Need to Know: June 26, 2019

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


You might have heard: Where has coverage of Trump’s wall gone? (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: Migrant children are suffering at the border. But reporters are kept away from the story. (The Washington Post)

Last week, the Associated Press reported the findings of a legal team that identified neglect and mistreatment at a Border Patrol detainment facility that houses about 250 migrant children in Clint, Texas. But this story and others on this topic relied on secondhand accounts, because journalists haven’t been given access to the facilities or the children living there, a situation that largely leaves the public in the dark. Immigration advocates say that giving journalists access would sway public opinion, but government officials argue that it would present a slew of legal issues, including privacy concerns. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security says that it’s against the law to photograph migrants in custody, especially children, who can’t legally consent to appearing in the media.

+ Noted: Supreme Court limits access to government records in loss for Argus Leader, part of the USA Today Network (USA Today); Murdoch lieutenant ordered removal of New York Post story on Trump sexual assault allegation, sources say (CNN); Texas Monthly sells to billionaire oil and gas heiress (The Dallas Morning News)


Trust Tip: Create a handout about your newsroom (Trusting News)

In keeping with the theory that any interaction with your audience is a chance to earn their trust, Trusting News Director Joy Mayer suggests connecting with the community through something tangible — a handout. She cites Pew Research Center data showing only 1 in 5 Americans have ever spoken with a journalist, making each interaction that much more valuable. A handout can tell the public basic things like how to contact your newsroom, or it can go deeper by explaining mission or ethics statements. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 


Seeing isn’t believing: The Fact Checker’s guide to manipulated video (The Washington Post)

Doctored and otherwise misleading videos rack up millions of views and often are allowed to remain on social media platforms like Facebook. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker issued a guide to navigating these videos, with a breakdown of the three main ways videos can be altered: through missing context, deceptive editing and malicious transformation. Doctored videos, like the one posted last month that was slowed to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear drunk, and deepfakes get a lot of attention, but the Post’s rundown demonstrates that other techniques can be just as damaging and misleading to the public. For instance, unaltered videos are often shared with inaccurate dates, locations or times, which misleads the public.

+ Related: Can you spot a fake photo online? Your level of experience online matters a lot more than contextual clues (Nieman Lab)


Study reveals drop in privately-educated journalists at top of media over last five years (Press Gazette)

According to a study from The Sutton Trust, 43% of the United Kingdom’s 100 most influential journalists attended private school. That figure dropped 11% during the last five years, but it’s about six times higher than the proportion of the general public that attends private school in the UK. The Sutton Trust report said that journalists with privileged backgrounds risk overestimating the news value of certain stories and missing other stories altogether. The report also noted that unpaid internships and the instability of freelancing may serve as barriers to working class people interested in entering the industry.

+ Earlier: A couch to crash on: PressPad aims to tackle one small part of journalism’s class diversity problem (Nieman Lab)


These are the deceptive design tricks and dark patterns that steer your clicks each day (Fast Company)

When it comes to tech, “deceptive design” is a term for things made with the intention of influencing users’ behavior. Mark Sullivan lays out a few examples of this, starting with infinite scroll — a tactic that’s crossed over into news sites, including Fast Company. Social media apps and sites employ infinite scroll to keep users glued to the screen in search of the next big thing and the endorphins that come with it. The author of “Addiction by Design” has compared the methods of tech companies to those of the gambling industry, which offers unpredictable rewards in exchange for time spent on the slot machines. Cellphones also encourage addictive behavior with notifications that “buzz our brains back into tech’s dangerous scroll-and-reward cycle.”


‘Alexa, why should we trust you with the news?’ (News-to-Table)

Use of home smart speakers, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, has tripled since 2017, and Rebecca Heilweil writes that virtual assistants present the same issues as any other technology when it comes to news, including misinformation and censorship. According to an NPR and Edison Research report from last year, 73% of Americans are interested in listening to news using their voice assistants, and a Reuters Institute study shows that a fifth of those surveyed already listen to customized news briefings every day. Heilweil raises the issue of how listeners will distinguish between the voice of the publisher and the virtual assistant, as well as the potential for deepfake audio. 

+ New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet agreed with critics that the paper had downplayed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s sexual assault allegations against President Donald Trump, while journalist Jon Allsop argues the story didn’t get enough coverage.


How The New York Times Metro report went from problem child to something to brag about (Poynter)

Last year, New York Times editor Cliff Levy sent a newsroom memo expressing concern that the paper’s metro department had “lost its footing and (needed) urgent, fundamental change.” A series of fixes, including an overall culture change, preceded the paper’s promotion of its revamped metro section, with ads on TV and billboards and the tagline, “The Truth is Local.” Starting with a shakeup marked by buyouts and transfer requests, the department moved away from its print focus and stopped doing “dutiful” stories that cover topics like trials and politics incrementally. The department also began prioritizing quality over quantity by running fewer stories but making them longer and more consequential.