Need to Know: June 6, 2019

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


You might have heard: What the altered Nancy Pelosi video shows about how the media cover misinformation (Poynter)

But did you know: Many Americans say made-up news is a critical problem that needs to be fixed (Pew Research Center)

A new Pew Research Center survey shows most Americans are concerned about what researchers labeled “made-up news,” and many think journalism is the answer. Almost 80 percent of Americans believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news, with 68 percent saying it impacts confidence in government institutions. The majority of Americans, 56 percent, believe that the problem of made-up news will get worse in the next 5 years. Despite partisan messaging against journalists peddling fake news, 57 percent of those polled said political leaders and their staff members are responsible for made-up news and information, and the survey identified journalists as the No. 1 solution, with 53 percent of those surveyed saying the news media has the most responsibility in to curtail made-up news.

+ Noted: YouTube says it’ll have no more videos from Nazis, Sandy Hook truthers, Holocaust deniers, and white supremacists (Nieman Lab); How 14 local news organizations teamed up to cover climate change (Poynter); The Boston Globe’s move into Rhode Island is a bet that the last newspapers standing will have a bigger footprint (Nieman Lab)


How can journalists deliver the truth in ways that audiences will believe and trust it — and help people get out of their corners?

New technology is changing the way information is distributed and is challenging journalists’ professional ethics related to how they decide what to include in their stories. Meanwhile, the term “fake news” has taken on a dual meaning, flipping from meaning a hoax or misinformation to a way for politicians to attack journalists who write news they disagree with. There are more fact-checkers than ever, but politicians are more inclined to repeat falsehoods. These ideas will be at the heart of an API summit convening in Arlington, Va., on June 6 and 7, “Truth-Telling in the Modern Age: Strategies to Confront Polarization and Misinformation.” We’ll be publishing a white paper and other follow-up studies later, so stay tuned.


How newsletter innovations are driving publisher revenue (What’s New In Publishing)

When Facebook reworked its algorithm last year to reduce the amount of news that appears in users’ feeds, the decision drove many publications into the open arms of newsletters. For several years before that, many outlets had already begun reviving the format, which previously was a product of marketing departments, not newsrooms. Journalist Simon Owens writes that one advantage of newsletters is their decentralized nature, which prevents platforms from controlling distribution. Email subscriptions have slower and less viral growth than Facebook pages, but newsletter subscribers drive revenue and are more loyal. For instance, subscribers to Seattle Times’ newsletter are 25 times more likely to subscribe than Facebook followers.

+ Related: Strategies and guides for succeeding with email newsletters (Better News)

+ How a fact-checker went from zero to 84,000 Instagram followers in 8 months (Poynter)


In Hong Kong, a publisher struggles to document Tiananmen’s carnage (The New York Times)

The Hong Kong publishing industry once published an array of books on Chinese history and politics that included leaks from the Communist Party. Now the industry is at risk due to the imprisonment and disappearance of independent booksellers, as well as tighter border security that blocks readers from sneaking the books into mainland China. New Century Press, one of the last Hong Kong publishers that prints material on China, used to publish one book per month. This year, the company published just three books. During the last several years, Chinese officials detained or arrested several Hong Kong media workers, and 2015 saw the disappearance of several workers for a publisher focused on Chinese politics and its associated retail outlet.

+ Australian Broadcasting Corp. raid: Australian Federal Police leave Ultimo building with files after hours-long raid over Afghan Files stories (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)


12 things I learned (or re-learned) about storytelling from watching ‘Game of Thrones’ (Poynter)

In a “Writing Tools” and ”Game of Thrones” crossover spectacular, Roy Peter Clark slays these storytelling tips gleaned from 73 episodes of the George R. R. Martin-inspired series. One idea is connected to the “callback” narrative technique, which refers to the  method of introducing a joke and then repeating it later for an even bigger impact. Ben Yagoda wrote last month in Nieman Storyboard that “well-constructed callbacks elevate an ordinary observation to the level of hilarity, flatter the audience (always a good thing) for picking up on it and provide a sense of continuity to the whole routine.” Other suggestions include setting the pace based on your audience’s needs and paying attention to characters’ motivations.

+ 3 reasons you should stop hiring for “culture fit” (Fast Company)


During Pride Month, YouTube shows its true colors (Columbia Journalism Review)

For two years, conservative YouTuber Steven Crowder has targeted Carlos Maza with attacks on his sexual orientation and ethnicity. The focus on Maza, who hosts the Vox YouTube series “Strikethrough,” led to harassment and death threats from Crowder’s pool of more than 3.8 million subscribers. Maza shared the issue on Twitter last week, and rather than remove the videos, the tech company blocked Crowder from selling ads for his channel. In response to the situation, Maza said, “YouTube requires victims of harassment to re-victimize themselves, put the humiliation on public display, and become targets for a whole network of hate and bigotry just to get their attention.”


You can go home again: Journalists who move to their hometowns to report (Columbia Journalism Review)

As part of a national trend of Americans moving back to their hometowns or areas where they grew up, some journalists are moving back to their home turf to report on community issues. Reporters who have made the jump say there are certain advantages, like having a deeper understanding of the community’s history and context to news events. Having roots in the place where they report gives journalists the opportunity to connect with their work and its impact in the region in a different way. According to Sarah Baird, who founded journalist database Shoeleather, reporters who return to their hometowns also have “a level of intimacy and trust with sources that’s deeply beneficial for telling more thoughtful, nuanced stories.”