Need to Know: July 6, 2018

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


You might have heard: Media fight access restrictions on child detention centers (The New York Times)

But did you know: For journalists covering prisons, the First Amendment is little help (Columbia Journalism Review)

Government practices and policies that limit press access to prisons, jails and other detention centers has been a chronic problem, writes Jonathan Peters. “The First Amendment does a generally fine job of guaranteeing rights to communicate, but it’s a fickle source for access rights, which come from a complex system of statutes, regulations, the common law, and a few problematic Supreme Court decisions.” Those decisions, handed down in the 1970s, upheld state and federal regulations on press access to prisons, and have not yet been revisited. “The first key, then, to gaining access is knowing the press-access policy for the institution you’re interested in,” advises Peters. “Ask about the basis of any denials, and get to know the warden and PIO before you need them, to strike while the iron is cold. Have a particular story in mind, too, when requesting access.” The same basic logic applies to other types of detention centers.

+ Noted: At 2:33 p.m. yesterday, newsrooms observed a moment of silence to honor journalists killed in Capital Gazette shooting (Capital Gazette); Former Fox News exec Bill Shine named as White House deputy chief of staff for communications (CNBC); Claude Lanzmann, epic chronicler of the Holocaust, dies at 92 (The New York Times); Ed Schultz, MSNBC broadcaster and radio personality, dies at 64 (Huffington Post); Wired launches streaming TV channel (Digiday)


The week in fact-checking

As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes the viral #WalkAway meme, a course on “Calling Bullshit” at the University of Washington, and a four-step plan to save facts from extinction.


The Guardian finds less polished video works better on Instagram Stories (Digiday)

Two months ago the Guardian started tracking and analyzing its Instagram audience data on a more granular basis, to test what formats and topics it should develop and evolve and what should be scrapped. The upshot: video drives more new followers than photos, but time and resources spent on creating polished Instagram videos, specifically for Stories, simply aren’t worth the pay-off. Less labor-intensive posts — static graphics or quick video explainers on news topics — have proved more popular. “What the Guardian publishes now feel much more like news stories that are very much the culture of the internet — more like BuzzFeed’s style,” said Charlie Cottrell, head of editorial at agency We Are Social. “The language and use of emoji, and more low-fi sets, having younger presenters from all different kinds of backgrounds that will likely resonate more with the young audience they want to reach.”

+ The secret of Quartz’s success? For starters, an editorial approach that is explanation-driven, not events-driven; short, and free of industry jargon and complexities. (Poynter)


Tech giants win a battle over copyright rules in Europe (The New York Times)

It’s a fight nearly as old as the internet. On one side are news organizations, broadcasters and music companies that want to control how their content spreads across the web, and to be paid more for it. On the other are tech companies such as Facebook and Google, which argue that they funnel viewers and advertising revenue to media outlets, and free-speech advocates, who say that regulating the internet would set a dangerous precedent and limit access to information. That battle flared up in Europe on Thursday. Two powerful industries faced off — technology against media, platforms against publishers — over a bill that would impose some of the world’s strictest copyright laws, which would have required tech companies to filter out unlicensed content and pay for its use. On this occasion, tech prevailed; the proposal was voted down.

+ As it slides toward authoritarianism, Venezuela targets one of its last independent newspapers (The Washington Post); India tells WhatsApp to stop the deadly rumor mill, somehow (Columbia Journalism Review); Digital kiosks struggling to keep European publishers on board (Twipe)


Overcoming barriers to the conversations we need (MIT Sloan Management Review)

“We need to have careful, informed, and democratic conversations about how we are going to live with new technologies and how we might mitigate the unintended ill effects that are inevitably going to arise,” write R. Edward Freeman and Seth Lashley. Freeman and Lashley argue that the institutions in the middle of these issues — tech businesses, schools of business and engineering, and political institutions — should take the lead in promoting civil dialogue. But news organizations can also play a role by adapting these same recommendations for their reporting: cover specific cases that show how business, technology, and ethics are connected; keep in mind that children should be exposed to these issues, which will dramatically impact their lives; and highlight examples of both tech companies and innovative public policies that use ethics to shape business and technology.


Should journalism take a lesson from activism? (Columbia Journalism Review)

As journalism organizations reckon with audience distrust and failing business models, they continue to gravitate toward “engagement,” often just a word for using community organizing tactics in journalism. Grassroots community organizers listen to groups of people to assess their needs, analyze power, and then use that listening and analysis to develop campaigns. Journalists may not be campaigners, but there are two skills that more journalism organizations can and should be using: accountability to the audience and understanding power structures.


How ‘keyword voids’ turn up misinformation (Wired)

Writer Renee DiResta shows how an internet search — in this case, on the necessity of the Vitamin K shot for newborns — can often lead users into a “keyword void,” a situation where searching for answers about a keyword returns content produced by a niche group with a particular agenda. “There’s very little counter-content to surface because it simply doesn’t occur to regular people (or, in this case, actual medical experts) that there’s a need to produce counter-content,” DiResta writes. “Will we have to fight the battle of keyword voids at a grassroots level…tapping people to find these voids and create counter-content? Do we need to organize counter-GoFundMe campaigns to pay for ad campaigns that promote real science? Or will the tech platforms where this is occurring begin to understand that giving legitimacy to health misinformation via high search and social rankings is profoundly harmful?”

+ Here’s how many Facebook ads some publishers are running on their main pages (Digiday)


+ Employee uprisings sweep many tech companies. Not Twitter. (The New York Times)

+ Jeff Bezos and Amazon have the advertising industry looking over its shoulder (NBC)

+ SCOTUS and Congress leave the right to privacy up for grabs (Wired)