Need to Know: March 22, 2023


You might have heard: Why does so much news seem negative? Human attention may be to blame (Los Angeles Times) 

But did you know: Negative words in news headlines generate more clicks — but sad words are more effective than angry or scary ones (Nieman Lab) 

A new study has found that negative words in headlines increased click rates, while positive words decreased them. Each additional negative word increased the clickthrough rate by 2.3%. The human instinct towards negativity has been well-documented, but Joshua Benton writes that this study, which drew on data from Upworthy’s hyperbolic headlines, is unusually quantifiable. This is partly because Upworthy did extensive A/B testing on headlines, with editors required to write 25 headlines for each article. One surprise was the headlines with words associated with sadness did better than headlines associated with fear or anger. 

+ Noted: Business journalist Joe Bel Bruno has launched The Intersect, which covers how the entertainment industry and Wall Street collide (Talking Biz News)


Trust Tip: Invite people to contact you about story updates or removals (Trusting News) 

As journalists, we cover a lot of stories where people are experiencing some of the worst days of their lives. As time goes on, people change, the facts could change and the circumstances could change. Yet, the stories remain online and searchable, for all to see, unless we intervene. So, the question is: what’s your policy for updating or removing a story? More importantly, would a member of your community know they CAN request a story update or removal? Getting something in writing, even if it’s internal, is a good first step. This can help your newsroom be consistent about how and when it updates or removes stories. From a public trust perspective, the next best thing you can do is share that process and how you make those decisions publicly. 


The Washington Post’s first accessibility engineer is a step forward for accessible media (Poynter) 

Holden Foreman is the Washington Post’s first accessibility engineer, and he says the goal of the position is to reduce assumptions and to avoid asking readers to do unnecessary labor. He is focused on building both internal and audience-facing systems that increase access while also talking more publicly about the work of accessibility. He says that even at smaller news organizations, staffers should be thinking about how to make their content more available — and to reach out to people like him for guidance. 


Race and leadership in the news media 2023: Evidence from five markets (Reuters Institute) 

A new survey of news organizations in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. found that only 23% of top editors are people of color, even though people of color are 44% of the population. This is up slightly from previous years — 21% in 2022, 15% in 2021, and 18% in 2020. There was no simple connection between the number of journalists of color and the number of top editors of color; in the U.S. there were more top editors than journalists of color, but the reverse was true in Brazil. 


TikTok bans spread globally (Axios)

The U.S. government is one of several dozen countries to have enacted at least a partial public sector ban on TikTok. Private companies, including some college campuses, are banning TikTok from local internet networks over concerns about privacy and security. The U.S. government is considering an outright ban if the app’s Chinese owner won’t sell the American version of the app. Last week, the federal government gave agencies 30 days to remove TikTok from all government phones and systems. 

+ Related: U.S. state-government websites use TikTok trackers, review finds (The Wall Street Journal); TikTok overhauls its community guidelines, adds new policies on AI and climate misinformation (TechCrunch); TikTok bans deepfakes of nonpublic figures and fake endorsements in rule refresh (The Verge) 


Why First Amendment experts think Fox News will settle its Dominion dispute (The Hollywood Reporter)

Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News is set to begin in about a month, but experts say it’s likely that the companies will settle out of court. One lawyer says that both sides are likely waiting to hear what the judge in the case says when ruling on their motions for summary judgment, which could indicate who has more leverage in a potential settlement. Media law specialist Daniel Novack said Fox News is likely to “settle for a few hundred million dollars and walk away and never discuss it again.”

+ Related: Fox producer says she was set up in Dominion case (The New York Times); Dominion wants Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch to testify at trial (CNN); Is Sean Hannity a journalist? Role of hosts is key in Fox News lawsuit. (The Washington Post); With $1.6bn at stake, Fox News is suddenly interested in freedom of the press (The Guardian)