Need to Know: May 27, 2021


You might have heard: “Relatively few” people are caught in online news “echo chambers” (Andrew Guess)

But did you know: People will seek out news from outlets across the political spectrum (Knight Foundation)

To study how people interact with news online, the Knight Foundation and Gallup developed a novel tool called NewsLens, which functions as a news aggregator and “has the look and feel of a typical news outlet.” The site aggregates hundreds of stories per day from mainstream news organizations that span the political spectrum. One of the biggest takeaways from examining how readers used NewsLens was that they don’t gravitate to news that matches their political preferences as much as might be expected. “Visitors to the NewsLens site who indicated strong partisanship nevertheless selected articles from outlets across the spectrum,” writes Jesse Holcomb. “A partisan user who clicks on 100 articles would open, on average, 36 from politically sympathetic sources, 33 from neutral sources, and 31 from adversarial sources.” Researchers also found that the perception that a news article is personally relevant to the reader is the biggest factor in boosting their opinion of the article’s quality.

+ Noted: Axios Local is on pace to generate up to $5 million this year (Adweek); The deadline to apply for the Solutions Journalism Network’s business and sustainability reporting grants is May 28 (Solutions Journalism Network)


API is hiring a Deputy Director of Local News Transformation

The Deputy Director of Local News Transformation will coordinate and oversee a communications strategy and assist in managing the Table Stakes Local News Transformation Program, an innovative yearlong change management program for news organizations. Learn more and apply.


How journalism can make ‘space for healing’ (Twitter, @el_timpano)

Over the course of 2020, Oakland news outlet El Tímpano collected and published stories from audience members — who subscribe via SMS — about how they were managing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, and whether they had found a bright side to their struggles. “In the personal stories they’ve recounted, they’ve shown that simply having a platform to share their story, to be heard, to know their experiences matter, has immense value,” El Tímpano tweeted. Members appreciated the opportunity to “count their blessings,” as one described it, and share their experiences — good and bad — in their own words.

+ Related: Chicago’s City Bureau has been spotlighting local residents in its reporting series “How a Community Heals,” and tonight is holding a “public newsroom” event at which Chicagoans can hear from artists and organizers invested in community care, mutual aid and healing (City Bureau)


WhatsApp sues India’s government to stop new internet rules (The New York Times)

WhatsApp on Wednesday brought a lawsuit against the Indian government to challenge a new rule that requires it to make users’ messages traceable to outside parties. Messages on WhatsApp are encrypted, and the company said that making its messages traceable “would severely undermine the privacy of billions of people who communicate digitally.” Suing India’s government is an unusual step for WhatsApp, which has rarely engaged national governments in court, reports Mike Isaac.


Facebook cracks down on misinformation superspreaders (Protocol)

Facebook announced Wednesday that it will limit individual users’ ability to spread content that has been debunked by fact-checkers. Up to now Facebook has only targeted Pages and Groups that persistently spread misinformation, rather than individual users. Facebook has also said it will begin alerting people if they are about to “like” a Page that has repeatedly shared misinformation. However, Facebook’s fact-checkers struggle to keep up with the sheer amount of misinformation online, as well as the increasingly sophisticated tactics of misinformation spreaders to avoid being “demoted” on the platform.


Associated Press tells staff it made mistakes in firing of Emily Wilder (The Washington Post)

In a town hall with employees on Wednesday, several executives at AP expressed regrets over the firing of reporter Emily Wilder, who had violated the company’s social media policy with tweets that expressed pro-Palestinian sentiments over the conflict with Israel. However, managing editor Brian Carovillano said they made “mistakes of process, and not of outcome,” and said it was still “the right decision” to fire Wilder. Julie Pace, the AP’s Washington bureau chief and assistant managing editor, told employees that managers failed to anticipate employees’ concerns that the “situation would be seen as an indication that we don’t have our staff’s back.” On Monday, the AP announced that it would conduct an internal review of the AP’s social media policy.


New report reveals a vibrant, yet little known, Asian American media landscape (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism)

A new report from the Center for Community Media documents the local news outlets serving Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which have been “largely invisible to most Americans.” The report notes that the AAPI population made up the bulk of essential frontline workers during the pandemic, and also faced extremely high rates of infection and death from COVID-19. However, “even as many outlets faced existential threats with the loss of advertising revenue from community businesses during lockdowns … Asian American media found ways to sustain their journalism when their communities turned to them for relevant, reliable, and in-language news.”