Need to Know: November 9, 2018

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


You might have heardAccording to a 2017 survey conducted by the American Society of News Editors, most people believed that hiring more minorities would improve the quality of news (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: By the year 2000, U.S. newsrooms were supposed to have achieved staff diversity reflecting that of the population — but in 2018, they still haven’t (Columbia Journalism Review)

In 1979, the American Society of News Editors pledged that, by the year 2000, the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in newsrooms would match that of the population at large. Noting that this was “the right thing to do” and in the “industry’s economic self-interest,” ASNE stressed the particular importance of lifting people of color into management. But newspapers have failed spectacularly at achieving that goal. According to the Census Bureau, racial and ethnic minorities comprise almost 40 percent of the US population, yet they make up less than 17 percent of newsroom staff at print and online publications, and only 13 percent of newspaper leadership.

+ Noted: NPR calls for applications to its new “Reflect America” fellowship (NPR); White House shares what experts say is a doctored video to support punishment of journalist Jim Acosta (The Washington Post); Detained CPJ staffers released in Tanzania (Committee to Protect Journalists); A review of 744 Houston Chronicle stories by former reporter Mike Ward could not find 44 percent of the 275 people quoted; The Chronicle will retract eight stories and correct others (Houston Chronicle); An estimated 36.1 million people watched primetime coverage of the 2018 midterm elections (Nielsen)

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, comparing misinformation in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections, apps that could help journalists verify manipulated images and videos faster, and LinkedIn is now the home of false memes and hyperpartisan content.


How Pittsburgh’s WESA mobilized its newsroom to cover the Tree of Life shooting (Lenfest Institute)

With just 20 staffers in its newsroom (and far fewer on weekends), WESA was able to move so quickly to cover Saturday’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue because it had a plan in place. Between its on-call reporters and crisis plan, the staff and leadership knew what they needed to do to cover the story and provide accurate information to the community. But even beyond the immediate reporting, the station relied on relationships and best practices that it had already established to be able to most effectively cover the story. For example, Pennsylvania’s public radio stations already frequently share coverage, so WESA could rely on existing relationships and joint infrastructure to share coverage with others across Pennsylvania. “Just having a pre-existing system, logistics, a shared statewide server that we can put content on, and an email list that everything goes out to makes things happen faster than if you’re having to create that from scratch,” said WESA news director Patrick Doyle.

+ Earlier: Active shooting simulation helps reporters prep for real-world scenarios (PRNDI)

+ Midterm coverage ideas worth borrowing for 2020 (Poynter)


Facebook slammed by UN for its role in Myanmar genocide (Columbia Journalism Review)

On Tuesday Facebook released an independent report it commissioned on the human rights impact of its presence in Myanmar, which found that the company wasn’t doing enough to prevent its platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. Also on Tuesday, the United Nations released its own report looking into the causes of the genocide that has taken place in Myanmar, which found Facebook at fault for failing to remove pages that spread hate speech and incited violence against the Rohingya population in Myanmar. It also noted that Facebook has refused to provide country-specific data about hate speech on its platform, which the UN said “is imperative to assess the problem and the adequacy of its response.”


How to inspire your employees to become leaders (Fast Company)

Formal leadership development plans, personality assessments, and other tools to develop employees’ leadership capabilities can often get neglected in the face of daily responsibilities. But there are some simple approaches that can, when embedded in daily interactions, help managers prepare their employees for leadership roles. First off, knowing your employees — what motivates them, what their personal and professional goals/interests are — builds a good foundation for a mutually trusting relationship. Having conflict resolution skills not only creates a healthier work environment, but sets an example for employees. And giving employees more decision-making autonomy is a way to both identify leaders and help them develop.  


CNN’s Jim Acosta’s actions to Trump don’t represent the best of journalism (Poynter)

Journalists must ask questions and seek truth. But Jim Acosta’s encounter Wednesday at a White House press conference was less about asking questions and more about making statements, write Al Tompkins and Kelly McBride. In doing so, the CNN White House reporter gave President Trump room to critique Acosta’s professionalism. An example: Acosta asked the president if he had demonized the caravan of Central Americans trekking toward the United States, ending his exchange by stating, “It is not an invasion.” If Acosta had asked “What about that seems like an invasion?” he could have both sought an answer and avoided becoming bigger than the event he was covering. Another example: Acosta asked, “Do you think that you demonize immigrants?” To which the president answered, “No.” A better question might have been, “How do you respond to the criticism that you are demonizing certain types of immigrants, namely poor immigrants?” The takeaway for journalists, write Tompkins and McBride, should be “Ask tough questions, avoid making statements or arguing during a press event and report the news, don’t become the news.”

+ CNN should sue Trump over revoking Acosta’s press pass (The Washington Post)


Newsletters are having a moment (Medium, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy)

Research from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, examining how nonprofit, digital-only newsrooms are using newsletters, sheds light on the industry’s growing enthusiasm for newsletters and the benefits they can reap. The two main takeaways: newsletters are becoming a discrete, standalone editorial product, as well as an increasingly robust business product that calls for long-term, strategic thinking. That’s why, in many newsrooms, the strategy and craft around the newsletter product often come from a staffer with one foot in editorial and one foot in business, writes Caroline Porter. For instance, the engagement editor, a fairly new role in the newsroom, creates a new feedback loop among the reader, the editorial newsroom, and the publisher; using email analytics to make that exchange faster and more responsive.

+ An editor from the conspiracy site Infowars has provided us with a dizzying example of video manipulation that’s created a “choose your own reality” crisis (BuzzFeed News); Facebook thwarted chaos on Election Day, but it’s hardly clear that will last. (The New York Times)

For the Weekend

+ “The man who wouldn’t sit down” … no, it’s not Jim Acosta, but Univision anchor Jorge Ramos (The New Yorker)

+ The complicated philosophy of Jay Smooth: Smooth’s ability to listen, analyze, and react — both in conversations about hip-hop and in national discussions about race — has propelled him into a rare kind of internet virality. During his 30-year radio career, Smooth has influenced the way a lot of journalists — as well as people outside of media — think and talk about music, culture, and modern life. (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ The most controversial mode of 2018 communication is … a short voice message meant to replace a text. If you are currently having a strong, visceral reaction to the concept, you are not alone. (The Ringer)

+ And finally, a lighter Twitter thread for your weekend: “It’s [still] election week, so vote now on the hackiest transition sentence to lead into a nut graf. I’ll go first: S/he should know.” (Twitter, @taffyakner)