Need to Know: Oct. 29, 2018

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


You might have heard: In the midst of a deepening crisis of public trust for Facebook, the company announced it would de-prioritize publishers’ content in favor of posts from users’ friends (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Facebook referral traffic crashed and burned — but not for these nonprofit publishers (Nieman Lab)

Researchers at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, Andrew Gruen and Aisha Townes, analyzed the changes in traffic from Facebook to eight non-profit news organizations before and after the major change to the Facebook News Feed in January 2018. They found that while the organizations in the cohort generally experienced a decline in referral traffic from Facebook, it was more varied than the declines reported among larger, commercial press outlets. Of the eight publishers, three saw significant (greater than 20 percent) declines in Facebook referrals. Two were down slightly; two were up slightly. And one saw significant gains, up more than 40 percent in both users and sessions.

+ Noted: A grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will help WAMU expand 1A’s national coverage (Washingtonian); McClatchy’s VP of news, Tim Grieve, is leaving for a “new venture in the media space” (The Miami Herald); Gab, the controversial social network with a far-right following, has pulled its website offline after domain provider GoDaddy gave it 24 hours to move to another service (The Verge)


How to use ‘radical hospitality’ to bring communities together to discuss important issues (Solution Set)

Capital Public Radio wanted to find ways to reach new audiences and bring communities together to talk about housing issues. The station partnered with community groups to host Story Circles, in-person gatherings that encouraged participants from all over the city to share their experiences with housing. By inviting people to share their stories, community members can help inform your news organization’s reporting, writes Joseph Lichterman. The station trained community groups to continue facilitating Story Circles while it experiments with new in-person gathering formats.

+ Nine types of visual storytelling on mobile (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)


Inside the government-run ‘war room’ fighting fake news in Indonesia (Bloomberg)

In an attempt to stem a deluge of political and social narratives, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications has established a “war room,” where a surveillance team of 70 engineers monitor social media traffic and other online platforms 24 hours a day. The ministry has also launched a dedicated website where people can report news they suspect is false and find out if particular claims are true. Indonesia is the latest Asian country seeking to counteract the flood of fake news in an era when messages delivered to smartphones over platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp have become as trusted as articles from traditional media sources.

+ Facebook hires the BBC’s Trushar Barot to lead its Integrity Initiatives in India (Twitter)


Aesthetic journalism: Overcoming censorship and documenting Syrian conflict with a sketchbook (

Award-winning artist and writer Molly Crabapple thinks investigative journalism and visual art complement one another. Crabapple is renowned for using her “graphic novel art style” to portray scenes from censored environments, whether that is the prison of Guantanamo Bay or the ISIS-occupied city of Raqqa, working with Syrian journalist Marwan Hisham to co-publish their book, Brothers of the Gun. She also says “aesthetic journalism” has its advantages when up against adverse reporting conditions, most notably censorship. “The other motivation to drawing as opposed to photography, is that we live in a time when we are so flooded by images,” Crabapple says. “When you draw it is obviously, defiantly subjective. It is obviously filtered through another person, it has obviously gone through someone’s eyes and hands. It is saying ‘I put care into this and you should care as well’.”


‘The toxic political news cycle in the US is not “broken” — it is a feature of the system that participants and online platforms have helped build’ (BuzzFeed News)

“It’s become routine these days to hear people describe the churning cycle of politics and news, tossed back and forth between Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, comments sections, and television, as ‘broken,’ writes Charlie Warzel. “You can feel the nation’s blood pressure rising as the election approaches, and the specter of political violence gets closer and closer. But this isn’t a broken system: There’s order to the madness. In fact, what feels broken is the product of a well-oiled machine in which all participants seem to know their specific roles. The end result is a near-perfect union of many of the darkest forces in American culture — the collision of toxic hyperpartisanship, sensationalized media, and a mature online ecosystem that seems to incentivize and accelerate the worst impulses and behaviors. And if the past is any indication of future performance, it will only get worse. The machine is not broken, it’s firing on all cylinders.”

+ To endorse or not? That is the editorial board’s agonizing question (Poynter); NBC’s moral stance in its response to Megyn Kelly’s blackface comments is likely more a reflection of Kelly’s lackluster ratings than proof of integrity (The Atlantic)


How Facebook deals with misinformation, in one graphic (Poynter)

Recently it’s been hard for journalists to discern between Facebook’s myriad policies on misinformation, inauthentic behavior and advertising transparency, writes Daniel Funke. Is the company’s continued purge of fake accounts and pages an anti-misinformation policy or a violation of the Community Standards? Is Facebook letting conservative publishers censor their content? And can fact-checkers do whatever they want on the platform? The tech company has released little data on how its fact-checking efforts are working, maintained often contradictory policies about misinformation and regularly shied away from on-the-record media interviews that shed more light on the problem. In light of the ongoing confusion, Poynter created a flowchart showing what Facebook does and doesn’t do to limit the spread of misinformation on the platform.

+ How to be ready to lose your job (Medium, Rebecca Fishbein)