Need to Know: September 28, 2018

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


You might have heard: Christine Blasey Ford used The Washington Post’s confidential tip line to report her alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (Slate) 

But did you know: Some say the media ‘bullied’ Christine Blasey Ford (Columbia Journalism Review)

Opening her testimony on Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford had an important message for reporters: the media had intimidated her into coming forward. After sending a private letter about the assault to Sen. Dianne Feinstein and submitting an anonymous tip to The Washington Post, “Reporters appeared at my home and at my job demanding information about this letter,” Ford said. “They called my boss and coworkers and left me many messages, making it clear that my name would inevitably be released to the media.” Though these are normal reporting tactics, and considered an essential part of the job, the harassment and death threats Ford has faced as a result of the media attention has given many journalists pause over how they conduct their jobs, particularly when stories involve people in crisis, write Alexandria Neason and Nausicaa Renner. “We ought to be able to explain the how and why of our work — not with a knee-jerk defiant response about necessary evils, but with a measure of human decency that we’d apply in any other facet of our lives.”

+ “Reporters tracking down Christine Blasey Ford at work and home were doing their job in an ordinary way, and yet when it comes to a sexual assault survivor, it’s hard not to question whether ordinary is acceptable.” (Twitter, @irincarmon)

+ Noted: Oklahoman sells to GateHouse Media, lays off several newsroom staffers (Poynter); Federal prosecutors probe ad industry’s media-buying practices (The Wall Street Journal); CBS plans production hub in Canada to satisfy demands of peak TV (Bloomberg); WikiLeaks has a new editor-in-chief because Julian Assange has no internet access (The Verge)


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, visualizing the spread of political falsehoods; how to report responsibly on anonymous message boards; and Siri’s been suggesting fake news.

Students can help address diversity and inclusivity in news — here’s one opportunity happening soon

API is partnering with West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media Innovation Center and Morgan State University’s College of Global Journalism and Communication for their “social hackathon” event, “Missing Voices: Diversifying the News.” To be held Oct. 26 and 27 in Morgantown, W. Va., the event will bring together students from different universities to work with journalists on identifying opportunities to increase diversity and inclusivity in news. The effort will in part build off lessons surfaced in our “Creating a Culture of Listening” summit and report. Students and journalists interested in attending the event can register here.


How being open about your financials can help grow your reader-funded publication (Medium, Ernst Pfauth)

Focusing on the needs of readers instead of advertisers can be liberating, writes Ernst Pfauth, but it’s also a business model that comes with new responsibilities. Pfauth is co-founder and CEO of The Correspondent, a membership-based, ad-free news platform. “When members fund your business, they want to know how you’ve invested their money. That’s why, every year, we lay out our finances to our members in a financial report.” The report breaks down expenses and revenue, and explains how business decisions will impact members. Sharing financials shows readers that we can’t do this without them, writes Pfauth, and makes them aware of what quality journalism actually costs. And there’s a clear bonus: “If readers like and trust our business choices, they are more likely to either become a member or renew their membership.”  


Indonesian government to hold weekly ‘fake news’ briefings (The Guardian)

Indonesia’s communications ministry has announced plans to hold weekly briefings on fake news, in an effort to educate the public about the spread of disinformation in the world’s third-largest democracy, reports Kate Lamb. The initiative would be kicked off as soon as possible, said communications minister Rudiantara, and fake news stories — known locally as “hoax” news or “black campaigns” — would be accompanied by factual explanations. “The ministry will not just stamp a story as hoax, but we will also provide facts,” said Rudiantara. In Indonesia, which has one of the highest rates of Facebook and Twitter usage among its citizens, fake news is regularly spread on social networks to fan existing social, ethnic and religious divisions for political gain; and government officials fear the problem will worsen dramatically in the lead-up to the presidential elections in April.

+ In Canadian cities, the number of newspaper stories published each day has been cut in half in the last decade (Nieman Lab); Australian Broadcasting Corporation chairman resigns amid accusations that he interfered in the broadcaster’s editorial independence (ABC)


As machines replace people, what’s a human to do? Become a lifelong learner (Poynter)

The world is headed into an era where machines will replace minds, says Allen Blue, co-founder and vice president of product management at LinkedIn. Within a generation, at least 10 percent (some estimates say as much as 40 percent) of existing jobs will have been replaced by machines. Many experts say that soft skills, especially competencies like collaboration and effective planning, are the least replaceable. Another tactic for staying one step ahead is becoming a lifelong learner, says Blue. A sense of “How do I teach myself something new?” is crucial. “If you don’t have that internal drive, if you don’t have an idea of how to find the resources and good information,” you’re not going to make it, he says.


Biased news media or biased readers? An experiment on trust (The New York Times)

Research shows that Americans are increasingly distrustful about potentially biased news. But they should also worry about the partiality of their own judgment as well as how their news consumption habits may affect it, writes Jonathan Rothwell. A new study shows that consumers’ biases distort their perception of news content, and those who are most distrustful of the news media tend to be the most biased readers. The evidence also suggests that people are at greater risk of bias if they habitually turn to more extreme sources.


Local news publishing is still adapting to the internet as a news medium, with the largest local media sector — community weeklies — lagging behind the rest (Columbia Journalism Review)

New research from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism shows how well (or poorly, depending on how you look at it) local media has adapted to the internet age. “For many publishers, the internet is like an ill-fitting suit: functional, but not made for them,” writes Jesse Holcomb. Among the key findings: about one in 10 local news outlets do not have a website, although the vast majority of those that do offer a mobile browsing experience that is optimized for small screens. Websites continue to be slow-loading, however; a problem that risks losing audiences. About eight in 10 local news outlets have a Facebook profile. And overall, a slight majority of local news outlets (57 percent) offer an online pathway to subscription, donation or membership (although this varies drastically by sector, with newspapers much more likely to do so than broadcasters, for example).


+ “It was perhaps the most expensive moral stand in history”: Why WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton walked away from Facebook, leaving $850 million on the table (Forbes)

+ “I could be doing this all day.” Trump delights in sparring with the press: “Sometime after he doubted the character of George Washington (‘Didn’t he have a couple things in his past?’), urged a wire-service reporter to ask a tough question (‘Give it to me, Reuters!’) and referred to a Kurdish correspondent as ‘Mr. Kurd,’ President Trump paused to directly address the dozens of journalists who had gathered for a rare solo news conference. ‘Can you imagine,’ he said, ‘if you didn’t have me?’” (The New York Times)

+ Billionaires, buyouts, and a newspaper empire in the balance: The continuing saga of Tronc (The Ringer)