Need to Know: July 31, 2020


You might have heard: The Department of Justice has been quietly exploring ways to more easily spy on journalists (The Hill)

But did you know: The Department of Homeland Security compiled ‘intelligence reports’ on journalists who published leaked documents (The Washington Post)

After two journalists — a reporter for the New York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare — published leaked, classified documents about DHS operations in Portland, Ore., the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis compiled intelligence reports focused on the journalists’ tweets sharing the information. The reports, obtained by The Washington Post, include written descriptions and images of the tweets and the number of times they had been liked or retweeted by others. An article published yesterday by The Post prompted the acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, to order the intelligence office to stop collecting information on journalists and to announce an investigation into the matter. “This has no operational value whatsoever,” said John Sandweg, the department’s former acting general counsel. “This will just damage the intelligence office’s reputation,” he added, calling the decision to report on journalists “incredibly dumb.”

+ Noted: Report for America is taking applications from newsrooms that want to host reporters for 2021-22 (Report For America); Philadelphia education news site The Notebook partners with Chalkbeat to form Chalkbeat Philadelphia (The Notebook); Pittsburgh Post-Gazette union journalists will vote to go on strike (Pittsburgh City Paper)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

How censorship claims are misused for partisan gain, should Big Tech work together to limit conspiracy theories, and Russians are using lessons learned from the 2016 election to spread COVID-19 disinformation. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


How The Rivard Report has been so successful at generating earned revenue (Institute for Nonprofit News)

The San Antonio-based nonprofit, which started in 2012 as a community blog, has managed to grow its earned revenue — coming from event sponsorships, advertising and business memberships — so that it now makes up more than a quarter of its total revenue. The core reason for this is that it has a five-person business development team that works closely with business clients to create custom packages that suit the clients’ needs. A custom package might include a flat rate for advertising, plus sponsorships and a business membership to the news site. This case study from INN explains the team’s workflow.

+ If you can’t aggressively moderate it, shutting down your comments section could help contain the spread of COVID-19 misinformation (Twitter, @millie)


In Nigeria, thinking of financial journalism as financial education (Reuters Institute)

After several years as a financial journalist in Nigeria, the poverty capital of the world, Adesola Akindele-Afolabi realized that she was writing only for the country’s business elite. “My audience at that time was made up of the 2% of the country’s nearly 200 million people who had savings of $1,400 or more in their bank accounts,” she writes. “The people who actually needed financial information are the >50% of Nigerian adults living in rural areas.” Thanks to increasing internet connectivity in those areas, it is now much easier to deliver journalism to this demographic. Akindele-Afolabi now focuses her journalism on the average Nigerian’s financial information needs, including topics like microfinance, loan accessibility, pensions, inclusive banking, and — “maybe, much later” — investment opportunities.

+ Australia releases draft code under which Google and Facebook would be forced to share revenue with news companies (The Guardian)


How, when and if publishers are returning to the office (Digiday)

Five months into the coronavirus crisis, publishers are thinking about how to safely start bringing their employees back to the office. But many say they have begun thinking differently about how — and why — work gets done in the office. “It’s not just for the sake of coming in, but being intentional with how you’re coming in,” said Natalie De Paz, a manager at the consulting firm Landor & Fitch. Companies need to “define the activities that would make the most sense in a workspace,” meaning that office space should be seen as a collaboration environment versus a place where workers filter in and out on a daily basis to sit at a desk, she suggested.

+ Earlier: How remote work, continuing in a post-pandemic world, could pave the way for women in newsrooms (WAN-IFRA)


‘This was the week America lost the war on misinformation’ (The Washington Post)

The viral spread this week of a video featuring dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus — helped along by President Trump’s sharing it — signals that “we’ve not only lost the public-health war, we’ve lost the war for truth,” writes Margaret Sullivan. “Misinformation and lies have captured the castle.” As new research from Pew shows, Americans who rely on social media as their pathway to news are more ignorant and more misinformed than those who come to news through print, a news app on their phones or network TV. This growing group is frequently absorbing fake news — but according to Pew, they’re also the ones who tend to be least concerned about that. “In a society that depends on an informed citizenry to make reasonably intelligent decisions about self-governance,” writes Sullivan, “this is the worst kind of trouble.”


Making corrections spread faster on social media — is there a tool for that? (News Co/Lab)

ASU’s News Co/Lab has been working on a tool that would help news organizations send story corrections and major updates down the same social media paths as the original stories, and it’s looking for more newsrooms to test the tool in the real world. The Kansas City Star, for example, used it to automatically send an update on a coronavirus article to people who had shared the original article with their followers on Twitter. “Thank you for sharing the Star’s story,” the tweet, sent as a reply to those users, read. “Here are the latest KC COVID-19 numbers,” with a link to the update. Eric Nelson, McClatchy’s Central regions growth editor, said users were appreciative of the communication and “even thanked us for the updates.”


+ “A very strong defensive play for local papers”: How The Matchup, local newspapers’ collaborative response to The Athletic, could rescue their sports coverage (A Media Operator)

+ What it’s like to cover the Portland protests (CJR)