Need to Know: November 13, 2018

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


You might have heardIn the run-up to the midterms, President Trump had fact-checkers “gasping for air” (The Washington Post)

But did you know: During the midterm elections, local fact-checking was scant (Poynter)

Very little of the fact-checking done in the lead-up to the U.S. midterm elections came from local news sources, reports Daniel Funke. “(There’s a) lack of local fact-checking. We’re doing it, but I don’t think many others are,” Angie Holan, editor of PolitiFact, told Poynter. “I think we have a crisis in local journalism, and the lack of local fact-checking is part and parcel of that decline in local coverage.” Most non-PolitiFact projects in states with key midterm races were based at TV news stations like KMOV in St. Louis; KSTP in St. Paul, Minn.; and WISC-TV in Wisconsin (the Arizona Republic’s fact-checking section is one exception). Jessica Arp, who runs WISC-TV’s Reality Check — one of the oldest local fact-checking projects in the country — told Poynter that the fact-checking project has become a staple for the TV station. “We feel strongly … that this is part of our political brand and this takes us one step further than the horse race coverage,” she said. “From a brand perspective, that’s important to us. That builds loyalty for us.”

+ Noted: This is the last week to apply to become a Report for America host newsroom (Report for America); Owner of The Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press offers buyouts to newsrooms (The Virginian-Pilot); New York Magazine’s sites are going behind a paywall (The New York Times)


Craig Newmark Philanthropies gives $200k to API to support research and convening on journalism ethics

Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the organization of craigslist founder Craig Newmark, has donated $200,000 to the American Press Institute to expand its efforts of promoting ethical reporting and helping journalists produce trustworthy work. With these funds, API seeks to help put into practice the growing body of ideas on how journalists can better provide accurate and truthful reporting amid today’s backdrop of distrust and media manipulation.


The Financial Times sees podcasts leading to paying subscribers (Digiday)

For the Financial Times, audio is proving an effective way to attract young audiences. So much so, that in the last three months the publisher has ramped up its marketing of subscriptions to its podcast listeners, 60 percent of whom are between 22 and 37 years old, according to the publisher. The aim is to continue engaging those non-subscribers with new types of audio storytelling formats, with the view to converting them into paying subscribers in the long term. “This is a smart acquisition strategy,” said Joseph Evans, senior research analyst at Enders. “The paper is getting into the news consumption routine of its listeners, in a high-attention context where it can demonstrate the authority of its journalists. Forming habits around content is key to any subscription offering.”

+ Related: Everything newsrooms need to know about podcasting, including how to make money off it (Better News)

+ How California newsrooms are reporting deadly, destructive blazes (Poynter)


Nationalism a driving force behind fake news in India, BBC research shows (BBC)

A rising tide of nationalism in India is driving ordinary citizens to spread fake news, according to BBC research. The research found that facts were less important to some than the emotional desire to bolster national identity. A distrust of mainstream news outlets also pushed people to spread information from alternative sources, without attempting to verify it, in the belief that they were helping to spread the real story. People were also overly confident in their ability to spot fake news. Participants in the BBC research made little attempt to query the original source of fake news messages, looking instead to alternative signs that the information was reliable, including comments on Facebook posts and WhatsApp messages from family members and friends.

+ Philippines says it will charge veteran journalist critical of Duterte (The New York Times)


Inside the voice assistant ‘revolution’ (Recode)

Voice interfaces have been adopted faster than nearly any other technology in history — approximately one-quarter to one-third of the U.S. population already owns a smart speaker and uses a voice assistant at least once a month. Playing music and other audio content is far and away the most successful current use case for voice assistants, with 46 percent of users saying they check the news through the devices. (In the last year alone, NPR has seen live radio streaming through smart speakers increase from four to 19 percent; helping to buffer it from audience decline on other platforms.) But while people are certainly enthusiastic about the new technology, it’s not exactly life-changing yet, writes Rani Molla. Until we find the app, use-case or invention that could only be possible using voice, we’re still just repurposing online content for your ears.


Should the press boycott Trump? Political strategists weigh in (The New York Times)

After the Trump administration revoked CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass last week, refusing him access to cover the White House, media organizations and journalism commentators have been divided over what the appropriate response from the press should be. So Times columnist Jim Rutenberg polled political strategists from both parties on how to handle the conundrum. “[Trump is] Swift-Boating you guys,” said Stephanie Cutter, a Democratic strategist who worked on the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John Kerry. Cutter said that whenever possible, the press corps should starve the president’s attacks of attention and keep the focus on the issues. Jim Dyke, a top strategist for the Republican National Committee during the George W. Bush years, had similar advice: “It’s not about them, and they obsessively make it about them, and it’s not … Get back on track. Calm down. Show the office of the presidency the respect it deserves.”


‘You thought fake news was bad? Deep fakes are where truth goes to die’ (The Guardian)

Deep fakes — fake videos stitched together using a machine learning technique called a “generative adversarial network,” or GAN — could be weaponized in ways that weaken the fabric of democracy, says University of Maryland professor Danielle Citron, who co-authored a report that outlines the many threats the technology poses. “I started thinking about my city, Baltimore,” she told Guardian contributor Oscar Schwartz. “In 2015, the place was a tinderbox after the killing of Freddie Gray. So, I started to imagine what would’ve happened if a deep fake emerged of the chief of police saying something deeply racist at that moment. The place would’ve exploded.”

+ Related: Deepfake-busting apps can spot even a single pixel out of place (MIT Technology Review)

+ “As someone who writes, edits and publishes thousands of words each day, I (and my many comrades in media) realize our biggest competition isn’t platforms or distribution models or fighting for the table scraps of Google/Facebook ad dollars. Our biggest competition is your attention.” (The Guardian)