Need to Know: October 13, 2020


You might have heard: Pandemic Project launched to track and assess the impacts of the pandemic on journalism worldwide (Nieman Reports)

But did you know: Journalists are relying more on government sources during COVID-19, even as those officials spread more disinformation (International Center for Journalists) 

Journalism and the Pandemic Project, a global survey launched in April, has released its first report detailing the challenges facing journalists during COVID-19. One finding is that, while nearly one-third of journalists said they rely more on government and official sources while covering the pandemic, 46% said politicians and elected officials were one of the top sources of disinformation. The survey also found that the pandemic is taking a psychological and emotional toll on journalists, but that most journalists felt an increased commitment to the profession as a result of the pandemic.

+ Noted: Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute is now accepting fellowship applications proposing innovative projects that strengthen journalism’s future (Reynolds Journalism Institute); Kat Downs Mulder named managing editor/digital of The Washington Post (The Washington Post); Philadelphia Inquirer to sell printing facility, lay off 500 plant employees in bid for long-term economic stability (The Philadelphia Inquirer)


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Better News is a free resource for news innovators, offering hand-picked journalism wisdom from around the internet and organizing it into “big picture,” “strategic” and “tactical” categories, depending on how ready you are to implement the advice. It also features lessons learned by newsrooms that participated in the Table Stakes training program managed by API.


Arizona Republic guide helps readers navigate the different branches of government (The Arizona Republic)

In the run-up to next month’s election, a new guide from the Arizona Republic reminds readers that it’s not just the presidency that impacts how they are governed. The paper breaks down who is responsible for different government functions in Arizona, and shows readers how to direct their questions and complaints. The guide also explains how different government bodies interact with each other.

+ City Bureau asks readers to submit names of community leaders helping to advance racial and economic justice, in preparation for its “How a Community Heals” series (City Bureau)


Former Australian prime minister creates petition for government investigation into News Corp (Sydney Morning Herald)

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has created a petition that would call for a government inquiry, known as a royal commission, into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. News Corp’s media consolidation in Australia means it controls about 70% of print readership in the country, and Rudd accused the company of running a “protection racket” for the current political leadership. Rudd also said that many in Australia are afraid to speak up against Murdoch for fear of retaliation. Almost 6,000 people signed Rudd’s petition in its first 24 hours.


Engagement with deceptive outlets higher on Facebook today than in run-up to 2016 election (German Marshall Fund of the United States)

A new study from the Digital New Deal project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States has found that Facebook user engagement with articles from outlets that repeatedly post false information has risen by 102% since before the 2016 election. These sites, dubbed “trojan horses” because they look like legitimate sites but boost conspiracy theories, have thrived despite the platform taking steps to curb disinformation, and massive media coverage of “fake news” on social media. In addition, sites that the study says “fail to gather and present information responsibly” have grown in engagement by nearly 300%.

+ Facebook updates hate speech policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust (Facebook)


Why is the media talking about hypothetical court-packing when the world is on fire amidst a pandemic (Substack, Media Nut)

As the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett begin this week, reporters have repeatedly asked Joe Biden about whether he will consider expanding — or packing — the Supreme Court if given the opportunity as president. But the premise, Josh Sternberg writes, is a classic case of media narratives falling back on “both sides-ism” by pushing a scandal on the Democratic side to pair alongside the story of Republicans pushing through Barrett despite popular disapproval and their stonewalling of Democratic nominee Merrick Garland. In doing so, the media creates a new narrative that drives what people see as important — Google searches for “court packing” have jumped in the last few weeks.


Republicans who rely mostly on Trump for COVID-19 news see the outbreak differently from those who don’t (Pew Research Center) 

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that Republicans are split on how they view COVID-19 based on whether or not they rely on President Trump for much of their news. For instance, 89% of Republicans who mostly rely on Trump and his task force for news say that the U.S. has controlled the pandemic as much as possible, while only 59% of Republicans who rely on other sources agree. The survey, taken before Trump tested positive for COVID-19, found that large differences emerged between these two groups of Republicans (and Republican-leaning independents), with no equivalent divide among Democrats (and Democratic-leaning independents). Trump-relyers say that the president and his team get the facts right 70% of the time, while the other group says they do so only 39% of the time.