Need to Know: November 17, 2021


You might have heard: The Google News Initiative released its 2021 Impact Report (Google News Initiative)

But did you know: Google and Northwestern announce new fund to support investigative reporting in local newsrooms (Google News Initiative) 

On Tuesday, the Google News Initiative and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University announced The Data-Driven Reporting Project, a project that will commit $2 million to investigative reporting at the local level. The funding will be available to staff and freelance reporters in the U.S. and Canada for “document-based investigative projects that serve local and underrepresented communities.” Medill will provide training and resources to participants chosen for the program, and when possible, data used in projects will become publicly available. The program will begin accepting applications in December. 

+ Related: Google and PBS launch a media literacy program to combat misinformation (Engadget); Google now features a carousel of local news stories for Search queries (Engadget)


Trust Tip: Consider technology and product solutions to help you build trust (Trusting News) 

Integrating transparency and trust into journalism requires more than just good intentions; newsrooms need tools and products to provide this access for audiences. One popular method is annotations or pop-ups, such as CalMatter’s expandable boxes that provide more information about a politician mentioned in a story. The boxes include their job, the length of their term, and information about their district and voting record. News outlets can also collect information by asking readers for simple, binary feedback. For instance, the Gazette asked readers whether additional information about how a story was reported was helpful or not helpful; readers only had to click a button to register their input. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 


How Harvard Business Review harnessed LinkedIn to become its most powerful social media channel (The Fix) 

Harvard Business Review has earned a massive following on LinkedIn, with 2 million members of its group and 13 million following its page. The publication shares both new and archived content on the platform, and encourages editors and writers to share stories and start discussions. HBR’s audience engagement editor, Kelsey Gripenstraw, says that each LinkedIn post contains enough information for someone to learn without clicking through, providing value to readers who don’t want to leave the platform. The team also posts stories around the clock, which helps appeal to the publication’s global audience. 


How a Brazilian tabloid created a new digital-print hybrid model amidst the pandemic (International News Media Association) 

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, it looked like it might be the end for São Paulo’s free tabloid, Metro Jornal. But within a few weeks, the paper’s staff had pivoted to a digital model, distributing a PDF via email and WhatsApp to more than 20,000 readers. It took six months for advertisers to return, and when they did, the team began printing paper editions only when they had sold ads, generally two or three times per week. That approach has made the paper profitable once again, putting it in a stronger financial position than it was before the pandemic. 


Ping. Ding. Chirp. Notifications are driving us crazy. (Wall Street Journal)

Notifications from phones and computers have become ubiquitous in modern life, and they may be more mentally taxing than many people realize. New research shows that people switch screens an average of 566 times per day, and when something diverts our focus, it takes more than 25 minutes to get back on track. Businesses can encourage better workflow by creating “quiet hours” where employees are not expected to respond to messages or notifications. For individuals, try informing your boss that you need time to focus and will be turning off notifications; blocking off time in your calendar can help develop the habit.  


The narrative of the ‘mainstream media narrative’ is false (Substack, The Bulwark) 

In a recent newsletter, political pundit Andrew Sullivan attacked the way the mainstream media has framed hot-button issues, claiming that certain narratives — everything from the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Jussie Smollett story — were pushed by the press and later “collapsed.” Jonathan V. Last writes that this critique of “the mainstream media” — which is composed of thousands of people at hundreds of news outlets — as a unified, agenda-pushing collective rarely holds up to even basic scrutiny. That scope and diversity of views means that, invariably, there will be mistakes in the media’s reporting, and maybe sometimes even deliberate lies. “The MSM is like a giant peer-review system, but where the peer-reviewing takes place after publication,” Last writes. “By its diffuse nature, the media can’t be optimized.” 

+ Related: In a follow-up newsletter, Last acknowledges that what Sullivan called “MSM narratives” may have indeed been prevalent on social media. “Maybe this points to something real: What we think of as ‘media narratives’ are actually manifestations of the Twitter hive-mind,” he writes. (The Bulwark) 


Facebook struggled with disinformation targeted at Latinos, leaked documents show (Los Angeles Times)

In the run up to the 2020 election, Jessica González of media advocacy group Free Press brought evidence to Facebook, now known as Meta, that misinformation aimed at Latinos and Spanish-speaking audiences was running rampant on the company’s social media platforms. But when she and her colleagues pushed Facebook executives on Spanish content moderation, the company’s representatives evaded their questions. Recent leaks from company whistleblower Frances Haugen suggest that the company knew it struggled with Spanish-language disinformation months earlier but failed to adequately address the issue before the election.