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Need to Know: September 7, 2018

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


You might have heard: 74 percent of Americans agree that the media should serve as a watchdog on government (Freedom Forum Institute)

But did you know: New report shows American voters overwhelmingly support press freedom but are missing signs it’s under threat (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)

A new report from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press found that majority of voters, 52 percent, said they did not see press freedom in the U.S. as under threat — a lack of perceived risk that was even higher among some when viewed through a partisan lens: 66 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Independents said they perceived little or no threat to the press, while just 38 percent of Democrats gave the same response. The report gives recommendations for increasing the public’s understanding of the value of a free press, one of which is “don’t make President Trump the focus” of press freedom discussions. The report data showed that when a mention of the president was added to a general message highlighting the media’s need to stand up to politicians, there was a double-digit drop in the numbers of Independents and Republicans who found it a convincing reason to defend the press. 

+ Noted: Twitter permanently suspends the accounts of Infowars and its founder Alex Jones (BuzzFeed News); Bleacher Report to launch an NFL show that aims to provide a resource for gamblers (The Wall Street Journal); Apple hires former Condé Nast executive to head its news app, signaling the company’s increasing focus on its news operation (The Information); Poll shows that a significant GOP majority fears bias in search engines (Axios)


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, how a celebrity death hoax made its way into The Washington Post; how to tell real videos from deepfakes; and can you spot Facebook posts from fake hyperpartisan accounts?

+ API is hiring a Director of Accountability Journalism to help newsrooms report on people and institutions in power


How a local Chinese-language newspaper reached new readers and built a business on WeChat (Lenfest Institute)

The Chinese messaging app WeChat has a global audience of more than 1 billion. So when the Philadelphia-based Chinese newspaper Metro Chinese Weekly wanted to expand its digital reach and attract younger readers, it turned to WeChat, creating an official account called PhillyGuide that helps businesses and brands promote themselves. The account is also used to share stories from Metro Chinese Weekly, as well as sponsored content from local, mainly Chinese-owned, businesses. In 2017, publisher Dan Tsao also created a WeChat microsite, Navigasian, a kind of hybrid between Yelp and Groupon, to connect local businesses with potential customers. In three years, the account has amassed more than 35,000 followers and enticed many advertising clients to move from the newspaper to WeChat. “Newspaper advertisements cost a lot of money but they no longer serve the purpose to our clients,” said Tsao. “We have to provide local businesses with something that works for them and the ecosystem in WeChat presents that opportunity.”


German non-profit CORRECTIV to replicate U.K. investigative journalism model (

The U.K. collaborative reporting project Bureau Local operates on a model of radical transparency, in which data and information are shared across a network of news outlets and citizen journalists. Now, the German nonprofit CORRECTIV plans to replicate that model. CORRECTIV.Lokal will focus on investigating local stories, bringing together professionals from various disciplines who will collaborate on data projects. The Bureau Local plans on documenting how the model works for their German counterpart and using the findings to encourage similar initiatives in the future. “We get a lot of requests from people and organisations that are fascinated by the Bureau Local model and want to replicate it around the world,” says Megan Lucero, director of the Bureau Local.


Google launches new search engine to help scientists find the datasets they need (The Verge)

This week Google launched a new service called Dataset Search, which will help unify the tens of thousands of different repositories for datasets online. Institutions that publish their data online, like universities and governments, will need to include metadata tags in their webpages that describe their data, including who created it, when it was published, how it was collected, and so on. The initial release of Dataset Search will cover the environmental and social sciences, government data, and datasets from news organizations like ProPublica, reports James Vincent. However, if the service becomes popular (which is likely, given the general rise of the open data movement), the amount of data it indexes should quickly snowball as institutions and scientists scramble to make their information accessible.

+ In other Google news, Google wants to kill the URL, partly because URLs are being increasingly manipulated by cyber criminals posing as legitimate entities (Wired)


How long can the Athletic grow like a tech disruptor if it reads the same as the newspapers it’s poaching from? (Slate)

Despite its astronomical growth and the fact that it has poached some of the nation’s best sportswriters, the Athletic’s user-friendly moves are already being copied by competitors, writes Aaron Gordon. Some newspapers have reduced the number of obtrusive ads to mimic the Athletic’s reading experience. The Kansas City Star and Miami Herald have started offering a sports-only subscription for $2.50 a month, a few bucks cheaper than the Athletic. It’s reasonable to suspect others might do the same. And “one has to squint awfully hard to see what stories the Athletic writers are doing that couldn’t have run at their old outlets,” writes Gordon. “The Athletic’s die-hard supporters, inside and out, have to believe its content is special. Otherwise, it’s just another sports section.”

+ Earlier: Reporter Luke DeCock is not joining the Athletic because he “still believes in newspapers and the absolutely essential role they play in the life of communities” (The News & Observer)

+ Poynter ethicist and senior vice president Kelly McBride on how The New York Times’s anonymous op-ed may change journalism (Poynter)


+ From ministry to muckraking: the biblical basis for investigative reporting, and how one reporter’s faith has made him a better journalist (ProPublica)

+ The mystery of Tucker Carlson: “If we can figure out how an intelligent writer and conservative can go from writing National Magazine Award–nominated articles to shouting about immigrants on Fox News, perhaps we can understand what is happening to this country, or at least to journalism, in 2018.” (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Judging by the cover: How the magazine industry’s identity crisis is playing out on its front page (The Ringer)

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