Need to Know: May 16, 2023


You might have heard: US journalists targeted by foreign hackers who show sophisticated understanding of American politics (CNN) 

But did you know: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s operations continue to be disrupted by a cyber incident (The Philadelphia Inquirer) 

The Philadelphia Inquirer has been forced to shut its office for several days after an apparent cyberattack. The Inquirer was unable to print its Sunday edition, and it is unclear when print production will resume. With the office closed on Tuesday, journalists won’t be in the newsroom to cover Philadelphia’s Democratic primary for the mayoral race. Editors say that they are looking into coworking space, and that coverage won’t be affected. Experts say that while cyberattacks are becoming a larger threat for all organizations, news outlets may be a particular target by those who seek to embarrass the outlet, access confidential information, spread disinformation or merely wreak havoc.

+ Noted: Vice Media files for bankruptcy as ad business suffers (Reuters); Poynter announces the 28 newsrooms accepted into Transforming Crime Reporting Into Public Safety Journalism (Poynter)  


Applications are open for the Table Stakes’s spring cohort (Table Stakes) 

The Mobilizing News sprint for Table Stakes alumni organizations, beginning in June 2023, will guide teams through creating a newsroom-specific community outreach guide that details a workflow for connecting with parts of the community they haven’t served before. At the end of the 12 weeks, you’ll have developed relationships with community stakeholders and influencers who will become new sources for information gathering and sharing.  

+ API is hosting a digital session on burnout. Journalists will contribute anonymously to a series of prompts to learn actionable insights for reassessing and repairing their relationships with work. The free session will be held on Thursday, May 18 from  1 – 2pm EDT. 


Can AI help local newsrooms streamline their newsletters? ARLnow tests the waters (Nieman Lab) 

Local News Now founder Scott Brodbeck wanted one of its outlets, ARLnow, to produce another daily newsletter with more voice. But he couldn’t justify the time cost on his limited staff — so he turned to AI. The morning newsletter features an AI-written introduction and AI summaries of other stories. The newsletter can be sent with no human intervention, although Brodbeck did say that he needed to hire a coder to ensure the newsletter could be read in various email clients. 

Insight from API’s Elite Truong: “An interesting set of AI-powered experiments in the DMV and a worthwhile read on how to automate newsletter production and audio summaries. From my previous AI-powered experiments at The Washington Post, I’m hesitant to remove the human editing aspect and letting an algorithm assemble and send it, but I’m eager to see an openness to trying different methods to scale distribution and to follow these experiments from our neighboring local news org.” 


Guardian editor reveals investigations and ‘legal attacks’ drive reader contributions (Press Gazette) 

Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, says that investigation journalism has been a major driver of contributions to the paper. The Guardian has operated a voluntary contributions model since 2016. Viner says their investigative team in the U.K. has quadrupled since then, and that the outlet plans to launch an investigation team in the U.S. “What readers really wanted to give us money for was the most serious, most difficult investigative reporting,” said Viner. “It’s an incredibly inspiring thing that the readers have shown us the way.”


Guatemala’s El Periódico newspaper to shut down amid founder’s prosecution (The Associated Press) 

El Periódico, a Guatemalan newspaper focused on investigative journalism, announced that it will shut down. Its founder, José Rubén Zamora, is currently on trial for money laundering and other charges; Zamora says he has been targeted by President Alejandro Giammattei for his newspaper’s critical coverage of the government. Nine employees of the paper are also under investigation. The government claims that Zamora illegally asked someone to deposit money for him; Zamora claims that it was a donation for the newspaper from a supporter who wished to remain anonymous. 

+ Related: Jailed, exiled and harassed, journalists defy authoritarian leaders in Central America (Reuters Institute) 


Google is changing up search. What does that mean for news publishers? (Nieman Lab) 

Last week, Google announced that it is changing its search function to feature AI-generated answers to questions at the top of its search page. AI will also be used in Google’s shopping feature, providing tailored recommendations. Publishers worry that this will dry up traffic to their websites and cut into their income streams from affiliated links. Google is also rolling out the use of a filter called Perspectives, which highlights individual content creators and user-generated posts from social media. In theory, writes Laura Hazard Owen, this could benefit individual journalists, even those at large institutions. 

+ Related: Google’s AI pitch is a recipe for email hell (The Verge); Irish Times apologizes for hoax AI article about women’s use of fake tan (The Guardian)  


A.G. Sulzberger on journalism’s essential value (Columbia Journalism Review) 

In an essay on journalistic independence, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger writes that the paper has come under fire for publishing information that is true. He cites the Times’ 2018 coverage of Rod Rosenstein’s worries about President Trump’s erratic behavior, which some worried would prompt Trump to fire Rosenstein and thus end Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president. Sulzberger says that some have always argued that news outlets should pick a side and advocate for it. “But history shows that the better course is when journalists challenge and complicate consensus with smart questions and new information,” he argues.