Need to Know: October 12, 2020

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


You might have heard: Last month, Twitter announced plans to label or remove false posts aiming to undermine the public’s confidence in the election (Twitter)

But did you know: Twitter adds to policies to address potential election chaos (The Verge)

On Friday, Twitter unveiled policy changes aimed to restrict misinformation during next month’s presidential election. Tweets that promote violence or other actions to interfere with the election or election results could be removed under the new policies, and the platform plans to label posts that claim victory before final results are in. Attempting to retweet content that Twitter has labeled misleading will lead users to accurate information on the topic. The platform will also encourage users to quote tweet rather than retweet, which the company believes may nudge users to think about why they’re amplifying the information.

+ Noted: Mitra Kalita, CNN Digital’s senior vice president for news, opinion and programming, plans to leave to focus on community media ventures (Twitter, @mitrakalita); Instead of merging as announced in January, Muckrock has become Outlier’s fiscal sponsor (Outlier)


Do more reporting that is based on audience needs 

In our report “How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships,” we explore ways newsrooms are listening to their communities — particularly marginalized or misrepresented groups — and responding to their information needs. See how you can adapt their listening strategies for your own audience.


How the IndyStar is working to reach the Latino community (National Press Club)

This year, reporter Natalia Contreras had the idea to report and translate stories into Spanish as part of the Indianapolis Star’s growing initiative to better serve its Spanish-speaking audience. At first, Contreras was the only staff member doing this work, but the paper has since devoted resources to paying translators, expanding the scope of what the team can do. A month ago, the IndyStar launched its first Spanish-language newsletter called La Estrella, “the star” in Spanish, which focuses on public health and other topics related to the pandemic, as well as local issues that matter to Latinos.

+ Earlier: How listening informed La Estrella de Tucsón’s reporting during COVID-19 (American Press Institute)

+ BuzzFeed released its diversity report, which says about 47% of its new hires during the last year were people of color (BuzzFeed)


How BBC is using tech to create infographic versions of stories (BBC News Labs)

BBC news has 15 million Instagram followers, making it the No. 1 news account on the photo-sharing app. Because creating informative and newsworthy social content is time-consuming, BBC News Labs spent the last year developing a tool that can automatically convert story text into graphics formatted for Instagram and Facebook. The prototype, which focused on health stories, can detect quotes and data, while drawing from an image library filled with often-used graphics. Now the team is considering integrating the tool into BBC’s content management system or publishing the visual stories on BBC’s app.


Crowds of regular people are as good at moderating fake news on Facebook as professional fact-checkers (Nieman Lab)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers asked a small team of fact-checkers and a group of about 1,100 people to evaluate the accuracy of more than 200 articles that Facebook’s internal algorithm had flagged for fact-checking. In a working paper, the researchers wrote that the laypeople could predict whether fact-checkers would rate a headline as accurate. The laypeople were even more likely to align with fact-checkers when the experts made unanimous ratings. 

+ Facebook permanently banned an Arizona firm behind about 280 fake pro-Trump accounts (Assoicated Press)


In rare step, esteemed medical journal urges voters to oust Trump (Columbia Journalism Review)

The New England Journal of Medicine ran an editorial against the Trump administration and its handling of the pandemic, a move unheard of in the publication’s more than 200-year history. Editor-in-Chief Dr. Eric Rubin said that the piece, which is one of only a few to be signed by all of the publication’s editors, came about because “we want people to realize that there are truths here, not just opinions.” That editorial is one of three similar pieces recently published in medical or science publications, including Scientific American and The Lancet.

+ Related: Should medical journals enter the political realm? (Columbia Journalism Review)


Lawsuit claims Trump-appointed CEO broke laws at Voice of America (NPR)

According to a suit filed by five suspended U.S. Agency for Global Media officials, the agency’s head and his aides have sought to give the state-funded Voice of America news service a pro-Trump agenda. That would violate a law requiring the state-funded service to broadcast without political interference. Under CEO Michael Pack, the suit claims the agency has withheld funds for its foreign-language broadcasters, leaving employees unpaid and offices without basics like toilet paper or cleaning services.

+ Earlier: Last week, Pack sent Voice of America employees conflict of interest guidelines that some staffers worry could be used to target journalists (The Intercept)