Need to Know: September 11, 2018

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


You might have heard: After years of growth, the use of social media for news is falling across the world (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Most Americans still get their news from social media, but they don’t expect it to be accurate (Nieman Lab)

A new Pew Research Center report shows that around two-thirds of U.S. adults get their news from social media, but the majority of these (57 percent) say they expect that news to be “largely inaccurate.” Convenience (cited by 21 percent of respondents), interacting with other people, speed, and timeliness are the top reasons that news consumers like getting the news from social media. The top-cited reason to dislike news from social media is inaccuracy. However, more respondents said accessing news on social media has helped them (36 percent) than that it has confused them (15 percent). Facebook is still the dominant social media site for Americans to get news, as it was in 2017.

+ Noted: Apple is talking to big newspapers about joining its subscription service (Recode); Twitter’s live-streaming video app Periscope launches audio-only broadcasts (Mashable); Indiana University receives $6 million gift from alumnus for investigative journalism center (Indiana University); Richmond Times Dispatch launches email newsletter that connects local entrepreneurs (Richmond Times Dispatch); Houston Chronicle launches investigation to establish veracity of sources used by one of its reporters (Houston Chronicle)


How the Dallas Morning News turned a traffic afterthought into a digital subscription conversion opportunity (Better News)

Better News is a living online resource that showcases innovative ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, also known as Table Stakes, and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole. The latest case study addition to Better News features the Dallas Morning News, which turned a niche beat — college football — into a successful digital subscription product. Assistant sports editor Scott Bell and engagement manager Mark Francescutti have this advice for newsrooms looking to replicate their solution: “Find an area of coverage that might not necessarily yield the most impressive traffic numbers, but it does check each of the following boxes: one, it’s hyperlocal; and two, it stokes the passion of these local readers.”

+ Going to ONA this year? Meet Mark, Scott and API’s Gwen Vargo at their Thursday session, “Subscriptions, Metrics and the Newsroom: How Journalists are Getting Involved” (ONA)


Tips every brand-new reporter should know (Poynter)

Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark offers a series of quick tips for student reporters just getting into the game, some of which come from journalists via Twitter. Here are several, plucked from that conversation: “Collect more stuff in your notebook than you think you need … Have a person speaking by the third paragraph … In the field, don’t just write down what people say; also write down what you see … Don’t be afraid of silence — let the source fill it … Don’t start from the assumption that you know the story, or the truth,” and “Stay humble to the end. The moment you start thinking you know better, you lose the best tool you possess as a journalist — your curiosity.”

+ How to use Alexa Flash Briefings to deliver on-demand audio clips (


Vicious rumors spread like wildfire on WhatsApp — and destroyed a village (BuzzFeed News)

WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned messaging service, is used by more than 200 million people in India, its largest market. It’s become an inextricable part of the country’s culture and social fabric, widely used by younger and older generations alike, write Pranav Dixit and Ryan Mac. Lately, however, WhatsApp has been getting Indians killed. Since May, there have been at least 16 lynchings leading to 29 deaths in India, where public officials say mobs were incited by misinformation on WhatsApp. WhatsApp has responded to the violence through changes to the app that aim to restrict virality of messages and video, as well as public service announcements warning people about fake news and misinformation. The Indian government, however, had been hoping for more: It had asked for WhatsApp to develop tools to help trace the origin of messages, ostensibly to help authorities hunt down the creators of the fake videos.

+ A Guardian investigation finds that Russian trolls’ tweets were cited in more than 100 U.K. news articles (The Guardian); The BBC issued formal guidance to its journalists on how to report on climate change (Carbon Brief)


Give your team the freedom to do the work they think matters most (Harvard Business Review)

Control — of costs, of prices, of investment and, not least, of people — has always been central to most organizational strategies. But top-down control has been shown to carry serious costs, many of which have been hiding in plain sight. The alternative is a “liberated” organization, write Brian Carney and Isaac Getz, where employees are empowered to take actions that they — not their managers — decide are best for their company’s vision. It may seem like a radical change to implement, but Carney and Getz offer a few initial steps managers can take: don’t tell employees how to do their jobs; tell them the strategic goals your organization is working toward. Ask your team what obstacles stand in the way of doing their best work. Guard your employees’ time so that they have more space to think and work strategically.


Twitter’s flawed solution to political polarization (The New York Times)

During his appearance before Congress last Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey again stressed the importance of exposing people to opposing political views. Last month he announced changes Twitter is making to actively expose people to such views. But disrupting social media “echo chambers” may actually make things worse, argues Christopher Bail. Bail’s research shows that forcing Twitter users to encounter political views they disagree with can make them become even more wedded to their own. “Instead, [Twitter] should create an alert system that makes people aware when they are being exposed predominantly to one point of view,” he says. “The most pernicious effect of social media echo chambers may be that most people are unaware of how much their political views are influenced by selective exposure to information.”


Subtle sexism in political coverage can have a real impact on candidates (Columbia Journalism Review)

With a record-breaking number of women running for office in 2018, journalists need to be aware of subtle, unintentional forms of sexist coverage (see this recent example from the Boston Globe). While bluntly sexist language appears to be on the decline, less recognizable forms of sexist coverage persist. Researchers Rachel Garrett and Dominik Stecula conducted a study to find out if even subtle word choices could affect people’s attitudes about female candidates. They found that certain adjectives, like “compassionate” and “loyal” (traditionally associated with women) or “ambitious” and “assertive” (traditionally associated with men) can significantly impact how voters view the candidates they describe.

+ Sheriffs who cheered Trump’s attack on press have their own media run-ins (The Guardian)