Need to Know: October 5, 2018

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


You might have heard: This map helps people visualize the spread of fake news on Twitter (Poynter)

But did you know: Fake news on Twitter hasn’t changed much since the 2016 U.S. presidential election (Poynter)

The Knight Foundation released a study on Thursday analyzing the role of Twitter in spreading fake news stories and conspiracies during and after the 2016 election. It found that, in the month before the election, 6.6 million tweets linked to fake news or conspiracy theories. But after the election — when Twitter took a few actions to counter the spread of falsities — misinformation continued to prosper, albeit at lower numbers, writes Daniel Funke. According to the report, about 4 million tweets linked to fake news or conspiracy sites between March and April 2017. Many of those tweets are coming from the same accounts that were publishing during the election; the Knight report found that 80 percent of the accounts it identified were still active and publishing more than 1 million tweets per day as of publication. The study also found that just a handful of sources published the majority of misinforming content. Sixty-five percent of the links researchers identified were from the same 10 sites — a trend that stayed more or less stable after the election.

+ Related: Seven ways misinformation spread during the 2016 election (Knight Foundation)

+ Noted: Tronc is changing its name back to Tribune Publishing (Chicago Tribune); Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Ken Ward Jr. is awarded a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation (Charleston Gazette-Mail); CNN launches CNN Business with a focus on Silicon Valley (Digiday); San Francisco Magazine primed to be gutted, shifted away from news focus (Mission Local); Boston Herald lays off 20 staffers, including at least two award-winning veteran photographers (CommonWealth); BuzzFeed is opening a “quirky” toy store in New York this fall (New York Post)


The week in fact-checking

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of “The Week in Fact-Checking” newsletter, E.U. fact-checkers say “no thanks” to politicians’ offers of help; a project that tracks how politicians change their positions over time; and Facebook is grilled on misinformation by reps from Myanmar, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.  


Instead of a news desert, a news jungle (Nieman Lab)

Researchers at the Lenfest Institute and the University of Pennsylvania went hunting for news deserts in their local community of Philadelphia, but came back with the image of a news jungle instead, writes Christine Schmidt. “Instead of feeling they were not finding essential information and news, participants said they had too much information and news on their screens and that they had to opt out, sort through and hunt for information that they were actually interested in,” researchers wrote after holding focus groups with 64 Philadelphia residents. Building content and products around communities of interest is one way news organizations can help audiences navigate the overcrowded news landscape, those participants said, and many named newsletters as their preferred way of getting curated news. News organizations that will be the most successful are those who can curate information in a way that helps people go about their daily lives, the researchers concluded.

+ Students: Here are more than 80 journalism internships and fellowships to browse through (Poynter); They include API’s paid summer fellowship for students who have a strong desire to advance innovation in news organizations.


She bears witness to South Sudan’s turbulence, one headline at a time (Christian Science Monitor)

The obstacles reporters face in doing their work — the stories behind their stories — can say just as much about a country’s concerns and challenges as the articles they produce, writes Ryan Lenora Brown. When Anna Nimiriano, the editor in chief of the Juba Monitor in South Sudan, became a journalist, she didn’t imagine having to spend some days bartering with soldiers to let her colleagues out of jail, or haggling over the price of petrol needed to keep the office generator running. But over the course of South Sudan’s five-year civil war, Nimiriano has kept watch over a paper that is both a record of the young country’s immense turmoil and an institution struggling to withstand it. “Sometimes, when you see so much going wrong, you realize there is nothing you can do but write it down,” she says. “Every day, you must write it down.”

+ 14 ways to change how investigative journalism is done in Africa (Global Investigative Journalism Network)


Brevity more important for Facebook videos than YouTube (NewsWhip)

Facebook video drives over 800 billion average daily views, and users are five times more likely to watch video daily on mobile than on a desktop. Meanwhile, YouTube attracts about one third of users on the internet, with more than 30 million active daily users on YouTube. The average viewing session on YouTube is 40 minutes, up a whopping 50 percent year-over-year. According to surveys, YouTube is an essential part of how Gen Z audiences consume media. The NewsWhip team analyzed top-performing videos on Facebook and YouTube and found key differences in how users’ habits impact virality. On Facebook users “stumble across” videos, while on YouTube they seek them out; making brevity highly important for Facebook videos. How-to videos perform well on both platforms, but those that do well on Facebook tend to be short “checklist” items, while YouTube videos can be longer and more prescriptive. Captions are much more important for Facebook videos.


Conservative leaders call for Washington Post to hire ‘true conservative’ columnist (The Hill)

A group of conservative leaders from the American Principles Project is calling on The Washington Post to stop promoting columnist Jennifer Rubin as a conservative and to “hire a true conservative” to better give voice to those on the right, reports Joe Concha. “We, of course, respect the right of The Washington Post to employ whatever writers it pleases — even Jennifer Rubin,” reads the letter addressed to the Post’s editorial board. “However, we ask for the sake of intellectual honesty that the Post cease to identify her as in any way ‘conservative.’” The letter goes on to argue that the Post’s labeling of Rubin as conservative is an example why most conservatives distrust the media.


Going it solo: The complicated financial lives of freelancers (NPR)

Contingent workers make up one third of the U.S. workforce, and their numbers are rapidly growing. But despite the flexibility the lifestyle affords, many freelancers struggle to make ends meet, let alone save for retirement. “Two-thirds of them are dipping into their savings every month to make ends meet. We see that freelancers as a result are really lagging behind employees when it comes to saving for retirement,” says Caitlin Pearce, executive director of the Freelancers Union. According to a Treasury Department study released last year, only 8 percent of self-employed workers save for retirement, compared to 42 percent of those with an employer.

+ Facebook group owners can easily rename and refocus their groups, while keeping their original members, making groups powerful tools for spreading misinformation and sowing conflict (The Washington Post); Trump’s tweets are less read and influential than people may think (Axios)


+ Fights breaking out in libraries, bans in courthouses and churches, and women divorcing “puzzle-obsessed” husbands: How the first crossword puzzles wreaked havoc in the U.S. (The Atlantic)

+ Notebooks are magic and other lessons from working with kid journalists (Poynter)

+ Report for America set out to give local news a boost. Here’s how it’s going. (Columbia Journalism Review)