Need to Know: June 13, 2019

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


You might have heard: People say they want slower, better news (New Yorker)

But did you know: Are we a nation of news consumption hypocrites? (Axios)

The news and information that U.S. adults actually read doesn’t always match up with the topics they claim they want covered more, according to data from and an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll. Readers claim they want to read more about topics like health care, climate change and education, and less about national security, politics and immigration, but the data shows that their actual news consumption is the opposite of the kind of news they’re demanding. Entertainment and emotionally charged topics over-index on how much they are read vs. readers’ stated coverage preferences, the poll found. More academic, less personality-driven issues end up getting read less. While this behavior isn’t surprising, news organizations should still avoid the traffic trap of covering easy-gratification topics, researchers wrote; instead making an effort to reach readers in more intentional consumption environments (more intentional, that is, than social media), such as newsletters, magazines and streaming services.

+ Noted: The Houston Chronicle and Reynolds Journalism Institute partner to keep chemical company data site available for journalists (Reynolds Journalism Institute); Facebook Watch hits 140 million daily users, nearly doubling in the last 6 months (Variety)


Field Notes: We’ll be talking about newsroom culture and mentorship in public media in D.C.

Amy Kovac-Ashley, director of newsroom learning at API, will be at the annual conference of the Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI) this week in Washington, D.C. This afternoon (Thursday) she’ll participate in the pre-conference afternoon discussion at NPR about the culture of journalism. Friday she’ll moderate a breakout session, “Retention Through Mentorship,” from 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. with API board member Doug Mitchell and several public radio leaders who are running successful mentorship programs.


How we helped our reporters learn to love spreadsheets (New York Times)

Data training at The New York Times is no light commitment. The three-week bootcamp requires two hours of journalists’ time every weekday morning, and they are expected to come prepared with data-driven story ideas for their beats. The training covers beginner skills like sorting, searching and filtering; progresses to pivot tables; and ends with advanced data cleaning skills such as “if and then” statements and “vlookup.” They also discuss data-friendly story structures, data ethics and how to bulletproof data stories. Of course, most publications don’t have the resources to develop such intensive training — so that’s why the Times Open team has made all their training materials available for anyone looking to copy some or all of its curriculum.


Number of fact-checking outlets surges to 188 in more than 60 countries (Poynter)

That’s a 28% increase (39 new fact-checking outlets) since the last global fact-checking census in 2018, according to the Reporters’ Lab at Duke University. Asia saw the most growth in fact-checking outlets, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year, followed by Latin America. While many of the new fact-checking projects were born out of national elections, many are now sticking around to concentrate on viral hoaxes and other forms of online misinformation, writes Mark Stencel. Expected attendance at the sixth annual Global Fact Summit, which begins next week in Cape Town, South Africa, reflects the global surge in fact-checking, Stencel notes. About 250 attendees from nearly 60 countries are expected at this year’s gathering — five times the number from the first Global Fact in London in 2014.

+ Russian investigative journalist freed after days of protests (Washington Post); BBC confirms plans to make customers over the age of 75 pay a TV license fee (Guardian)


How WhatsApp could collaborate with journalists to spread news — not misinformation (International Journalists’ Network)

Encryption should not serve as an excuse for WhatsApp to neglect tools for journalism, writes Sérgio Spagnuolo. With user consent, it would be possible for WhatsApp to implement resources so that people have better access to verified content — among those the ability to broadcast news, which WhatsApp has limited in order to prevent spam. However, even without broadcasting tools, a good amount of spam makes it around the platform anyway, Spagnuolo points out. “What’s more, if the user allows media outlets to send them messages with news bulletins, how is that spam? If you sign up to receive a newsletter that you can opt out of at anytime, it isn’t spam — it is, well, a newsletter.” There are other actions WhatsApp could take to facilitate the distribution of legitimate news content, he adds, including creating verified accounts for news organizations, basic engagement analytics, and easier reader sign-ups through WhatsApp Business.

+ The personal newsletter fad needs to end (OneZero)


Rachel Maddow moderating the first Democratic debates is a good thing (Washington Examiner)

The announcement that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow would be one of the moderators of the first set of Democratic debates was greeted with derision among some conservatives on Twitter, but it’s actually a good thing, writes Philip Klein. “I have long been a believer that ideological media figures immersed in the issues of concern to their audiences can help raise issues that would not occur to other reporters … Maddow should use the debate as an opportunity to press the candidates on issues that are of concern to her liberal audience that may not obviously occur to her co-moderators.”


What’s the plan for McClatchy’s Google-funded local news sites? (Nieman Lab)

In March, Google and McClatchy announced a partnership to build three local news sites over the next three years — part of the Google Local News Experiment to actually build newsrooms rather than simply putting money into one-off projects. Now the project is gaining steam with new general manager Mandy Jenkins, whose task it will be to devise sustainable business models for the three news sites. Jenkins told Nieman Lab’s Christine Schmidt that part of her efforts will be in building relationships with local businesses to see what their challenges have been in connecting with people in the community, as well as working with them on local advertising. “We … can’t discount advertising,” she said. “I think there’s also innovation that can be happening there. There are local advertisers who want to be involved and it doesn’t have to scale.” However, what might work in one community isn’t necessarily going to work in others, she told Schmidt. “[The local news crisis] isn’t one thing to solve; it’s a hybrid model of several ideas. That gives us the opportunity to iterate this and try a lot of ideas along the way.”