Need to Know: September 27, 2018

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


You might have heard: Americans trust their local news sources more than national news (Poynter)

But did you know: 56 percent of Americans do not feel connected to their main sources of national news (Pew Research Center)

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, little more than half (56 percent) of Americans said they did not feel particularly connected to their main sources of national news. And there’s not much distinction between Democrats and Republicans on this point: just 54 percent of Democrats feel connected to their source for national news, versus 42 percent of Republicans. The survey also shows that just four in 10 Americans said that they felt “understood” by news organizations, although the research did not explore differences between national and local news sources on this question. Democrats were more than twice as likely as Republicans to say they felt understood by news organizations (58 percent of Democrats compared to 25 percent of Republicans).

+ Pew’s research also found that 71 percent of Americans go into a national news story expecting it will be largely accurate, but 68 percent think news organizations try to cover up their mistakes (Pew Research Center); Earlier: What Americans do and don’t understand about the news media

+ Noted: New nonprofit website called The City is teaming up with New York magazine in hopes of rebuilding accountability and investigative journalism in New York City (The New York Times); Facebook has removed more than a dozen big conservative and liberal political pages (BuzzFeed News); Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm will be first female duo to call an NFL game (NPR); A day after announcing new Missoulian publisher, Lee Enterprises changes course (Missoulian)


Field Notes: We’re headed to Excellence in Journalism to talk about diversity and revenue streams

API is in Baltimore this week for the Excellence in Journalism conference. We’ll be heading up two sessions: “Repairing the neglect: How journalists can engage with diverse communities” on Thursday at 1 p.m., and “Better your bottom line with metrics” on Friday at 9:15 a.m. Thursday’s session will explore American Press Institute research about empathy and how it can help journalists engage more deeply with diverse communities; and Friday’s will highlight API’s recent research on subscribers and how local news organizations are using metrics to drive subscriptions. If you’re at the conference, drop by and say hello; if you’re not, keep up with our insights and key takeaways on Twitter @AmPress!


The art of hosting meaningful engagement events (Medium, Lisa Heyamoto)

Hosting events can be a great way for news organizations to facilitate meaningful conversations and get to know their communities better. But discussions centered on the media can quickly become contentious and politically-loaded, so it’s essential to strike the appropriate format and tone, writes Lisa Heyamoto. Among her suggestions: have more than one facilitator, which signals the event will be a conversation, not a monologue, and gives participants a chance to respond to different communication styles. “Scaffold” the conversation with discussion prompts and thoughtful questions (sort of like building a story arc). And mix up the conversation format with a blend of small and large group discussions. “Structuring the conversations this way helped people feel more confident contributing to the larger discussion, yielding a more thoughtful discourse,” writes Heyamoto.

+ This Washington weekly is publishing a serialized novel (and making money from it) (Poynter); For reporters covering the Kavanaugh hearing, lessons from 1991 (Columbia Journalism Review)


In Europe, a large part of Google’s journalism fund goes to the media establishment (European Journalism Observatory)

Some digging into the Google News Initiative by the European Journalism Observatory reveals that the typical recipients of Google funding are commercial legacy institutions in Western Europe. Comparatively, Google is much less generous to non-commercial journalism, writes Alexander Fanta. Only 10 percent of projects in EJO’s data set went to non-profit or public-service media. About a quarter of the funding is handed to non-publishing organizations, including start-ups that develop services for the industry. “There is no clear answer as to what Google wants to achieve with its millions of sponsorship,” writes Fanta. One long-term objective may be chasing “soft power” — the ability to shape the preferences of others — in the news industry, particularly as the company shifts from being a mere search engine to becoming a central node for the production and distribution of news.

+ Tech and ad giants sign up to the E.U.’s first “weak bite” at fake news: a voluntary Code of Practice aimed at trying to do something about the spread of disinformation online (TechCrunch)


Why Google wants search results to look like social media (Mashable)

For all its behind-the-scenes innovation, Google Search has looked more or less the same for the last 20 years: You type some words in a search box and get back a list of links. But this week Google announced a suite of updates that will fundamentally change the way we search, and how search results look and feel. The changes will seem familiar to social media users, with new features like news feeds, vertical video, photo-centric content, and, yes, Stories. In addition to the publisher-created AMP Stories, Google will now use AI to automatically create tappable Stories about specific topics, like celebrities. Not all content is suited for this photo- and video-centric format, said Google Images head Cathy Edward; but she acknowledged that we’re in the midst of a shift in content consumption habits and that, more and more, the best answer to a question is a photo or video, not “10 blue links.”


What will happen when newspapers kill print and go online-only? (Nieman Lab)

“One of the questions I’m most interested in for the near- to medium-term future is what will actually happen when print newspapers start to disappear in large numbers, whenever that may be,” writes Joshua Benton. Will devotees of print seek out their newspapers online, or will they abandon them as their attention is pulled in many directions across the internet? New research shows the likelihood of the latter scenario: Shutting down print doesn’t drive readers to print-like consumption habits on digital devices. Instead, they become a lot like other digital readers — easily distracted, flitting from link to link, and a little allergic to depth. “Leaving print is the ultimate cost-cutting,” concedes Benton. “But when that day comes — even if it helps a newspaper’s bottom line — its audience isn’t likely to follow along. And that means accepting a dramatic decline in reach, influence, and impact.”


What I wish everyone who cared about local news knew about local news (Medium, Elizabeth Green)

Proposing new business models and civic missions for local news is relatively easy, writes Elizabeth Green. Actually creating these things is more challenging and complicated. Green would know: she’s one of the co-founders of the just-launched American Journalism Project, which aims to grow local news through venture philanthropy. Her advice to those who care about local news: “Find your side project. Join the board of a community news organization. Donate to one. Volunteer your time and expertise to growing the businesses that make democracy possible. And if you want to go above and beyond supporting one CNO, donate to the membership organization that’s leading CNOs forward, the Institute for Nonprofit News.”

+ Is a new Russian meddling tactic hiding in plain sight? Fledgling news site USAReally, based in Moscow and funded by the Russian government’s Internet Research Agency, may be a part of a retooled Russian propaganda operation that is experimenting with new tactics ahead of November’s midterm elections, and testing the boundaries of what American social media companies will allow. (The New York Times)