Need to Know: May 20, 2019

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


You might have heard: 76% of Americans across the political spectrum have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in their local TV news (Poynter)

But did you know: Local TV news is still growing (though consolidation is yet to come) (Nieman Lab)

While local TV is by no means perfect — see overblown crime coverage and the faux Momo challenge — it’s one of the most trusted sources of news in the United States. And for the second year in a row, according to the 2019 RTDNA/Hofstra University survey of local TV news directors, local TV news employs more people than local newspapers. Despite the consolidation of major U.S. broadcasting corporations, the number of hours of local TV news has hit an all-time high, with an average of 5.9 hours of news per weekday. The number of people working in local TV news is only 100 below its all-time high of 27,900 a decade ago, with 700 new jobs added in the past year. And news directors at more than half of the stations surveyed said investigative reporting is a top area of focus in 2019.

+ Noted: Annual CBP report again finds smaller public radio stations trailing in revenues (Current); In Philly suburbs, readers see more ‘ghost newspapers’ as hedge funds cut costs (WHYY); CNN launches Instagram account on climate to appeal to young voters (Digiday)


How journalists and fact-checkers are fighting the ‘Liar’s Dividend’ (Poynter)

The Liar’s Dividend — the idea that debunking false or manipulating information legitimizes the debate over its veracity, and ends up causing some people to believe in the fakery — has roots that extend well beyond one of its most famous examples, the Obama citizenship conspiracy theory. Newsrooms over time have deployed various techniques to fight the Liar’s Dividend, like exposing attempts to mislead reporters and explaining verification processes. Collaboration versus competition is another approach that helps beat back misinformation, writes Kelly McBride — but while newsrooms are still predominantly dependent on advertising revenue, they’ll still be concerned with driving traffic, which means they’re more likely to prioritize scooping their rival over collaborating with them on more responsible, restrained reporting.


Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment (The Guardian)

The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that it says more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world. Instead of “climate change,” the preferred terms are now “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown,” and “global heating” is favored over “global warming.” The Guardian will also begin including global carbon dioxide levels in its daily weather pages. “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”


RIP, our jobs: Here’s one way to grieve journalism layoffs and departures (Poynter)

People affected by layoffs and closures may not give themselves enough time to properly grieve before moving on, writes Katie Hawkins-Gaar. At Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media earlier this year, one of the ways suggested to deal with emotional fallout from a job loss — which can linger for years — was to write job “obituaries.” The exercise ”really made me realize how many unresolved feelings I have about leaving my previous job, which was deeply intertwined with my personal identity,” said one participant. For many non-visual journalists whose creative outlet is writing, the exercise can help surface and even assuage complicated emotions around previous jobs, regardless of how they were left, writes Hawkins-Gaar.


To fight ‘extremism,’ journalists are praising online censorship (Reason)

Journalists are warning about the threat posed by the White House’s Tech Bias Story Sharing Tool, which collects complaints against social-media platforms that are said to be censoring conservatives. At the same time they are loudly decrying the Trump administration for refusing to sign The Christchurch Call, a non-binding pledge “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online” that’s been signed by online service providers and the governments of New Zealand, France, and 16 other countries. But while the White House’s online complaint department represents a political maneuver, a way to collect data on supporters that can be used in the 2020 campaign, it’s the Christchurch Call that should truly disturb anyone who believes in free speech, writes Nick Gillespie. “It should be deeply worrying to anyone who believes in free expression that governments and corporations are openly working together to decide what is and is not acceptable speech.”

+ Can Paul Huntsman save The Salt Lake Tribune? (New York Times)


Winter is coming for the ‘Game of Thrones’ media economy (Vanity Fair)

The end of HBO’s impossibly successful epic-fantasy phenomenon means that curtains are also falling on the “Game of Thrones” gold rush that has kept media outlets flush with a seemingly limitless supply of must-click content, writes Joe Pompeo. The “Thrones bump” has been similar to the Trump bump in terms of helping to supercharge digital media during an era of intense pressure. “It’s probably the only reliable traffic driver right now that’s not political, and if you’re in pop culture, it’s certainly the biggest one by a gigantic factor,” said veteran entertainment editor Mark Lisanti. As the series draws to a close, media organizations of all stripes are bracing themselves for significant drops in traffic.