Need to Know: June 12, 2018

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


You might have heard: The Justice Department suit to stop AT&T from buying Time Warner, an $85.4 billion deal, surprised investors and antitrust experts when it was filed late last year (The New York Times)

But did you know: Today’s ruling on the Dept. of Justice vs. AT&T case will reverberate in the media industry and beyond (The New York Times)

A federal judge is expected to issue his opinion on the government’s effort to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner. If the deal is allowed, more upheaval in the media industry is also likely. Comcast has signaled that if the deal goes through, it will make a bid for the 21st Century Fox parts that the Walt Disney Co. is in the process of acquiring for $52.4 billion in stock. The outcome of the AT&T case could also prompt a range of smaller entertainment companies to join forces as a competitive maneuver. Media and telecom companies will also look for any signs that the judge agrees with AT&T and Time Warner’s assertion that Silicon Valley is a competitive threat and should also be defined as part of the media ecosystem — adding new competitors for regulators to consider.

+ Noted: Founder of media startup The Outline downplays staff cuts (Fast Company); FOIA organization MuckRock and document hosting service DocumentCloud are merging (Nieman Lab); Publishers protest Facebook’s transparency efforts, which can classify news content as political ads (Digiday); CrowdTangle announces three new features, including the ability to monitor verified profiles (CrowdTangle)


Here’s what Apple’s latest iOS update means for journalists (Poynter)

The journalism world tends to experience ripple effects every time Apple makes major updates to its products, writes Ren LaForme. Some of those ripples — such as the iOS9 release of Apple News, which can bring “crazy traffic” to news websites — have been seismic. Others, like the iPad, have proven to be less influential in the long term than expected. Here are some of the features that could have impacts on journalism: notification controls, Apple News is coming to desktop, Siri is getting an intelligence boost, and more.


Right-wing politicians in the U.S. have threatened public media funding for decades, but the problem extends internationally (Poynter)

Right-wing politicians in the U.S. have threatened public media funding for decades. Most recently, President Trump proposed eliminating federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund NPR and PBS. It’s not just in the U.S. — European countries continue to face attacks from conservative parties, some to a greater extent than in the U.S., that threaten the freedom of the press in a democracy. Here’s a look at five European countries whose public media are facing threats from the right.

+ Dutch publisher De Correspondent is coming to America with an innovative twist on paid content (Digiday)


This tool lets you see — and correct — the bias in an algorithm (Fast Company)

In theory, AI can eliminate some of the human bias in decision making But since the systems are designed and fed data by humans, the results often still are unfair, writes Adele Peters. A new tool from Accenture, called the Fairness Tool, is designed to quickly identify and then help fix problems in algorithms. The tool uses statistical methods to identify when groups of people are treated unfairly by an algorithm. “In the past, we have found models that are highly accurate overall, but when you look at how that error breaks down over subgroups, you’ll see a huge difference between how correct the model is for, say, a white man versus a black woman,” says Rumman Chowdhury, Accenture’s global responsible AI lead.


Coverage of Kate Spade’s death reveals need for media diversity (Columbia Journalism Review)

A story on the death of a prominent businesswoman and designer is certainly worthy of coverage, even front-page coverage, writes Farai Chideya. The issue here is a dissonance between the exclusionary sense-of-belonging cues and the broad news audience The New York Times has. Who is in the newsroom often determines what experiences are broad enough to be universalized in stories, asks Chideya. Does that include buying a handbag which costs more than a quarter of the American woman’s median pre-tax weekly income of $783? If news aims to be part of the commons, Chideya says, we can’t keep norming coverage to a privileged class, made primarily of white Americans.

+ Craig Newmark’s biggest bet on news is the next generation (Poynter)


Reporter who broke Glenn Thrush story, Laura McGann, says she was subjected to a smear campaign and that NYT failed to properly investigate her allegations (Jezebel)

Last November, Vox published a story by politics editor Laura McGann about New York Times politics reporter Glenn Thrush and what she called his “history of bad judgment” around young women journalists. McGann’s story had both immediate and long-term consequences: Its publication triggered an internal investigation at the Times, which took about a month. Thrush was suspended and ultimately removed from his beat. But for McGann, that wasn’t the end of the story. In the period when Thrush was being investigated by the Times for his alleged sexual misconduct, McGann says she was subjected to a bizarre whisper campaign.

+ Shane Smith grew Vice from a free punk mag to a company worth $5.7 billion through a mix of bluff, distorted audience figures, and exploitation of young, cheap talent (New York Magazine); Who are the investors in Alden Global Capital? You’d be surprised (DFM Workers)