Need to Know: May 14, 2019

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


You might have heard: In 2018, a slight majority (53%) of college students said diversity and inclusion was more important than free speech (Medium, Knight Foundation)

But did you know: This year college students say free speech is more important than diversity and inclusion, but only by a slight margin (Knight Foundation)  

A new survey shows that college students are still sharply divided on whether it’s more important to promote an inclusive society that welcomes diverse groups or to protect the extremes of free speech. Just over half (58%) said that hate speech should continue to be protected under the First Amendment while 41% disagree. Interestingly, 68% of college students say their campus climate precludes students from expressing their true opinions because their classmates might find them offensive; 31% disagree with this statement. Overall, women and minorities were more likely to say they valued diversity and inclusion over free speech. The survey also examined college students’ level of trust in media. Trust has declined since 2017, with nearly half of students (45%) saying they don’t have much confidence in the media to report the news accurately, and 14% saying they do not trust the media at all. Only 37% of white college students express at least a fair amount of confidence in the media’s ability to report the news accurately, versus 42% of black students and 45% of Hispanic students.  

+ Noted: Analytics company Chartable will help podcasters track how listeners find their show (The Verge); Fact-checking groups Full Fact and Chequeado have won $2 million to implement AI in their newsrooms (Poynter)


Assigned to the 2020 campaign trail? Consider a Google form on your way out (Nieman Lab)

Assigned to cover the 2020 presidential campaign, Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce is baking listening techniques into his reporting right from the start. Pearce created a simple Google Form for his readers to communicate what they want him to cover during the campaign. So far, more than 3,000 people have filled out the form, answering questions like “What’s the local issue that’s most important to your community, but which you think gets overlooked by the national media?” and “How much does it matter to you who a candidate’s donors are?” Pearce will use the responses to guide his reporting and also potentially to build sources — and subscribers.


Social media worsens polarization in emerging economies, even as it offers new chances for political engagement (Pew Research Center)

While the internet and social media have been integral to recent political upheavals and social movements like the Arab Spring and #MeToo, bouts of internet-fueled extremism and the constant threat of misinformation have many residents of developing countries wondering if the downsides of social media outweigh its benefits. According to a Pew Research Center survey, adults in 11 countries with emerging economies say that the internet, social media and mobile phones collectively have made them better informed and equipped to participate in the civic sphere, while simultaneously making them more vulnerable to misinformation.

+ Related: More than 100 million people in the world do not consider using Facebook or WhatsApp as using the internet. The number of “unconscious internet users” is expected to rise sharply in the coming years, opening the way to more misinformation. (Monday Note)

+ Taliban fighters double as reporters to wage Afghan digital war (Reuters)


‘Inclusive design’? Not for the elderly — and they’re making up more and more of your customer base (Fast Company)

With our increasing life expectancy, the elderly make up a growing segment of consumers across all sectors. So then why are so few things — in the physical and digital world — designed with them in mind? When products or experiences are designed for older consumers, they tend to be ugly and an unwanted signal of fragility, writes Don Norman, a former vice president of Apple who has also written on Apple’s usability sins. Norman points out that inclusive design isn’t just for seniors or people with disabilities, but for everyone — because all of us, if not suffering from a long-term condition, have experienced temporary or situational problems that put us in need of more thoughtfully designed things. “Designs that make it easier for elderly people often are of equal value for younger people,” writes Norman. “Help the elderly, and the results will help many more, including yourself, someday.”


Should a Colorado library publish local news? (Columbia Journalism Review)

At a sparsely attended city council meeting last Tuesday, residents of Longmont, Colo., debated what could be an innovative attempt to sustain local news: using tax money to fund a “library district,” a special governmental subdivision that would operate a community library, which would in turn operate some form of community news component. Skeptics warned about the difficulty of separating special interests from journalism in this model; while optimists said the issue of governance and accountability was something that could be managed. “This is an interesting twist on that idea of audience ownership that always sounds like a good idea but it’s never really taken off,” says Nate Schneider, who researches cooperative business models and employee ownership in media at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “I think the idea of building on a really tried and true model of library districts is a really interesting innovation that combines, I think, a hunger that people have now for community accountable media with an established public mechanism.”


Why A/B testing can only tell you so much about paywalls (What’s New in Publishing)

As of this year the Economist is behind a hard paywall, a decision that involved extensive A/B testing to evaluate the impact a hard paywall would have. While the testing showed increased registrations and increased conversions as a result of the paywall, the analytics team didn’t consider the findings as proof of its long-term success. “I think the most important thing that we sort of knew in the back of our heads but we didn’t take seriously enough up front was the fact that the A/B tests can only tell you about short-term impact of these changes,” said Adam Davison, the Economist’s head of insight and data science. “And some of these risks and opportunities to do with brand perception are really long-term things.” Their approach therefore was to run the A/B test to reach conclusions about things that could be of short-term benefit, and then once they were aware that there was a potential upside, they had to consider the long-term strategic business goals to see whether they aligned with the changes.