under German hate-speech law (Reuters); Brazilian right-wing activists protest Facebook’s removal of accounts determined to be spreading misinformation (Poynter)


The ‘guerrilla’ Wikipedia editors who combat conspiracy theories (Wired)

Over the past several years, companies like YouTube, Google, and Facebook have turned to Wikipedia to help fight the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories on their own platforms, writes Louise Matsakis. While the crowdsourced encyclopedia isn’t totally immune from manipulation, it’s proven to be a largely reliable resource for accurate information. That’s partly due to the efforts of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project, which now has more than 120 volunteer editors from around the world. Collectively, the GSoW is responsible for debunking claims made in some of the site’s most heavily trafficked articles, which cover topics like scientology, UFOs, and vaccines.


What can CNN do to stop Trump’s abuse? (The Washington Post)

A constant target of President Trump’s criticism, CNN frequently finds its reporters shut out of press briefings and other media events, writes Erik Wemple. But beyond issuing corporate statements and tweets protesting the president’s actions, there may not be much the network can do. “Fair access…is an informal norm, not a written-down rule. Legally, the president can grant access only to friendly media and deny it to critics,” said Steve Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard University. “This is yet another instance in which the day-to-day functioning of our democracy hinges on informal rules, not just the Constitution. And these informal rules are now being challenged.”

+ “Are you a bot?” is the new “Are you a cop?” (BuzzFeed)


Audiences are shrinking for Hispanic- and black-oriented U.S. news media (Nieman Lab)

A report from the Pew Research Center shows that, as with news media in general, news outlets aimed at blacks and Hispanics have seen recent declines in audience. This is true at the Spanish-language TV networks Univision and Telemundo, at three daily Hispanic newspapers, and at three of the five black-oriented newspapers Pew looked at. In 2017, circulation declined by at least 18 percent for each of the three daily Hispanic newspapers for which there are 2017 data. For the top 20 Hispanic weekly and semiweekly newspapers, however, average per-paper circulation remained steady, at about 92,000. Among the five of 10 black-oriented newspapers with paid circulation, circulation fell for two, remained flat for one, and rose substantially for the final two — though those increases do not make up for the loss in circulation for those outlets over the past decade.

+ Related: New publisher of Philly’s Scoop USA keeps a black-owned newspaper going with faith and own funds (; Earlier: Our series of guides for how ethnic media and mainstream outlets can collaborate