Need to Know: October 25, 2018

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


You might have heard: U.S. progressive news site ThinkProgress claims censorship by Facebook after fact-checkers dispute its headline on Brett Kavanaugh story (Poynter)

But did you know: Facebook is now downranking stories with false headlines (Poynter)

As of this week, fact-checking outlets working with Facebook can debunk and slow the spread of headlines that are false even if the whole story isn’t, reports Daniel Funke. Now fact-checkers can either rate an entire story or just a headline as false, although the latter is demoted in News Feed less than the former. The new rating is a result of ongoing confusion among fact-checkers about how to tackle stories that could contain valid factual or analytical content, but are posted with an inaccurate headline on Facebook. It also comes after several other recent changes to Facebook’s fact-checking project, including the expansion of fact-checkers’ debunking capabilities to photos and video and the inclusion of artificial intelligence to automatically detect duplicate fakes.

+ Noted: CNN New York bureau evacuated after bomb threat (CNN); San Diego Union-Tribune staff and others evacuated from building due to suspicious package (San Diego Union-Tribune); Megyn Kelly’s show in doubt after blackface comments (CNN); Wikipedia founder lays off all journalists from his new media website WikiTribune (The Verge); Saudi prince breaks silence over killing of journalist at consulate in Turkey, calling his murder a “heinous crime” (The Guardian); Award-winning journalist makes personal appeal to judge who denied him asylum: “I must implore you for my life” (National Press Club)


What do newspapers lose when they use non-professional photography?

In a recent case study, researchers compared hundreds of published photos taken by non-professional photographers to photos taken by photojournalists, categorizing them as “informational,” “graphically appealing,” “emotional” or “intimate.” They found that non-professional photos were nearly twice as likely to be informational (providing information but lacking emotion or creativity) as professional photos, while professional photos were much more likely to be graphically or emotionally compelling. Professional photos were also more likely to show action and depict conflict, two qualities known to increase audience attention, compared to non-professional photos. While many newspapers have cut back or even eliminated their photojournalism staffs in recent years, this study suggests that doing so means losing a compelling component of news, writes Natalie Jomini Stroud, who breaks down the findings as part of our regular Research Review series.


Getting your email newsletter to a 78 percent open rate (Digital Content Next)

The answer to the question “Can we drive deeper engagement with our content through email newsletters?” is a resounding “yes” — that is, if you can move beyond offering “collections of links” to offering content that has a distinct voice, format and style all its own, writes Peggy Anne Salz. This is the strategy championed by Quartz, a six-year-old publisher widely credited with helping reinvent the email newsletter. Quartz’s daily newsletter Obsession, whose 78 percent open rate far outstrips the industry average of 22 percent, is a deep dive into a single topic inspired by the daily news cycle. “Sometimes we adapt articles from the main Quartz site, but most of the time we are writing the content from scratch,” says senior editor Adam Pasick. For Obsession and Quartz’s daily news brief, as well as the Quartz app, “It’s the best way to treat each of those products as their own thing, with their own audience, their own appeal and their own writing staff to make the package complete.”    

+ 4 kinds of content readers will pay for (International News Media Association)


The Financial Times pulls Facebook ads from the U.K. (Digiday)

The Financial Times has quit advertising on Facebook in the U.K. in the last three weeks since the platform tightened rules around declaring political ads, a policy that has concerned U.S. publishers for being lumped in with political lobbying, writes Lucinda Southern. The primary concern for the FT is any ad it buys in the U.K. that relates to a political content or figure must carry the logo “paid for by,” blurring the line between journalism and political advocacy, in the eyes of the FT. “We don’t want advertising for the FT to be shown to be paid for by in the same way as political lobbying,” said Jon Slade, global chief commercial officer at the publisher. “That leads to a dangerous conflation of journalism and lobbying; they are not the same thing.”


3 ideas for professional development on a budget (The Nonprofit Times)

For time- and budget-strapped organizations, providing training to staff members can seem like an out-of-reach luxury. But if you think creatively, there are many low- or no-cost ways to provide meaningful professional development, writes Samantha Allison. Here are a few ideas: Have interested employees sign up for quarterly “speed mentoring” sessions with leaders in your organization; ask community leaders or individuals with interesting career stories (someone who has inspired your newsroom, perhaps) to come to your office to speak to employees; or, tap into your employees’ desires for rewards and hold a contest to see who offers the best solution to an organizational challenge.

+ The three words you should never use in a work email: “Just checking in” (Time)


Your move, Bloomberg (The Washington Post)

On Oct. 4, Bloomberg published a bombshell report alleging that the Chinese government had planted spy chips in server motherboards manufactured for California-based Super Micro Computer, which supplies U.S. companies like Apple and Amazon. But heated denials from these companies as well as the U.S. government have since piled on top of the reporting, writes Erik Wemple. Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook demanded that Bloomberg “do the right thing” and retract the story. According to a company source, Bloomberg’s editorial staff has been “frustrated” that competing news organizations haven’t managed to match the scoop. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have each sunk resources into confirming the story, only to come up empty-handed. “The best journalism lends itself to reverse engineering,” writes Wemple. “Bloomberg … gives readers virtually no road map for reproducing its scoop, which helps to explain why competitors have whiffed in their efforts to corroborate it.”


Libel law is having a moment (Columbia Journalism Review)

Joe Arpaio, the firebrand former Arizona sheriff, announced last week he is suing The New York Times for $147.5 million; marking the latest in a long line of libel suits filed or resolved in the past year or so. “Fortunately libel law, overall, is in good shape — and is protective of speech, particularly on matters of public concern,” writes Jonathan Peters. “What is cause for concern, though, are the baseless threats and the filing of so many high-profile flimsy suits. They can chill speech on public issues” — particularly at a time when many news organizations have few resources to be able to defend themselves in court. A Knight study from 2016 reported that 65 percent of U.S. newspaper editors said the press is weaker than it was 10 years ago, and 53 percent agreed that “news organizations are no longer prepared to go to court to preserve First Amendment freedoms.”