Need to Know: March 27, 2019

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


You might have heardGoogle offers news business a $300 million olive branch (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: Google will fund new local media sites (Axios)

Google is launching the Local Experiments Project, an effort to fund dozens of new local news websites around the country and eventually around the world, reports Sara Fischer. The tech giant says it will have no editorial control over the sites, which will be built by partners it selects with local news expertise. The first effort within the new Local Experiments Project will be ‘The Compass Experiment,” which is a partnership between Google and McClatchy to launch three new, digital-only local news operations on multiple platforms. McClatchy will choose three small cities — with populations less than a half million — where there is a “strong sense of community” but local news has decayed. Eventually it says it will have reporters on the ground in those cities. The goal is to use the lessons from McClatchy’s efforts, and others in the future, to create insights for everyone in the local news business, writes Fischer. Google says it chose to partner with McClatchy to launch the project because it’s a local news company with an existing relationship with Google and a strong technology background. McClatchy CEO Craig Forman is a former journalist and tech executive.

+ Related: A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that most Americans think local news is doing well financially, and not many pay for it (Nieman Lab)

+ Noted: “We don’t aim to be a national US news organization”: After crowdfunding $2.6 million, The Correspondent announces it will close its New York office and move to its headquarters in Amsterdam (Medium, The Correspondent); The New York Times Diversity & Inclusion 2018 report shows that 51 percent of staff are women and 30 percent are people of color, but racial diversity in leadership has not increased since 2016 (New York Times Co.); Sinclair confirms it is shutting down its general interest news website (Twitter, @ErikWemple)


Trust Tip: Explain how you cover suicide (Trusting News)

Most readers are unaware of the hard decisions journalists must make when covering suicide. “They’re not assuming you’re concerned about being sensitive to the family involved, not sensationalizing the topic and contributing constructively to community conversations,” writes Joy Mayer, director of Trusting News. “Your community doesn’t know those things about you until you tell them. They can’t give you credit for being thoughtful, ethical and responsible unless you invite them behind the scenes.” This week’s Trust Tips newsletter offers ways to explain your newsroom’s policy — or decision-making process — on covering suicide 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.

+ Related: A look at the research on how the news media impacts suicide trends (Journalist’s Resource); How Capital Public Radio covered a community’s high suicide rate (and developed a tool for residents to keep) (Nieman Lab)


How Reuters is training reporters to spot ‘deepfakes’ (Digiday)

To train its journalists to identify fake content before it is shared widely across the internet, Reuters enlisted a specialist production company to create a deepfake video of a broadcaster reading a script in a studio. (Aside from a few well-known examples of Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, finding everyday examples to study the fake formats is tricky, so Reuters had to make its own.) In addition to the training, Reuters has doubled the number of people who work on verifying video content from six to 12. “There’s not a slew of deepfakes on my desk, but I don’t want to wait till there are,” said Hazel Baker, Reuters head of user-generated content news-gathering. “There have been some fear-mongering headlines, but there is a genuine threat. Every day, we see attempts to share fake videos.”

+ Earlier: Heard about deepfakes? Don’t panic. Prepare. (World Economic Forum)


Europe adopts tough new online copyright rules over tech industry protests (New York Times)

Media companies who have long complained about Google and other online platforms profiting from their content without adequately compensating them for it scored a major win from the European Parliament on Tuesday. Coming away from one of the most intense lobbying campaigns in the European Union in years, lawmakers voted to adopt a law that requires technology platforms to sign licensing agreements with musicians, authors and news publishers in order to post their work online. The new law is meant to force tech firms to aggressively remove unlicensed copyrighted material from their websites proactively, rather than waiting for complaints to come in before acting.

+ Female journalists of the Vatican’s women’s magazine quit in protest (The Guardian)


‘Journalism through theater: how an art form can inform’ (Center for Media Engagement)

A new report from the Center for Media Engagement looks at how journalism depicted through theater can impact audiences’ perceptions of it. Partnering with the Center for Investigative Reporting and StoryWorks, a documentary theater project, CME analyzed audience reactions to three plays whose plots centered around investigative journalism. They found that after two of the three plays, audience members said they perceived the press’s role as a watchdog as more important, and after one play, were intrigued enough by the issues it raised to research them further on their own. Some audience members also said they felt more confident about their own role in the political process after watching the plays. News organizations sponsoring the plays — Mississippi Today and HuffPost — were also perceived more favorably by the audience.

+ Earlier: Journalists see their work adapted for the stage: Can it help break prejudice? (Poynter)


Is Digital First’s takeover bid for Gannett just a ploy? Gannett thinks so. (Poynter)

In its ongoing resistance to a takeover bid from Media News Group, better known as Digital First, Gannett offered a new line of defense Tuesday. Deep in a letter to shareholders boosting its own slate of directors for a vote at its annual meeting May 16, the company claims that Digital First is actually trying to get itself acquired by Gannett. “In the past, MNG has repeatedly approached Gannett seeking to be acquired, which Gannett has declined in all instances,” the letter read. “We believe MNG is using its proposal as a ploy to open discussions for such a transaction. Given these facts, Gannett continues to question whether MNG is in fact a buyer or a seller.” In a strategy shift last year, Gannett said that it now is mainly looking for acquisitions to boost its digital services business rather than buying more newspapers, writes Rick Edmonds. It “may well view the Digital First papers as damaged goods it wants no part of.”


Journalism job ads show increased demand for marketing expertise (Journalist’s Resource)

A new study of job ads suggests media outlets now want journalists to be more innovative, demonstrating expertise in areas such as marketing, web development, audience analytics and Python, a computer programming language. Nearly half (45 percent) of the ads asked for marketing expertise in areas such as audience engagement, market development and branding. Yong Volz, one of the researchers on the study, said she was “kind of concerned” about the findings, explaining that blurring boundaries between newsrooms and marketing departments could present an ethical dilemma for journalists. Only about a quarter of job announcements mentioned professional ethics, Volz pointed out. And online-only news outlets were less likely to emphasize journalism ethics than print and broadcast media organizations. “In this era with increasing public distrust of the media, I think ethics is more crucial than ever for the media,” Volz said. “Ethics requirements should be highlighted even more.”