Need to Know: March 2, 2020


You might have heard: How freelance journalists pushed back against a California law that limits the assignments they can do for repeat clients (CNN)

But did you know: Gig economy law author proposes legislation easing impact on freelancers (The Hollywood Reporter)

Last year, the California legislature passed a law meant to address gig-economy workers who are incorrectly classified as independent contractors. But the law also dealt with freelance journalists, placing a 35-article cap on the number of assignments that reporters, editors and photogs could complete for a single news organization. After sustained criticism that this would remove California freelancers’ ability to work for anchor clients, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the controversial measure, crafted a bill amendment that would remove the cap. The legislation would also require freelancer contracts to include rates, payment deadlines, and intellectual property details.

+ Noted: The Texas Tribune hired Stacy-Marie Ishmael and Millie Tran as editorial director and chief product officer (The Texas Tribune); When the billionaire family behind the opioid crisis needed PR help, they turned to Mike Bloomberg (ProPublica); Twitter pulls out of SXSW over coronavirus concerns (Twitter)


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A step-by-step guide to finding and removing your personal information from the internet (NYT Open)

One of the potential perils of online life is doxxing, the public posting of personal information to intimidate or further harass a target. Last week, NYT Open published The New York Times’ training guide on how to find and remove information from the Internet that could make a journalist vulnerable to an attack. An easy starting point is a search engine query with your name and terms like “address,” which may lead to sites that compile information from public records and other sources, such as White Pages or Spokeo. You can opt out of these sites, but the guide recommends checking your information once a year because new records may appear, especially if you move, get married or make other life changes.

+ Face-to-face collaboration key to Associated Press push alert project (Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute)


Time spent watching public service news fell among 16 to 24-year-olds over five years (Press Gazette)

A study from British media regulator Ofcom found that from 2014 to 2018, 16 to 24-year-olds spent 28 percent less time watching news from BBC channels, including BBC News. During the same time period, all age groups spent 5 percent less time watching news on BBC channels, as news consumers shift to online sources. At the same time, BBC News is the UK’s most popular news site. However, younger audience members are less likely to engage with the site, as well, the Ofcom report said.

+ Related: The BBC is under scrutiny. Here’s what research tells about its role in the UK (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)

+ Head of CBC News Jennifer McGuire leaving CBC as part of leadership restructuring (CBC)


Millions of tweets peddled conspiracy theories about coronavirus in other countries, an unpublished U.S. report says (The Washington Post)

The State Department’s propaganda-fighting arm found that as the coronavirus moved beyond China, misinformation dominated about 2 million foreign tweets during just three weeks. About 7 percent of the tweets studied contained conspiracy theories or hoaxes that could potentially impact dialogue on social media, said the report, which has not been publicly released. The analysis found that some of the tweets were from bots or other inauthentic accounts, but it didn’t name the party responsible or the accounts reviewed.


To our fellow newsrooms: stop surrendering to online attacks on your reporters (The Verge)

For years, right-wing organization Project Veritas has filmed journalists without their consent in attempts to discredit them and claim that nonpartisan news outlets are biased. The group’s latest target is David Wright, who appeared in footage describing himself as a socialist and criticizing the company for plugging Disney content. ABC News suspended Wright and suggested that he had damaged the network’s reputation for fairness and impartiality. T.C. Sottek calls on newsrooms to better protect their reporters, writing that adversaries to the press “want to intimidate us and have us disavow our colleagues. And they are using ‘fairness’ and ‘impartiality’ to do it.”

+ In his first piece as the Times’ media columnist, Ben Smith writes that the paper may be crowding out its competition (The New York Times)


How he did it: A journalist uncovers the Afghanistan Papers (Journalist’s Resource)

In 2016, Washington Post investigative reporter Craig Whitlock filed what he expected to be a straightforward records request. Another request, several FOIA lawsuits and three years later, the Post published the Afghanistan Papers, a series of interviews with military and government officials that cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Afghanistan War. As the government dragged its feet on the records, Whitlock worked on other stories. “You stick with it and juggle it,” he said. “It’s no different here than anywhere else.”