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Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cristiano Ronaldo and Emmanuel Macron didn’t fact-check before posting images about the Amazon fires

Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Emmanuel Macron and Gisele Bundchen made the same (and, unfortunately, very common) mistake on Thursday: They didn’t fact-check an image before posting it on social media. And the consequence was brutal. They generated an international wave of disinformation around fires in the Amazon region — a crisis that was already […]
Posted: August 23, 2019, 7:27 pm

The proper way to use the terms ‘cyclist’ and ‘biker’

Here are some mind twisters for a summer’s day: If you ride a “bicycle,” your vehicle might also be called a “bike.” You might be called a “biker,” a “bicyclist,” or a “cyclist.” If you ride a “motorcycle,” your vehicle might also be called a “bike,” and you might be called a “biker.” That’s true […]
Posted: August 23, 2019, 3:39 pm

Sarah Sanders joins Fox News, while NAHJ brushes them off, and Verlander throws a brushback

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Happy Friday. Shocking news to start the day. That’s sarcasm. There’s nothing shocking about the big media news to close out the week. This will come as news to no one — kind of like the White House briefing […]
Posted: August 23, 2019, 12:48 pm

Jay Inslee’s out, but let’s keep climate in

On March 1, at the headquarters of a solar-panel company in Seattle, Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, jumped into the Democratic presidential primary as a climate-focused candidate. The following week, amid a flurry of interviews, Inslee went on Rachel Maddow’s show, on MSNBC, to make the case for prioritizing the climate crisis: “This is an economic issue, it’s a health issue… it’s a national security issue,” he said. On Wednesday, Inslee was back on Maddow to announce that he’s dropping out of the race. “I’m not going to be the president,” he said. Still, Inslee remains optimistic about the impact of his bid. “I think we have set the stage for a genuine debate about climate change,” he said in an interview with New York’s David Wallace-Wells. “It was a significant achievement to get this on the country’s radar screen.”

That cheerfulness may be misplaced. Multiple polls have shown climate to be a top concern for Democratic voters, yet so far in the campaigns the climate has been overshadowed by Trump, the economy, racism, and the horse race itself. Climate was notably downplayed during the first and second rounds of debates; during one, in July, CNN’s moderators only got to a climate question halfway through, right after a lengthy conversation about electability. During Inslee’s first debate performance, he got less speaking time than any other candidate, and failed to use the time he did have to drag the focus to the climate crisis. He performed better in the second debate, but it was too late for a breakthrough. Cable news channels barely mentioned his candidacy.

ICYMI: Between immigration authorities and the people they target

Still, many observers—including David Roberts, of Vox, and Brian Kahn, of Earther—credit Inslee’s campaign with making an outsize impact: he managed to attract climate-focused coverage in The New Yorker; The New York Times, and other prominent publications that have scarcely reported on other low-polling candidates. The fact of his campaign forced higher-profile rivals to finetune their climate policies and encouraged journalists to assess candidates on those terms. HuffPost’s Alexander C. Kaufman wrote on Wednesday: “His emphasis on the climate crisis made it impossible for his competitors to deploy lackluster talking points such as recommitting to the Paris agreement or putting a price on carbon emissions.”

Inslee’s most important contribution to media coverage was his advocacy, early this summer, for a presidential debate focused solely on climate change. The Democratic National Committee said no, but Inslee’s push continued to gain momentum. At least 10 other candidates signed on to the idea, as did outside groups; one, the Sunrise Movement, organized a protest outside DNC headquarters.

The DNC has stayed firm, and just yesterday, it voted down a motion that would have allowed candidates to appear at an independent climate debate. But major networks have heeded the call that Inslee amplified. Next month, CNN will host at least 10 candidates back to back at a climate-focused town hall. And MSNBC, in collaboration with Georgetown University and Our Daily Planet, an environmental news site, will host a climate forum across multiple days, with each candidate who takes part promised an hour of airtime.

These fora will help. But without Inslee in the race, it will be up to journalists to ask candidates their plans for confronting the climate crisis, press for specifics, and help persuade the DNC to approve a full climate debate in prime time. “I think we truly need a climate-centered debate,” Inslee told Maddow. “This is a complex issue. This involves mobilizing the entire United States economy. And you really can’t do that in just 60 seconds.”

Below, more on the climate crisis, and the 2020 race:

  • Covering Climate Now: Writing for CJR in June, Jason Plautz spoke to environmental journalists about the benefits of a climate debate. In partnership with The Nation and The Guardian, CJR is leading Covering Climate Now, a major initiative to increase the visibility of the climate crisis in media. So far, more than 100 outlets from around the world have signed on. You can get involved here.
  • #PrayForTheAmazon: The Amazon is burning. Its good health, Terrence McCoy writes for The Washington Post, is essential to curbing global warming—the Amazon “serves as the lungs of the planet, accounting for a quarter of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the world’s forests”—yet Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, has dismissed the problem and weakened regulations. Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the Group of 7 nations in France this weekend, has called for the Amazon crisis to be at the top of the agenda.
  • Closer to home: Major wildfires are burning, too, in Alaska. Mike Dunleavy, the state’s governor, a Republican, instructed residents to “stay tuned to your radio” for updates. That’s tough, since, he also cut $2.7 million from the budgets of Alaska’s public media. KTUU has more.
  • The state of the race: Inslee was the third candidate to drop out of the Democratic primary, following Eric Swalwell, a California Congressman, and John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado. (Inslee will now run for reelection as governor of Washington.) So far, only 10 candidates have qualified for the third round of debates, on ABC News; currently, that means we’ll only see one debate night, though a second will be added if more candidates qualify. On the Republican side, Joe Walsh, a radio-show host and former Congressman, could announce a primary challenge to Trump as soon as this weekend.


