Need to Know: October 22, 2018

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


You might have heard: Jack Dorsey says Twitter is experimenting with features to promote “alternative viewpoints” in people’s timelines (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: When Twitter users hear out the other side, they become more polarized (Vox)

Does hearing out the other side make us less polarized, or more? In a recent study, in which Twitter users who identified as either Democrats or Republicans followed a bot that retweeted prominent users from the opposite political party, the backfire theorists won the day. The result of a month-long exposure to popular, authoritative voices from the other side of the aisle was an increase in issue-based polarization, writes Ezra Klein. “Neither group responded to exposure to the other side by moderating their own views. In both cases, hearing contrary opinions drove partisans to more polarized positions — Republicans became more conservative rather than more liberal, and Democrats, if anything happened at all, became more liberal rather than more conservative.”

+ Related: Jack Dorsey’s thinking on filter bubbles is evolving: “I don’t think it’s the chronological timeline or the ranked timeline that does it. I think it’s the fact that we only enable you to follow an account.” (Wired)

+ Noted: Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling for Bloomberg to retract its Chinese spy chip story (BuzzFeed News); The UK, France and Germany have pressed Saudi Arabia to provide facts for its widely derided account of the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi (The Guardian); Alex Jones and InfoWars are still on Twitter, despite “ban” (The Daily Beast)


Meeting the challenges of organizational growth (Medium, Adam Thomas)

Scaling a team or an organization successfully depends on having the right organizational structure, somewhere along the spectrum of hierarchical to flat, writes Adam Thomas. Thomas is the director of the European Journalism Center, which has grown from 17 to 25 employees in the last year. As teams grow, the amount of interactions grow at an exponentially faster rate, which means successful growth is about effectively managing those interactions within the organizational structure, writes Thomas. Flatter organizations need de-centralised places where information can be easily accessed (the EJC uses tools like Basecamp, Dropbox and Exact). And leaders in all types of growing organizations should focus on delegating authority, not tasks, which can increase efficiency and accountability. Scaling quickly should also call for more flexible work arrangements and reduced red tape.


If you’re poor in the UK you get less, worse news — especially online, new research suggests (Nieman Lab)

News is more unevenly distributed in the UK than income is, according to new research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The study found that poorer people consume less news than wealthier people and that the difference is particularly pronounced online, where poorer people are less likely to go directly to news sites for content. “This is in the United Kingdom, land of the great equalizer the BBC, which reaches a whopping 92 percent of UK adults,” writes Laura Hazard Owen. “There is no media company in the U.S. that comes close. Income inequality is also higher in the United States than in the United Kingdom. In other words: This study focuses on the UK but the problem is likely the same or worse in the U.S.”

+ As Facebook shows off its “election war room,” a massive WhatsApp scandal hits Brazil (BuzzFeed News)


Why it’s so easy to fall for fake news on Facebook (The Washington Post)

If you think you’re immune to fake news, you’re wrong. “Even after decades of Photoshop and CG films, most of us are still not very good about challenging the authenticity of images — or telling the real from the fake,” writes Geoffrey Fowler. This year Facebook has doubled its resources for fighting fake news, and a report from Stanford and New York University shows that Facebook user interaction with known fake news sites has declined by 50 percent since the 2016 election. But detecting what’s fake in images and video is only getting harder, and the right tools to stop it are still a long way off. We should all get smarter about what we see online, starting with increasing our skepticism of content that is shared by friends and family, writes Fowler. He explains how he was recently tricked by a fake video that has racked up 14 million views on Facebook. “When I saw the … video, my suspicions weren’t on high alert because it came from my friend, who I trust as a smart guy … Fake news producers use our friends to add to their credibility.”

+ Related: Our study shows that who shared an article or video matters more than who produced it, when Americans are deciding whether to trust news on social media


To fix fake news, ban reporters from social media? (Axios)

Jim VandeHei presents four “fairly provocative” ways to fix fake news, one each for politicians, social media, reporters and individuals. Politicians need to stop using the term fake news. Social media companies should either “radically self-regulate” or allow government regulation to staunch the flow of misinformation and disinformation. Individuals should stop sharing stories before reading them and “tweeting their outrage.” And reporters? “News organizations should ban their reporters from doing anything on social media — especially Twitter — beyond sharing stories. Snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics.”


The strange case of the $846 subscription offer to the Kansas City Star (Poynter)

Some publishers may be practicing a new circulation strategy called “reverse redlining,” in which longtime core subscribers, especially in higher income ZIP codes, are being hit with big renewal rate increases, reports Rick Edmonds. Even after some readers inevitably cancel their subscriptions, the higher rates ensure that the companies will still see a net revenue gain. But “Rewarding your best customers with a higher rate than everyone else’s seems a dubious consumer relations strategy,” writes Edmonds, “especially for an industry now focused on wooing audience revenue support as print advertising quickly erodes.”

+ The growth of Sinclair’s conservative media empire: “Sinclair has largely evaded the kind of public scrutiny given to its more famous competitor, Fox News.” (The New Yorker)