Need to Know: June 19, 2019

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


You might have heard: Civil tries a relaunch but blockchain and a complex ‘constitution’ remain (Poynter)

But did you know: What will Libra, Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, mean for news? (Nieman Lab)

Yesterday, Facebook announced its foray into cryptocurrency, with plans to launch a digital currency called Libra next year. Now journalists are contemplating the possible impact the currency could have on payments for news. Spotify, which is backing the project through the nonprofit consortium Libra Association, suggested in a press release that Libra could broaden media’s reach to the estimated 1.7 billion adults in the world who don’t have bank accounts or credit or debit cards. While Libra won’t focus on news consumers, Nieman Lab Deputy Editor Laura Hazard Owen writes that it could address the media industry’s barriers to implementing micropayments. Still, she points out, uncertainties exist, such as how Facebook users will access the currency.

+ Noted: First Amendment constraints don’t apply to private platforms, Supreme Court affirms (The Verge); An Atlanta radio host complained of gender discrimination. Then she was restructured out of a job. (Columbia Journalism Review); ESPN just decided to stop sponsoring sportswriting’s most prestigious prize. Why? (The Ringer)


Trust Tip: Explain your word choices (Trusting News)

In response to a reader question last year, The Standard-Examiner in Utah explained on Facebook why the publication used the term “assault rifle,” but Lynn Walsh of Trusting News notes that this clarification was a rarity. Despite the process for choosing certain phrases over others, journalists rarely let their readers in  on the discussion or reasoning behind those choices. Walsh offers some pointers on how and when to explain word choice to your audience. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


Meet TikTok: How The Washington Post, NBC News, and The Dallas Morning News are using the of-the-moment platform (Nieman Lab)

TikTok, a social media app for micro videos that picks up where Vine took off, provides users with an ample supply of video memes, but does the platform have something to offer to journalists, as well? Owned by China-based company ByteDance, TikTok has a mammoth-sized user base under 30, and 60 percent of its users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24. Christine Schmidt writes that journalists are mostly using TikTok for building brand identity, while pointing out several journalism organizations that are experimenting with the platform in other ways. For instance, NBC News’ Stay Tuned shares news on TikTok four times a week, and The Washington Post is “easing into news” while mostly using the app to connect with readers.

+ Here are two stories with takeaways from media outlets that collaborated on coverage of the 2020 census and suicide prevention. (Southern California Public Radio and Poynter)


The obsessions of French media site Les Jours (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Before Paris-based news site Les Jours launched three years ago, its founders approached screenwriters for advice, with the theory that serializing deep-dive news stories would make investigative journalism more accessible and exciting to readers. Les Jours President Isabelle Roberts said, “The founding principle is really that news unfolds like a saga,” and the publication approaches the subjects it covers by serializing them over as many “episodes” as is appropriate for the topic. Les Jours appropriately calls these series its “obsessions,” and while some last just a few episodes, its longest is a staggering 115 stories. That particular constellation of stories, called The Empire, covers the takeover of a television channel, and it’s not over.


When your job is your identity, professional failure hurts more (Harvard Business Review)

If anyone over-identifies with their profession, it’s journalists, and this approach to work has pitfalls. Harvard public policy lecturer Timothy O’Brien writes that when work identity is also your personal identity, you risk being unable to keep a bird’s-eye view of the organization and your role in it and may be unable to “reflect dispassionately” on setbacks at work. “This weakens your judgment and makes it even more likely to take the criticisms and decisions personally,” O’Brien writes, adding that this situation can be exacerbated when your role at work is tied to your sense of self-worth. He suggests managing personal expectations, disconnecting yourself from your role at work and maintaining perspective on your various roles.


US-Iran coverage is still not skeptical enough (Columbia Journalism Review)

Since last week, reporters have questioned the Trump administration’s allegations that Iran attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, including a Task & Purpose article that said no U.S. officials have provided proof that links Iran to explosive devices found on the ships. Yet journalist Jon Allsop writes that “without air-tight evidence, news outlets really should not air administration claims without a heavy dose of context.” He argues that Iran is “too often framed as a menacing, unilateral aggressor” and coverage of US-Iran relations requires more skepticism from American journalists.


Newtown parents score a win in growing fight against hoaxers (Associated Press)

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 26 dead, plus the perpetrator, parents of victims have faced the sting of ongoing conspiracy theories that the massacre was a hoax. When Lenny Pozner, whose son was killed in the shooting, pushed back against this hoax, he experienced harassment and death threats, as well as ludicrous allegations that Pozner was an actor and his son never existed. Other relatives of Sandy Hook shooting victims gradually joined Pozner in confronting the conspiracy directly, and one of its major proponents, InfoWars host Alex Jones, was booted from social media platforms, in part for his role in boosting the hoax. On Monday, Pozner won a defamation lawsuit against James Fetzer and Mike Palacek, who wrote a book called “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook,” and the title from publisher Moon Rock Books was pulled from shelves.