Need to Know: May 31, 2018

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


You might have heard: Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, a fierce critic of Kremlin policies, was reportedly shot and killed Tuesday in Kiev (Associated Press)

But did you know: Committee to Protect Journalists expresses relief Arkady Babchenko is alive, calls on Ukrainian officials to say why they used extreme tactic of staging murder (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who had been reported shot and killed in the Ukrainian capital, has appeared alive at a televised news conference in Kiev. Vasily Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service, said the agency faked Babchenko’s death to catch those who were trying to kill him. “We are relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Ukrainian authorities must now disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist’s murder. CPJ is investigating this unprecedented situation and will have further comment once we have more details.”

+ Related: What might the “dead” Russian reporter incident mean for journalism? (Poynter); Nothing justifies faking journalist’s murder in Kiev, RSF says (Reporters Without Borders); Even journalist’s wife was led to think he was dead (Associated Press)

+ Noted: Univision formally names Vincent Sadusky to succeed Randy Falco as chief executive officer (CNNMoney); Village Voice editor-in-chief quietly leaves company (New York Post); Gawker selects marketing and communications firm Didit as its stalking horse bidder, with a bid of $1.1 million (PR Newswire); Facebook will give researchers encrypted laptops to access its data and publish findings without pre-approval, in push to prevent abuse during elections (Wired); Since 2011, the share of Americans’ media consumption that happens in print has dropped about 40 percent, but the share of American ad dollars that go to print has dropped more than 60 percent (Nieman Lab)


The Skimm launches a one-to-one texting service for subscribers, with editorial team answering questions on specific topics within a time window (Nieman Lab)

On Wednesday, The Skimm announced a 1:1, Q&A texting service — no bots, just humans for now — to help its paid app subscribers contextualize the news of the day in their own lives. “Our product strategy is based on finding questions that our audience has throughout their day, throughout their week, throughout their lives that The Skimm can help answer in a relatable tone — and marrying that with things they’re doing on their phones and in their routines,” Dheerja Kaur, The Skimm’s head of product, said.

+ The Washington Post puts a price on data privacy in its GDPR response (Digiday)


London Evening Standard strikes a £3M deal with six companies including Uber and Google that erases divide between news and advertising (openDemocracy)

London’s Evening Standard newspaper has agreed a £3 million deal with six leading commercial companies, including Google and Uber, promising them “money-can’t-buy” positive news and “favourable” comment coverage, openDemocracy reports. The project, called London 2020, is being directed by former chancellor George Osborne. It effectively sweeps away the conventional ethical divide between news and advertising inside the Standard, writes James Cusick. Leading companies, most operating global businesses, were given detailed sales presentations by Evening Standard executives at the newspaper’s west London office.

+ Related: Evening Standard denies allegations of payment in exchange for favorable coverage of brands like Uber, saying that all commercial content would be labeled (The Drum)

+ How to fact-check politics in countries with no press freedom (Poynter); From social media to in-story experiences, chatbots help the BBC “do things faster and at scale” (


How businesses can get inside the minds of their competitors (Knowledge@Wharton, University of Pennsylvania)

Every business would love to know the minds of its competitors, and what they are likely to do next. Strategy analysts have thus far used simple tools that employ mostly financial and other structured data to try and predict competitors’ moves. But new research at Wharton has shown how natural language processing techniques could be used to parse tomes of unstructured data such as text buried in conference calls or annual reports to more accurately anticipate competitor strategies.


‘Is the way we cover climate change now simply offering excuses for inaction?’ (Shorenstein Center)

“There’s still a pervasive doom and gloom, and this makes sense. It’s logical when you’re talking about people who are impacted by climate change, they are usually adversely impacted,” says Maxwell Boykoff, director of the Center for Science and Technology at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “But nonetheless, some of the work that’s been done in social sciences over the years has found that when these stories just focus in on doom and gloom, they turn off those who are consuming them. Without being able to find their own place as a reader, viewer, or listener in those stories, people feel paralyzed and they don’t feel like they can engage and have an entry point into doing something about the problem.”

+ Earlier: We made a self-guided exercise for rethinking coverage of a complex issue like climate change. Ideas some people reached include “the iClimate app” that shows the specific impact of climate change on a specific location a person cares about, or inviting the public to write “fan fiction” narratives about living with the effects of climate change in the future.


How Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou battled corporate surveillance and intimidation to expose a multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley start-up as a fraud (New York Magazine)

The story of Theranos may be the biggest case of corporate fraud since Enron, writes Yashar Ali. But it’s also the story of how a lot of powerful men were fooled by a remarkably brazen liar. It took just one reporter, and three former Theranos employees, to expose Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of health-care company Theranos. The reporting that brought down a unicorn is contained in 22 small notebooks stacked neatly in a guest bedroom in the Brooklyn apartment of WSJ reporter John Carreyrou. “Theranos was a combination of fraud, with hubris mixed with incompetence,” Carreyrou says.

+ Artist and journalist Alexandra Bell critiques racism in journalism by editing NYT stories and posting enlarged copies of the articles around New York City (New Yorker); Women’s coworking space The Wing is expanding into media (Fast Company); AP Stylebook update: The plural of emoji is emoji (Poynter)