Need to Know: November 16, 2018

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


You might have heardVoice assistants have been adopted faster than nearly any other technology in history (Recode)

But did you know: How publishers are beginning to use smart speakers to deliver the news (Reuters Institute)

At least a tenth of both the U.S. and U.K. population (14 percent and 10 percent) regularly use voice-activated speakers, but only a minority are using them for news updates or podcasts, according to a Reuters Institute report. Usage today is largely confined to a small set of basic “command and control”  tasks such as accessing music, asking for the latest weather, or setting timers. Just 1 percent in the U.K. say that news is the most important feature and only a fifth (18 percent U.S., 22 percent U.K.) access news briefing functionality daily. Many users say they don’t know how to access their favorite news brand or change default settings. Others are underwhelmed by existing content, which is mostly re-versioned from radio or print. Publishers, meanwhile, are interested in investing in voice but concerned about how to effectively monetize content. “If you are a broadcaster then it is a no brainer to get into this early but it is much more difficult for us,” says Christian Bennett, global head of video and audio at the Guardian. “No one showed me any figures anywhere. If a new platform is good they will sing from the rooftops and I’m not seeing that right now.”

+ Noted: Facebook moves to limit toxic content as scandal reported by The New York Times swirls (Wired); Judge to hear CNN case for reinstating Jim Acosta’s press pass at 10 a.m. today (CNN); WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged, prosecutors reveal inadvertently in court filing (The Washington Post)

API Update

The week in fact-checking

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 “The Week in Fact-Checking” newsletter, how anti-refugee hoaxes transcend borders; a BBC series on fake news around the world; and how online conspiracy groups are a lot like cults.


How well are journalists really listening to their audience? (It’s All Journalism)

In a time of diminished trust in the media, taking into consideration what readers want to know and what their concerns are could help build trust and increase transparency. “We’re talking about, with a deeper emphasis on listening, getting away from more extractive and more to a transactional nature, so we’re being more responsive to what people want to know and how we can think about journalism as more like a service,” said Cole Goins, who authored the API report “How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships.” This requires more interaction with readers, listeners, and viewers, but simply adding a monthly open house or roundtable discussion won’t cut it. Go to where your audience, your community, your readers are already gathering and join them there, Goins suggested.  

+ Related: How The Durango Herald created a storytelling series to connect with its community (Better News)


Building trust in local journalism starts with individual interactions (J-Source)

Readers and viewers can far more easily see how the sausage is made at local newsrooms compared with national media outlets, writes Peter Goffin. But in Canada, a 2018 study found slightly more Canadian respondents trusted national print newspapers than local papers, by a margin of 70 percent to 66 percent. “People are opening up papers that used to (have) more comprehensive coverage and they’re not finding that anymore,” said Ryerson journalism professor April Lindgren. “You could make the case that the cuts to newsrooms … is a breach of faith and that in turn affects the readers’ trust and commitment to the publications.” That places even more responsibility on local reporters to repair damaged trust, Goffin says. “A good or bad interaction with one journalist can have a big impact on the way a lay person views the industry as a whole … There is an onus on the journalists who have the most contact with our audiences to put the industry’s best foot forward.”

+ Related: According to our 2018 study “Americans and the News Media,” most people who had direct experience with a news story say it got key facts right, and people who have had interactions with news reporting mostly think it was unbiased and fair


The challenge of scaling soft skills (MIT Sloan Management Review)

While it’s increasingly clear that machines will take over many tasks performed in the workplace, they are still generally poor at understanding human moods and interpersonal dynamics, and developing trusting relationships. In the future, these soft skills will be the most valuable for helping people succeed in increasingly automated workplaces; which calls for businesses to focus more on helping employees develop soft skills. There are already some exciting initiatives that might provide useful models worthy of rolling out to larger numbers of people: KFC, for example, uses a training program that emphasizes customer interaction, and Fidelity Investments is experimenting with using virtual reality to train its call center employees in empathy and customer insight.


Is the Daily Beast the new Gawker? (Recode)

The 10-year-old Daily Beast has long prided itself on its scrappy, skeptical attitude. “They all know we’re a bunch of velociraptors around here,” said editor in chief Noah Shachtman. “We’re just gonna bite the hand off if you spoon-feed us. So we’re a dumb outlet to spoon-feed to. However, we’re an awesome outlet to leak to.” Calling the site a “high-end tabloid,” he said he admired the IAC-owned site’s ability to “take a side and throw a punch and call bullshit on the things that need to be called bullshit on.” But he’s also glad to be “owned by one of these giant globo-corps” for the inevitable legal threats that are thrown at the Daily Beast, like the Peter Thiel-engineered lawsuit that took down Gawker. “I think that we like to embrace the gonzo and that Gawker was an inheritor of that gonzo spirit that didn’t originate with Gawker, but that they carried that mantle for a little while.”


As city burns around it, a newspaper staff rises to cover unspeakable tragedy (Los Angeles Times)

David Little has run the Chico Enterprise-Record and nearby newspapers, which are part of the Digital First Media Group, for almost 20 years. The Enterprise-Record’s staff was 45 when he started; now it’s 10 with four part-timers pitching in. Journalists from their sister papers in the San Francisco Bay Area were dispatched to assist with coverage of the Camp fire, raging in the nearby town of Paradise. With limited resources, the Enterprise-Record has been focusing on delivering “nuts-and-bolts” information, like an interactive map of Paradise that allows displaced residents to see which parts of the town have been destroyed by the fire. Little’s staff has also delivered the full print run of the Paradise Post to evacuation centers (“How do you distribute a newspaper to a town that’s not there?”) and has been updating the website constantly. “We have had a lot of help from a lot of people,” Little said in an interview, his tired voice hoarse from the smoke. “…. It gives you hope that people appreciate newspapers in a time like this.”

+ What two major funders are doing to strengthen journalism (Inside Philanthropy); Know someone who needs help “navigating the news, avoiding misinformation, and understanding their personal tech”? This newsletter could help (Twitter, @aubsn)


+ In our frenetic age, audio narratives offer a rare opportunity for slow immersion. But this intimacy can become manipulative. (The New Yorker)

+ “There’s no mainstream media platform that’s giving people the platform and opportunity to talk about what they believe and why they believe it. That is, until now”: Paula Faris to launch podcast on faith for ABC News (Variety)