Need to Know: May 3, 2021

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


You might have heard: Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic both filed defamation lawsuits over false election claims this year (NPR)

But did you know: Newsmax retracts support for election conspiracy theory (CPR News)

Far-right network Newsmax had previously supported election fraud conspiracy theories, but the network said on Friday that Dominion Voting Systems and one of its employees didn’t change the 2020 election results. The employee, Eric Coomer, had sued Newsmax for defamation in December, and he withdrew the case as part of a settlement agreement. Coomer, Dominion’s director of product strategy and security, also filed defamation suits against the Trump campaign and others.

+ Noted: Gothamist’s editor-in-chief and city editor were among 14 staffers cut during layoffs at WNYC (New York Post); New York Daily News workers vote to join NewsGuild of New York (New York Daily News); The Freelance Solidarity Project is building a database for freelance rates (Twitter, @FSP_NWU)


Do small, quick experiments around audience engagement

Looking for ways to better reach specific audiences? You can test your hypotheses and run experiments using API’s Metrics for News analytics software. Learn more here.


How one student newsroom built an equity board to diversify and improve its coverage (Poynter)

Inspired by the racial justice movement that followed George Floyd’s murder, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Media created a three-member equity board that advises the newsroom on how to cover underrepresented communities. The board attends daily pitch meetings, has input on story angles and source diversity, and sends weekly briefs on equity issues and best practices. Newsroom editors and advisers also meet with the board once a week to discuss workshops and other long-term projects.


How to make data visualization transparent and collaborative (European Journalism Centre)

As audiences cope with information overload, data visualization can provide them with a humanizing entry point to stories that may be rather dense. Data journalist Eva Constantaras recommends journalists embrace transparency by sharing full datasets, methods used to collect the data and issues like missing information. Constantaras suggests uploading the code to hosting platform Github so it can be shared easily and become an opportunity to collaborate with programmers who may be working on similar projects.


What ‘the pivot to audio’ means for misinformation research and moderation (First Draft)

Clubhouse, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit have all invested in incorporating audio into social media, presenting opportunities for misinformation to spread in this format. Misleading claims spread by audio can be hard to track and verify, in part because the material takes longer to study. Audio is more difficult than text or video to moderate, and Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces rely on users to flag problematic conversations, while Facebook hasn’t described its plan to moderate live audio chats.


What newsrooms can learn about trust from coverage of the AstraZeneca vaccine (Nieman Reports)

Mattia Ferraresi writes that news organizations contributed to fear of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the European Medicines Agency noted last month may have a link to very rare cases of blood clots. The vaccine coverage followed a year of pandemic reporting that forced news outlets to report with caution and admit when they didn’t have the answers. Ferraresi argues that AstraZeneca coverage “captures the idea that trust is not gained once and for all. Trust needs to be earned, and then earned again, every day.”

+ The Native American Journalists Association demands Gannett address pay disparities (Native American Journalists Association); PEN America and other organizations urge the White House to create a task force to fight disinformation and defend free expression (PEN America)


Washington Post, New York Times, and NBC News retract reports on Giuliani (CNN)

On Saturday, the news organizations issued corrections and retracted reports containing the claim that the FBI had warned Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani that he was the target of a Russian disinformation operation. Corrections from the news organizations said that the FBI didn’t raise this concern with Giuliani, and NBC News’ update cited an unnamed source who claimed “the briefing was only prepared for Giuliani and not delivered to him.” Each story containing the false information about the briefing relied on anonymous sources. 

+ Earlier: Many news consumers don’t understand how journalists use anonymous sources. Newsrooms can bridge this information gap by publishing their policies for unnamed sources (Trusting News)