Need to Know: November 15, 2018

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


You might have heard: Spending too much time on Twitter may worsen journalists’ news judgment (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: Partisanship of journalists’ Twitter networks tends to show in their work (Journalist’s Resource)

There’s a clear link between the accounts journalists follow on Twitter and the partisanship of their work, according to a new study from researchers at Northeastern University and the University at Buffalo. The researchers analyzed the Twitter accounts of 644 political journalists from 25 news outlets. The more left-leaning Twitter accounts a journalist follows, the more left leaning his or her writing tends to be. Reporters and columnists who follow a lot of registered Democrats and Twitter users affiliated with the left generally use more “left-leaning” terms such as “marriage equality,” “bigotry” and “comprehensive immigration reform,” the researchers find. Likewise, the more right-leaning Twitter accounts a journalist follows, the more likely he or she uses “right-leaning” terms such as “burdensome regulations,” “illegal immigrants” and “Obamacare.” “I think everyone who’s on social media these days, we sort of tend to follow people and institutions and outlets kind of one by one,” said John Wihbey, a researcher at Northeastern. “In these sort of small decisions, which accrue over time, we’re perhaps doing something more consequential in the aggregate. I think that’s perhaps what we, as journalists, ought to reflect more on.”

+ Related: Journalists quote social media content ever more frequently (European Journalism Center)

+ Noted: Fox, ABC, NBC, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media, Politico, E.W. Scripps, USA Today and The Washington Post will file amicus briefs in support of CNN lawsuit against President Trump (Variety); LinkedIn expects its media business to bring in $2 billion in 2018 (Axios); Financial Times develops bot to warn if its articles quote too many men (The Guardian)


How newsrooms can bridge community divides (Center for Media Engagement)

In a new report, “Making Strangers Less Strange,” the Center for Media Engagement analyzed how 25 newsrooms have attempted to bring diverse groups together. In one example, The Bay Area News Group, Southern California News Group, Spaceship Media and Univision partnered on a month-long experiment with closed Facebook Groups that comprised members with opposite political views, and with journalists acting as discussion facilitators and fact-checkers. Colorado Public Radio hosted a “Breaking Bread” series, inviting locals to have discussions on contentious topics over a shared meal. The Dallas Morning News invited two readers who were angered with the paper and considering dropping their subscriptions to an editorial meeting, which they found “surprisingly ordinary and professional.” “The newsroom efforts were admirable in their attempts to get people involved,” researchers wrote, “but brainstorming even more strategies for increasing diverse attendance would be helpful.”

+ Parachute reporting no more: This database helps editors connect with experienced local reporters from non-media hub cities to cover those communities (; The Dallas Morning News is partnering with the Dallas Public Library for its community office hours series (Dallas Morning News)


How Reuters uses robots to analyze data and humans to tell stories (

The “cybernetic newsroom,” to borrow a phrase from Reuters executive editor Reg Chua, relies on combining the strengths of human journalists and computers to bring out the best in each other. “What can machines do better than humans?” Chua asked. “Amongst those things are speed, breadth and computation analysis … What can humans do better than machines? We give directions to machines, we can give context to stories and we can deal with a non-data world, we can get quotes better.” Reuters uses AI tools News Tracer (its own proprietary tool) and Lynx Insight to sift through vast amounts of data, including tweets and sports stats, to turn up potential story ideas for its journalists. “We can use machines to mine data, and use humans to tell those stories,” Chua said. “Machines can help humans get a head start on news.”


Pandora wants to map the ‘podcast genome’ so it can recommend your next favorite show (Nieman Lab)

Pandora is planning to apply the methodology behind its famed Music Genome Project to the podcast universe, reports Nicholas Quah. The Music Genome Project breaks songs down into elements, like tempo, musical genre, etc., and clusters them into groups for contiguous listening experiences as well as for making listener recommendations. Doing the same thing for podcasts is “undeniably a good thing for both publishers and listeners,” writes Quah. “Plus, for a podcast publisher, accessing potential new audiences on Pandora would theoretically require little more than plug-and-play.”


Donald Trump and Jim Acosta, a love story (Politico)

If President Trump and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders were truly offended by CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta — whose combative questioning style is off-putting even to fellow reporters — they wouldn’t have repeatedly called on him in televised press briefings, writes Jack Shafer. But the frequent high-profile clashes between Sanders, Trump and Acosta not only fuel the president’s anti-press campaign, they also run up CNN’s ratings — at the expense of the press briefings overall. “Televised White House briefings have always been political theater,” writes Shafer, “but under Trump’s management they’ve generated as much genuine news as a low-wattage kitchen microwave. The endless bickering between Sanders and the press corps and her obfuscations have become the story, much to the detriment of journalism.”

+ After Thousand Oaks, media draws faulty line from PTSD to murder (Columbia Journalism Review)


Newsrooms’ top barriers to doing engagement work (Medium, Jennifer Brandel)

“Newsrooms need to stop talking about engagement and just do it already!” That’s what one major journalism funder recently told Jennifer Brandel, founder of Hearken. “Were it only that simple,” she writes. Engaged journalism (in short, being more responsive to audience needs) means rewiring how many journalists have traditionally gone about newsgathering — and for most newsrooms, that’s not a quick or easy process. Researchers at the Agora Journalism Center looked into what’s stopping newsrooms from doing more “people-powered journalism,” and found the usual suspects: limited resources, leaders who don’t understand the value of engagement work, logistical challenges to workflow, and cultural barriers/internal politics. “The silver lining in all of these barriers? Plenty of dissatisfaction,” Brandel writes. “Change wants to happen. It needs to happen.”

+ Related: Optimizing your reporting workflow for listening could involve having editorial meetings in public spaces (as The Tennessean has tried), having monthly community meetings (like the Peoria, Ill., Journal Star), or using Hearken to generate story ideas from your audience (like the Dallas Morning News)

+ Delay, deny and deflect: How Facebook’s leaders fought through crisis (The New York Times)