Need to Know: October 10, 2018

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


You might have heard: Audiences seem a little more likely to find news credible when “trust indicators” are attached to it, although some people end up trusting news less when they see the source (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: 20 leading news organizations have adopted the Trust Project’s ‘Trust Indicators,’ a tool designed to increase transparency around news content (The Trust Project)

Yesterday the Trust Project, an organization dedicated to increasing transparency in news, announced that 20 news organizations will install its Trust Indicators on their sites, taking the total number of organizations up to 120. The Indicators act as “nutritional labels” for news stories, showing readers information about the source to help them assess its credibility and reliability. “Today’s internet readers get their information from a multitude of sources, often without knowing anything about the provider. News organizations need to make it as easy as possible for readers to understand their values and credibility,” said Ann Gripper, executive editor of The Mirror, one of the news sites that uses the Trust Indicators. The Trust Project has also signed on technology partners, including Google, Bing, Facebook, Nuzzel, PEN America and NewsGuard, which are using the Indicators to surface, display or better label journalism on their platforms.

+ Related: There are many similarly-named initiatives around trust and fake news out there. Here’s a good overview of the many (too many?) players in this space. (Axios)

+ Noted: releases Currents, a free tool for understanding the flow of attention online (; Facebook unveils the Portal, a video chat camera “for the people who still trust Facebook” (The Washington Post); Forbes will become the first major media company to experiment with publishing stories to the blockchain (Axios); Some advertisers are moving half of their search budget from Google to Amazon, say ad industry sources (CNBC)


Health news site Stat looks to big companies for more members (Nieman Lab)

Nearly three years in, the audience for Stat — and its premium subscription product, the $299/year (or $35/month) Stat Plus — is becoming more clear. It turns out, not surprisingly, that most of the people who want to read and pay for Stat Plus are professionals in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Stat is seeing substantial growth in group subscriptions, adding staff on the business side to handle them, writes Laura Hazard Owen. With 43 percent of its revenue coming from subscriptions, Stat has to strike a balance between providing niche coverage for professionals, and appealing to a large enough audience that it can get attention and find new subscribers. The biggest conversion point is Stat’s nine free email newsletters. “I’d like to think that a lot of the work we do is not just business-oriented, and is intended to reach a larger audience, but our business strategy is founded on Plus,” said Rick Berke, Stat’s executive editor.


Why the Financial Times used drama to help audiences understand Brexit impact (

To capture the emotional impact of Brexit on the people living at the Irish border, the Financial Times produced a short film, “Hard Border,” starring actor Stephen Rea. “The border is so much more than facts and figures — it is about history and identity,” said Juliet Riddell, head of new formats at the Financial Times. “I instinctively felt like something fictional and dramatic would be a good way to approach the issue.” Riddell explained that her team, working with journalist and playwright Clare Dwyer Hogg, aimed to develop a script that felt theatrical and dramatic, but was clearly born from a newsroom. “People have been reacting by sharing their own stories surrounding the border,” she said. “I think that we have created a format where we have explored news and current affairs in a deeper way, and hope to continue to do that.”

+ European news organizations still devote resources to Facebook, despite feeling the pinch of algorithms, report finds (; Around 300 newspapers and printing houses have shut down due to rising paper costs in Turkey (Stockholm Center for Freedom)


25 of the best Google Docs hacks marketers (and journalists) need to know (HootSuite)

“Web-based word processors are the name of the game in 2018,” writes Katie Sehl. Because many of us now use Google Docs for a good portion of our work, Sehl rounded up some of the best hacks to try out on the platform. Here are a few hidden features you may not have known about it: You can add jargony words to the Google Doc dictionary to avoid having them flagged by the spell checker; dictate to your document by activating Voice Typing in the Tools menu; Google search your work by highlighting words or phrases and clicking on the Explore tool; and see who made edits to your document (even if they didn’t use Suggestion Mode) in Version History. (Thanks to Poynter’s Ren LaForme for scouting this article in his handy Try This! newsletter.)


Why achieving equal pay is such a complicated issue (The Guardian)

“Sometimes when writing about equal pay, I want to respond the way I do when a child asks something difficult: say ‘it’s complicated’ and move on quickly,” writes Jane Martinson. “Yes, it’s an outrage that men are paid more that women for doing the same job. But it is also true that pay in the top echelons of the media has gone a bit wrong.” Martinson cites the example of Chris Evans, the BBC’s second-highest paid employee, who will be replaced by radio host Zoe Ball. Ball’s salary is significantly lower than Evans’s, but Evans’s salary was unjustifiably high, argues Martinson. “Letting the market decide the mantra that guides most pay decisions in the U.K. has led to some of the biggest income disparities in the developed world and created a double injustice. Men, and what they do, are consistently valued more highly than women, even when they do the same job. And no cap has been set on those high-value roles, leading to huge gaps not just between men and women, but also between the high and low paid.”


MIT and Qatari scientists are training computers to detect fake news sites (Fast Company)

A new research project from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and the Qatar Computing Research Institute aims to use machine learning to detect which sites focus on facts and which are more likely to churn out misinformation, reports Steven Melendez. A machine learning technique known as support vector machines is used to examine various telling factors, including the content of articles on the sites, the site’s Twitter presence, the structure of its online domain name, and how it’s described on Wikipedia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, less factual sites were more likely to use hyperbolic and emotional language than those reporting more factual content. Additionally, news sources with longer descriptions on Wikipedia tend to be more reliable. Wikipedia also provides other indications that news sources are suspect, such as references to bias or a tendency to spread conspiracy theories. And generally, sites with more complex domain names and URL structures are less trustworthy than sites with simpler ones.

+ Related: Even the best AI for spotting fake news is still terrible (MIT Technology Review)