Need to Know: October 15, 2020


You might have heard: Facebook has begun labeling newsworthy posts that break platform rules (Reuters)

But did you know: Facebook is reducing the reach of a disputed New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son (The Verge)

After The New York Post ran a story that featured disputed claims regarding Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, Facebook announced that it would reduce the reach of the story pending a fact-check review. The story claims to have obtained emails and videos from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, though the reporting has not been verified. Even with the platform’s vow to “reduce its distribution,” the story garnered 40,000 interactions on Facebook in the hours after it was posted. Facebook’s fact-checking partners have the power to “downrank” articles that are partially or completely false, which adds a warning label while also making users less likely to see it.

+ Noted: NBC News plans to move forward with Trump town hall (Variety); Fort Worth Star-Telegram unionizes (Twitter, @FortWorthGuild); Membership Puzzle Project announces reopening of Membership in News Fund (Membership Puzzle Project); The new Solutions Journalism Talent Network connects freelance journalists to editors (The Whole Story); Applications are open for a program on product immersion for small newsrooms  (Newmark Graduate School of Journalism); House Intelligence Committee to hold virtual open hearing on misinformation and conspiracy theories online (U.S. House of Representatives)


Trust Tip: Prepare your audience for uncertainty on election day (and beyond) (Trusting News)

This year’s election night might be very different from previous ones, and it’s important for local news to prepare audiences for the possibility of delayed results and explain the processes that lead to declaring a winner. It can also be helpful to share your state’s processes for safeguarding election results. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching —here.


The L.A. Times editorial board will answer questions about this year’s election endorsements (The Los Angeles Times)

The decision-making process behind political endorsements are often a mystery for newspaper readers. In an effort to explain their endorsements, the L.A. Times is hosting a live video event with eight members of the editorial board, who will discuss their picks for national, state and local elections. Subscribers will be able to participate in polls and ask board members questions; the video feed will be available to all. The event is part of the paper’s ongoing “Ask a Reporter” series.

+ Earlier: Is it time for newspapers to stop endorsing presidential candidates, like The Dallas Morning News and the Arizona Republic did this year? (The Hill)


Macedonian fake news hub from the 2016 election is thriving again (Bloomberg)

The town of Veles, in the Republic of North Macedonia, became famous in 2016 for churning out disinformation ahead of the presidential election, and it seems like the town is back at it. A new report from the Election Integrity Partnership says that Veles is once again hosting several news websites posing as conservative American news to run “dubious or misleading information.” The sites have proved somewhat successful with conservatives on social media by claiming to be reporting news “that the mainstream media won’t.” According to the report, the creators of these sites are likely motivated by financial gain rather than political partisanship.


Google premieres Journalist Studio, with two new tools for reporters (Google News Initiative)

The Google News Initiative has announced Journalist Studio, a new suite of tools that is aimed at helping reporters work more efficiently and securely. One new tool is Pinpoint, which will allow reporters to search through hundreds of thousands of documents at once and automatically identifies and groups the most frequent names and locations. The second tool is a preview of The Common Knowledge Project, a new data visualization tool for sharing data about local communities. Google is also offering virtual training in the new tools.

+ YouTube bans coronavirus vaccine misinformation (Reuters)


Should journalists exercise their right to vote amid concerns of bias? (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

The run-up to the 2020 election has included a massive get-out-the-vote push, but some feel that journalists shouldn’t cast a ballot, for risk of seeming biased. In dueling op-eds for the Philadelphia Inquirer, metro columnist Jenice Armstrong argues that voting is too important for journalists to skip, while former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr. says journalists should stay too open-minded to make these decisions. Armstrong writes that voting, especially for Black people in the South like her family, is a hard-won victory that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Downie, meanwhile, argues that journalists hold a unique place in society, and that they should be willing to give up some political rights in order to ensure that they are presenting the news fairly.


College newsrooms should provide mental health support for student journalists (Poynter)

Many journalists are struggling with mental health issues during the pandemic, but student journalists need unique support in these difficult times. College newsrooms should create welcoming spaces for students to discuss both ongoing mental health issues as well as trauma related to current events or reporting assignments, writes Taylor Blatchford. Editors could also assign multiple reporters to the same beat, which allows for ongoing coverage even if some students need a rest, and encourages collaboration and co-learning.