Need to Know: Sept. 18, 2019

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


You might have heard: How Edward Snowden changed journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: Justice Department sues Edward Snowden, seeking profits from his book (NPR)

The Department of Justice alleged in a lawsuit yesterday that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s new memoir, “Permanent Record,” violates his nondisclosure agreements with the government. According to copies of the agreements, NSA employees and contractors can’t disclose information obtained while on the job, but an attorney for Snowden said the memoir doesn’t contain any federal secrets that haven’t already been released. The suit is filed against Snowden’s publisher, Macmillan, as well, with the Department of Justice requesting the court freeze the company’s assets from the memoir and put them in a government fund.

+ Noted: Washington Post builds ad network for publishers to take on Big Tech (Axios); New York Times shuts down Spanish-language platform (The Hill); New documents reveal Facebook’s plans for its content oversight board (The Verge)


Trust Tip: If you get something wrong, explain yourself (Trusting News)

Journalists dread making mistakes, and Joy Mayer writes that the standard response to an error is to correct it and then move on. Here’s an example of a news team getting something wrong, explaining how it happened, and getting positive feedback from readers. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


Eight news, civic organizations make co-working a collaboration with Civic Exchange Chicago (Hearken)

At the beginning of the year, Hearken and seven other journalism and civic organizations were working out of commercial co-working offices, but something was missing: like-minded groups to provide support and opportunities to learn from each other. Since February, they have built their own joint office space in Chicago, creating a collaborative co-working space they’re calling Civic Exchange Chicago. Jennifer Brandel of Hearken writes that the space is “centered on how news, information and technology can increase democracy and freedom.”

+ Earlier: How the Colorado Media Project is trying to rebuild a local news ecosystem (Nieman Lab)


Counting the dead: How statistics can find unreported killings (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

Last year, journalist Sheila Coronel and her investigative team set out to find the number of people killed in the Philippines during President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. They collected data from interviews, police records, and information from human rights groups, but the reporters found many of the deaths didn’t appear in police reports or the news. Patrick Ball, a statistician from San Francisco’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group, used the team’s findings to estimate the number of unreported deaths in three parts of Manila. According to his analysis, an estimated 3,000 people may have been killed in connection with the drug war, making the count more than three times the number reported by police.

+ The Sun defended its coverage of a cricket player’s family tragedy after the athlete and other journalists criticized the story.


Deepfakes could anonymize people in videos while keeping their personality (MIT Technology Review)

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have developed a new deepfake technique that could be used to protect someone’s identity, like a whistleblower, in a photo or video. Similar to the scramble suit in Philip K. Dick’s “A Scanner Darkly,” this approach uses a database of 1.5 million images of faces to give the subject a completely different face. The new face also mirrors the subject’s original facial expressions. Karen Hao writes that this technique, which could be applied to audio, shows uses for deepfake technology beyond spreading misinformation.


AP’s transphobic Sam Smith story exposes journalism’s failings (Tampa Bay Times)

When non-binary journalist Ashley Dye read an Associated Press story about singer Sam Smith, something caught their attention. While reporting the singer’s intention to go by to the non-binary pronouns “they” and “them,” the AP continued to use the pronouns “he” and “him” to describe Smith. Two years ago, the AP Stylebook began allowing the singular use of “they”, but Dye notes the organization failed to follow its own rule. “Not only did it delegitimize non-binary folks — part of a group facing discrimination from the government, in education and employment, housing and more — but also it failed to educate cisgender readers (people who identify as their gender assigned at birth) on Smith,” they write.


How the Internet Archive is waging war on misinformation (Financial Times)

When Brewster Kahle founded the Internet Archive in 1996, he was concerned that online content wasn’t being preserved like other media. Now the site has archived 330 billion web pages and 200,000 software programs, along with millions of books, texts and recordings. Since the 2016 election, the Internet Archive began collections of President Donald Trump’s television appearances and Tweets, with the hope that they can become a resource for fact-checkers.