Need to Know: June 18, 2019

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


You might have heard: “Deepfakes are coming. We can no longer believe what we see.” (New York Times)

But did you know: About three-quarters of Americans favor steps to restrict altered videos and images (Pew Research Center)

As concern over digitally altered videos and images — sometimes known as “deepfakes” — deepens, the majority of Americans (77%) say they would support restrictions on publishing and accessing them, a Pew survey found. About two-thirds (66%) say they at least sometimes come across altered videos and images that are intended to mislead, with 15% encountering them often. About half the people surveyed said they can recognize videos or images that have been altered, but the majority said the public shouldn’t be expected to. Overall, Americans place less responsibility on the public — and less faith in their own abilities — to recognize altered videos than they do with other forms of potentially inaccurate or misleading forms of information.

+ Earlier: How Reuters is training reporters to spot “deepfakes” (Digiday)

+ Noted: The Atlantic introduces a “daily idea” for smart speakers, a condensed, one-to two-minute read of an Atlantic story (Nieman Lab); BuzzFeed journalists staged a walkout Monday in push for union recognition (Bloomberg); Spotify now lets advertisers target podcast listeners (The Drum)


Surviving a grueling, long-term reporting effort (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Tampa Bay Times reporters Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi were nearly tempted to give up a few times while reporting “Heartbroken,” a George Polk Award-winning story that exposed medical malpractice at the heart surgery unit at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. The story took nearly a year to report, and McGrory and Bedi constantly ran into dead ends. But the experience left them with a set of guidelines for surviving reporting projects that might seem insurmountable. Voicing concerns early and often turned out to be one of the most helpful parts of the process, says Bedi. “Concerns like these can fester if left unaddressed. But talking about them early will actually make stories and reporting stronger.” Bedi also encouraged reporters to “trust the process”: “If your concerns are voiced, the only thing left is to have faith in the reporting and editing process. Keep reporting, keep filing drafts and keep improving the story.”


Gender stereotypes banned in British advertising (New York Times)

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority is now enforcing a ban on advertising that is seen as promoting gender stereotypes, which it says can “can lead to unequal gender outcomes in public and private aspects of people’s lives.” The government body has been known to crack down on ads that have portrayed “unhealthily thin” models and excessive airbrushing, and ads seen as objectifying women’s bodies. With the new guidelines, Britain joins countries like Belgium, France, Finland, Greece, Norway, South Africa and India, which have laws or codes of varying degrees and age that prevent gender discrimination in ads. In the U.S., guidelines on stereotypes in advertising are only offered by the group that oversees ads that target children.

+ In Italy, Five Star Movement’s war on journalism is picking up pace (Columbia Journalism Review); Russia used social media to keep EU voters at home, report finds (The Verge)


Reddit and the problems of scale in large communities (One Man & His Blog)

How do you know when an online community you’re managing has become too big to support meaningful discussion? An increase in trolling and attention-grabbing stunts are indicators that the community might need some pruning, writes Adam Tinworth. Tech writer Tyler Sherer last month shared an idea that may seem too radical to all but the bravest moderators: unsubscribing a random selection of people, in the hopes that the most engaged and desirable contributors would make the effort to re-subscribe. While it might be a good way to clear out the chaff, you also run the risk of losing high-quality community members, which could cause your overall group to lose momentum. “There’s certainly an optimum size range, and one you stray out of it either way, you’ve got a management problem on your hands,” writes Tinworth.

+ Earlier: Goodbye “moderators,” hello “audience voice reporters”: Here’s how The Wall Street Journal is refocusing the comments to incentivize better behavior (Nieman Lab)


‘No male editor has ever accepted my pitches on abortion’ (Columbia Journalism Review)

In the wake of the near-total abortion ban recently adopted in Alabama, and the “heartbeat” bills just passed by a several other Southern states, media coverage of the issue has taken on a frenzied tone. But it’s too late for news stories to make a practical difference for the women affected by these laws, writes Meghan Winters. As a freelancer, Winters has been reporting on the anti-abortion movement since 2016. “The conversation on the ground was more extreme than I could have imagined,” she said — but she still struggled to find outlets willing to run her stories. While it’s impossible to peg any one reason for the rejections, Winters says they reflect a pattern: “so-called ‘women’s issues’ are often siloed or sidelined to publications for women readers — as if these issues are separate from the entirety of our politics, economy, and culture. That false division between a ‘women’s issue’ and all other issues means that it is difficult for any of us to have a complete picture of our national landscape.”

+ “Don’t bother replacing Sarah Sanders — as long as Trump occupies the Oval Office, the role of press secretary has no purpose” (Guardian)


Why do some people avoid news? Because they don’t trust us — or because they don’t think we add value to their lives? (Nieman Lab)

Nearly one-third (32%) of the world’s population actively avoids news, according to the Reuters Institute’s 2019 Digital News Report. That’s a 3% increase from 2017. In the U.S., it’s at 41%, up from 38% in 2017. In the 2017 data, the leading causes for Americans were “It can have a negative effect on my mood” (57 percent) and “I can’t rely on news to be true” (35 percent). In a Saturday post following up on the Reuters research, LinkedIn senior editor-at-large Isabelle Roughol asked readers whether they actively avoid the news. The responses she received are an eye-opening look at what people generally think of the news. “One comments section is obviously not a scientific sample,” writes Joshua Benton, who rounded up some of the responses, “but these are people who would probably be prime targets for a news organization wanting to expand its audience — and they’re not buying.”