Need to Know: May 31, 2019

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


You might have heard: The newspaper industry is thirsty for liquidity as it tries to merge its way out of trouble (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Gannett stock value rises on report of merger talks with Gatehouse Media (Bloomberg)

Reports emerged yesterday that Gannett and Gatehouse Media, two of the largest newspaper chains in the United States, have held merger talks that would help them “bulk up and trim costs.” Gannett, subject of an offer from MNG Enterprises in January, also discussed similar deals with Tribune Publishing Co. and McClatchy. MNG, which is majority-owned by Alden Global, also has attempted to earn spots on the Gannett board, a measure that was rejected earlier this month. A merger between Gannett and Gatehouse would place the pair’s combined 265 publications under the same umbrella, leading to consolidation between the companies, a possibility that industry analyst Ken Doctor has floated this year on Nieman Lab.

+ Noted: Behavioral ad targeting not paying off for publishers, study suggests (The Wall Street Journal); The Trust Project will spin off and become its own independent nonprofit (Adweek); Introducing the first-ever LION Publishers Local Journalism Awards (LION Publishers)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: Some basic facts on the fake video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, why deepfake videos are still easy to spot and how widespread internet access is changing Africa.


How journalists can take care of themselves while covering trauma (Poynter)

Journalists are beginning to be more open about mental health, particularly in an era where mass shootings have become commonplace. Kari Cobham, senior associate director of The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism at The Carter Center, writes that “like first responders, journalists need to ensure their own well-being to be effective in their jobs.” Citing self-care approaches described in conversations with other journalists, Cobham recommends therapy, seeking out resources within your company like training on handling trauma and supporting (and getting support from) your team. “I try to speak to everyone individually when covering stressful or traumatic news, just to hear how people are doing and remind them they can always come to me for help or just to connect, ” saud Jareen Imam, NBC News’ director of social newsgathering.

+ Earlier: An Australian court ruled a newspaper owes a reporter $180,000 for psychological impacts of a decade of reporting (The Conversation); Anticipating the daily traumas of local reporting (Columbia Journalism Review)


Germany proposes Europe’s first diversity rules for social media platforms (The London School of Economics)

Algorithms on sites like Facebook have a long-demonstrated tendency to amplify the most divisive posts, including those laden with misinformation. Concerns over the way social media algorithms steer the public’s attention have led the German Broadcasting Authority to propose a law that would target the algorithms social media platforms use to sort and rank information. The law would address algorithms for social media, but also for search engines and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Social media platforms would be barred from significantly influencing the visibility of “providers of journalistic editorial content.”


Making empathy central to your company culture (Harvard Business Review)

Research suggests that empathy at work can lead to higher morale, lower stress and better collaboration, but some companies that are defined by competition may have a gap between empathy as a corporate value and as a presence in their workplace culture.  Author and Stanford University psychology professor Jamil Zaki writes that “empathy is contagious” and social norms can be used to change workplace cultures. Zaki recommends leaders think of empathy as a skill that can be built, encourage empathy in others and recruit “unsung influencers” to “help (champion) the cause.”


Fact checks couldn’t contain the virality of that altered Pelosi video. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on them. (Poynter)

Poynter’s Daniel Funke often tracks the reach of hoaxes versus fact checks, and in many cases on Facebook the fake story receives greater engagement than the fact check. That’s the case with last week’s video doctored to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear drunk. The video, posted by a conservative Facebook group, had more than 88,000 engagements, while fact checks debunking the video had about 19,500. Next to the video, Facebook displayed fact checks from sites in its fact-checking partnership, and the social media network received criticism for not taking the video down. Funke called attention to other fact checks that had greater reach than their hoaxes, concluding they are “important examples of how Facebook’s fact-checking project can’t be written off as a waste of time.”

+ Related: What the altered Nancy Pelosi video shows about how the media cover misinformation (Poynter)


Where do LA Times staffers go after they leave the paper? We found out (Columbia Journalism Review)

Last year, The Los Angeles Times had about 400 newsroom employees, down from 940 in 2005. A survey of 114 Times alumni sought to get an impression of what journalists did after leaving the newspaper. According to the survey, 64 percent of those who are working stuck with the industry, but only 14 percent are in a full-time journalism position. At the same time, six respondents said the LA Times had hired rehired them, and others said they were freelancing for the paper. The survey also found that journalists transitioned to public relations, book publishing and other communication fields.


+ The Navy didn’t take my reporting seriously: After reading the Navy’s investigative reports into a 2014 helicopter crash off of the Virginia coast, Zachary Stauffer realized there was more to it, leading him to investigate the death of Naval Academy graduate and pilot Wesley Van Dorn in the documentary “Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?” Now recently-obtained emails reveal how naval officers really feel about critical reporting (The Atlantic)

+ Who is Florida Man? A Twitter account founded in 2013 delves into the Florida Man journalism genre, made up of news that demonstrates “the mythical hyper-weirdness of the Sunshine State,” but also stories of addiction, mental illness and homelessness. (Columbia Journalism Review)