Need to Know: November 30, 2018

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


You might have heardThere was less misinformation during the midterms than in 2016. But its form has changed. (Poynter)

But did you know: Hyperpartisan Facebook groups are the next big challenge for fact-checkers (Poynter)

While Facebook has made strides in limiting the spread of misinformation over the past couple of years, there’s still plenty of fakery on the platform. Much of the nefarious activity has moved into private Facebook groups, some of which amass tens of thousands of members who are highly active in sharing conspiracy theories and misinformation, which then spread to more public parts of the platform, said digital forensics researcher Jonathan Albright. Albright’s advice for journalists and fact-checkers for reporting on this rapidly changing landscape: Try to capture any insight that that’s remaining on a website or ad, including analytics; focus on analytics around reach and impact as much as content; and most importantly, don’t expose more people to misinformation or generate more outrage over a piece of false news.

+ Noted: Journalist Maria Ressa and her news website Rappler formally indicted by the Philippines on tax evasion charges (CNN); Mic has laid off the majority of its staff (Recode); Mic Network sold to Bustle for about $5 million, a fraction of its prior valuation of $100 million (The Wall Street Journal); Financial Times journalists pass vote of no confidence in CEO John Ridding (The Guardian); Applications open for 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism (50 Women Can); University of Alabama censured over free press issue (Inside Higher Ed)

API Update

The week in fact-checking

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How The Washington Post is reorienting for digital subscriptions (Digiday)

On Nov. 27, the Post named Miki King its first-ever chief marketing officer, adding the Post to a growing list of news publishers who have created a new kind of chief marketing role, one focused on driving consumer revenue rather than elevating the publisher brand in the eyes of advertisers and readers. King has spent most of 2018 reorganizing the Post’s different marketing operations, which had been spread across multiple budgets in multiple departments, even on different floors of the Post’s building. “Prior to my assuming leadership, we were just segmented,” King said. “We had a digital and print marketing team that were not functioning cohesively.” The reorganization is designed to bring the disparate groups together to focus on the customer experience across both print and digital products, as well as make it easier for them to share information and insights with one another.

+ Earlier: Our guide to what it takes to shift a news organization to reader revenue


Fighting misinformation by sending journalists to teach in schools (

Through a U.K. charity called the Student View, journalists from the BBC, Financial Times and The Telegraph are visiting classrooms to teach students how to recognize misinformation and distinguish between fact and opinion. The journalists give a “crash course in online journalism” that demystifies it, allowing students to see the human behind the news article. “I believe teaching kids the skills required in journalism has never been more important in this digital age of fake news and social media,” said volunteer journalist Georgie Frost. “While the industry’s landscape may have changed from when I started out, I don’t believe those fundamental principles have and they are principles that should not be restricted to our profession.”

+ CrossCheck launches in Nigeria, with 16 newsrooms working together to fight misinformation (Nieman Lab); Canada’s new subsidies for news will warp the market and hurt innovation — unless they’re done right (Nieman Lab)


How to survive the next era of tech (Slow down and be mindful) (The New York Times)

Five years ago, Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo gave readers some basic advice to navigate the tech landscape of the day: Buy hardware from Apple. Use online services made by Google. And get digital media from Amazon. Now, Manjoo is updating that advice: “The tech industry in 2018 is far more consequential than it was in 2014, when I started this job. It’s bigger, more pervasive and in every way more dangerous.” His three new maxims for navigating tech in 2018: Don’t just look at the product, look at the business model. Avoid feeding the giants (Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft). And most importantly, be slow to adopt new devices and platforms. “The lesson of the last decade is that our private tech choices can alter economies and societies. They matter. And they matter most in the mindless rush, when everyone seems to be jumping on board the latest new thing, because it’s in these heady moments that we lose sight of the precise risks of turning ourselves over to tech.”


Resisting journalism’s ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ (Reuters Institute)

In a new report examining journalism innovation from the Reuters Institute, industry leaders said they were concerned about the industry’s tendency to chase “shiny objects” (obsessively pursue new tech). The study participants identified the risks inherent in a tech-driven growth strategy; including “innovation fatigue,” burnout, and lack of consideration for user experience and overall audience needs. “To be clear, this report does not amount to a call to stop innovating, nor justification for doing so, but it is a plea to avoid unsustainable approaches to innovation that fail to take account of potentially negative impacts — approaches that risk wasting time, effort, and money, without real returns,” writes author Julie Posetti.

+ Related: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel created — and continually updates — a list of newsroom activities that don’t contribute to its audience-centric strategy in an effort to find time and resources to devote to more meaningful tasks. (Better News)


The Miami Herald’s latest investigation ‘pulls the sewer lid’ off a 10-year-old story (Poynter)

Miami Herald journalist Julie K. Brown’s investigation “Perversion of Justice,” published Wednesday, reveals a wealthy Florida businessman who sexually abused and trafficked underage girls for years; as well as the people in the criminal justice system who helped him get away with it, including Alexander Acosta, now President Donald Trump’s labor secretary. “What’s gratifying about this is that we were able to do something that was important and really had something to say and was a well-executed investigative piece and it blew the lid off of our traffic today,” said Casey Frank, the Herald’s investigations editor. “Lesson learned. Good investigative journalism will bring readers to our site, and that is such a reassuring message at times like this when everyone struggles and looks for the magic formula. This tells us that really good investigative journalism is that formula, or at least a good part of that formula.”

+ After great watchdog reporting, what happens next? How do communities figure out what to do about a problem once it’s been spotlighted? These standout examples of solutions journalism show how journalists can be both watchdog and “guide dog” (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)


+ How Flint journalist Jiquanda Johnson is reporting on the water crisis from the inside (Bustle)

+ You may have seen this viral Thrillist story, in which a food writer laments his role in shutting down a burger joint he claimed made America’s best burger — “I put a target on their back by naming them number one, and that influx of people messed with the way they’d been running the business for decades, and all that could literally be blamed on me.” But then this story from Willamette Week came out, showing how the restaurant owner’s legal troubles and record of domestic abuse may be the real cause of the closure. (Thrillist; Willamette Week)