Need to Know: September 8, 2021

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: After the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Florida groups call out Spanish-language radio shows for spreading lies (NBC News) 

But did you know: Spanish-language Covid disinformation is aimed at Latinos as delta surges (NBC News)  

Misinformation related to COVID-19 is spreading quickly through Spanish-language radio and social media, as well as on closed messaging apps. Disinformation campaigns, which downplay the effectiveness of masks while spreading conspiracy theories about vaccines, are being spread by the same groups that spread false information before the 2020 presidential election. While many of the claims echo misinformation spreading in English-language media, false information shared in closed apps like WhatsApp and Telegram can be especially dangerous, as it is harder to track. In order to combat the disinformation, progressive group Voto Latino released an ad in California, Texas and Florida that features people who have received the vaccine. 

+ Earlier: A journalist’s guide to reporting within chat apps and other semi-open platforms (Nieman Lab); How Documented debunks misinformation circulating in Latino communities in New York (American Press Institute)

+ Noted: Gannett announces launch of new premium sports subscription product, USA TODAY Sports+​​ (USA Today); The Washington Post launches “The 7,” a new daily news briefing (The Washington Post)

API UPDATE 

What does ‘fairness’ in news stories actually look like? (Medium, Trusting News) 

News consumers often say that what they’re primarily looking for in news is balance, with a focus on facts and “both sides” of a story. But that can be tricky in practice; most stories have more than two sides, and many consumers assume that journalists are deliberately highlighting certain facts while minimizing others in order to push a particular narrative. Newsrooms should strive to ask themselves whether the language used in stories and headlines is consistent and fair, and whether stories clearly delineate between straight facts and opinion or analysis. 

TRY THIS AT HOME

The Friendly State News launches low-cost trainings on public records and investigative techniques (Twitter, @JessicaHuseman) 

The Friendly State News is a program aimed at helping small newsrooms, students and freelancers learn about requesting public records and exploring investigative techniques. The goal, writes founder Jessica Huseman, is to make journalism training accessible outside of elite schools; prices for the trainings begin at $15 per person for freelancers. The interactive programs will be available from home for freelancers, and all resources shared in the sessions will be permanently accessible to all attendees. 

OFFSHORE

Reporting on conflict and insecurity, this outlet is filling a coverage gap in Nigeria (International Journalists’ Network) 

HumAngle is a digital-only news outlet in Nigeria that is focused on covering conflict and insecurity in the country and the region. Security issues caused by groups like Boko Haram can have devastating effects on everyday people, but HumAngle’s co-founder and editor-in-chief, Ahmad Salkida, says that local and regional media are not covering that impact well enough. HumAngle’s stories have focused on the human angle of internally displaced people and those living in high-conflict areas, and the outlet has incorporated a solutions journalism desk to focus on issues like food insecurity and human rights. 

OFFBEAT

Microsoft launches a personalized news service, Microsoft Start (Tech Crunch) 

Microsoft has announced Microsoft Start, a personalized news feed that will compete with news feeds from Google, Apple and Flipboard. Microsoft Start will aggregate content from news publishers and provide personalized recommendations to users as both a website and an app. Articles are hosted on Microsoft’s domain, and readers can react to stories with emojis. Users can manually add and remove interests from their feeds, and also give thumbs-up or thumbs-down ratings to articles. In time, the feed learns more about what the user wants, using “AI and machine learning, as well as human moderation.” The feed will be supported by advertising. 

UP FOR DEBATE

How the media fell for a viral hoax about ivermectin overdose straining rural hospitals (Reason) 

Last week, a story began circulating that rural hospitals in Oklahoma were overrun with patients who had overdosed on ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug that some claim can treat COVID-19. The story began with an interview with a doctor on a local television station, who talked about how overwhelmed hospitals were struggling to find room for non-COVID patients like gunshot victims, and separately mentioned that ivermectin could be dangerous and lead to overdoses. The journalist putting together the story, as well as the national media outlets and figures who picked it up, combined the two elements without fact-checking or further investigating the claims, writes Robby Soave. Soave says the story reflects many of the mainstream media’s biases about the “recklessness of the rubes.” 

+ Related: “The ivermectin story is being framed as the apocalypse of institutional media” but “many smart [people] miss the forest of vaccine denial for the tree of ivermectin b.s.,” writes Atlantic reporter Derek Thompson (Twitter, @DKThomp)

SHAREABLE

‘I didn’t feel wanted by student media’: Few Black and Latinx students are editors of top college newspapers (Nieman Lab) 

At college newsrooms across the country, Black and Latinx students are poorly represented in leadership positions. Out of 73 editors at prestigious, award-nominated publications, only 6% were Black and 11% were Latinx. At those same institutions, Black students make up 10% of the student body, while Latinx students make up 22%. Student journalists of all races said that the lack of diversity in student newsrooms made it harder for them to cover underrepresented communities. And many worry that the lack of newsroom leaders of color contributes to pipeline problems for professional journalism organizations that recruit from these colleges.