Other notable stories:

ICYMI: Can music journalism transcend its access problem?

Posted: August 23, 2019, 12:09 pm

Syria’s teen documentarian

Around Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Muhammad Najem, age 16, is known as the “Little Journalist.” He grew up there, in the village of Arbin, where conflict was a constant: In 2013, Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, launched a chemical-weapons attack on Eastern Ghouta that claimed more than 1,400 lives. One day in September 2015, […]
Posted: August 23, 2019, 10:50 am

IFCN chooses two fellows: one to study a fact check’s circle of life and the other to dive into an innovative membership model

In its fourth iteration, the International Fact-Checking Network’s (IFCN) Fellowship Program will support research led by two women — one from Kenya and one from the United States. With a grant of $2,500, Soila Kenya from Pesa Check will depart from Nairobi to London in the upcoming weeks to spend some time with Full Fact’s […]
Posted: August 23, 2019, 10:45 am

Podcast: After Reuters—Myanmar’s other reporters

Swe Win, the editor of Myanmar Now, a bilingual investigative-news website, was sued for defamation in Mandalay two years ago. His crime? Posting on Facebook about his site’s coverage of an extremist monk’s support of an assasination. This week, Kyle Pope, CJR’s editor and publisher, and E. Tammy Kim, a freelance reporter and essayist, discuss […]
Posted: August 22, 2019, 7:05 pm

Between immigration authorities and the people they target

Early on the morning of Sunday, July 14, as immigration raids threatened by President Trump⁠ were set to begin across the country, many reporters in Atlanta monitored their principal source of information for raids: Mario Guevara’s Facebook feed. For years, Guevara—the senior immigration and crime reporter for Mundo Hispánico, a Spanish-language newspaper in the city—has […]
Posted: August 22, 2019, 4:05 pm

Three years into nonprofit ownership, The Philadelphia Inquirer is still trying to chart its future

The Philadelphia Inquirer is trying to both build and be the local newsroom of the future — at the same time. The Inquirer was once arguably the nation’s premier metro daily, with a 700-strong newsroom, bureaus around the world, and a run of 17 Pulitzer Prizes in 18 years. But it suffered through a miserable...
Posted: August 22, 2019, 1:44 pm

People avoid consuming news that bums them out. Here are five elements that help them see a solution

More often than not, the news sucks. It’s depressing and disappointing (but hey, so is real life sometimes), and it’s clear that the negative Nellie Blys of the world help push away potential news consumers who can now easily scroll away from a scary headline or recoil from TV news airing in public. Almost a...
Posted: August 22, 2019, 1:26 pm

It’s Trump vs. everyone, plus Sean Spicer dancing onto ABC and Jill Abramson’s praise

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Another day, another attack on the press by President Donald Trump. Good Thursday to you. Lots of cover today, and we start with a confrontation outside the White House. Trump v. NBC … and CNN …  and NYT … President […]
Posted: August 22, 2019, 1:22 pm

‘Teamwork is a way to keep fact-checkers accountable’ —  and other wisdom from PolitiFact’s editor

“The best fact-checking is a team effort.” This is the short — and straight to the point — message Angie Drobnic Holan wants to share with the fact-checking community this Thursday when PolitiFact turns 12 years old. Holan woke up wanting to celebrate the anniversary by emphasizing the role her team plays in one of […]
Posted: August 22, 2019, 12:00 pm

Facebook tries to rewrite the past by hiring journalists again

Journalists who cover Facebook get used to a sense of deja vu. The social networking behemoth often tends to revisit things it has tried to do once—or even multiple times—in the past. The company says that’s because it is committed to “iterating” (as tech founders like to call it), which means trying the same thing over and over until it comes out right. The idea of employing journalists to curate the news definitely falls into that category. Facebook has said it is planning to roll out a new standalone tab for news, for which it is cutting lucrative deals with a number of leading publishers like The New York Times and Washington Post. And it is also hiring a handful of professional editors to curate the top headlines. But will the social network manage to make this unlikely marriage of humans and algorithms work any better than it did the last time?

Facebook’s previous attempt to curate the news turned into a fiasco. The company hired editors to help select some headlines for its mostly automated “trending topics” feature, which began in 2014 as an attempt to compete with Twitter as a breaking news platform. All seemed to be going well, until Gizmodo ran a story in 2016 that quoted some of the company’s hired editors admitting that they often deliberately excluded some conservative websites from the trending topics lineup. The truth of the matter turned out to be much more nuanced than the headline portrayed it (as even the editor of the piece later admitted), but the damage was done. Conservatives soon howled that Facebook was biased against them, and the company scrambled to apologize and make amends. The human editors were fired, and eventually the feature was shut down completely.

This was arguably the genesis of the long-standing conspiracy theory that Facebook is biased against conservatives, something that has been raised time and time again by pundits—not to mention the White House and Congress—despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence to support it (and in fact significant evidence to the contrary). The idea of a separate news tab has also been tried before, although in a slightly different way. In 2018, Facebook ran an experiment in six countries in which it removed news from the News Feed completely, and put it all in a separate tab called Explore. This also failed miserably, as several Facebook executives admitted, and eventually the experiment was scrapped. “People don’t want two separate feeds,” said Adam Mosseri, who at the time was in charge of the News Feed. One big problem with the tab: virtually no one ever went there, which left news publishers concerned about the impact on their traffic.

Related: The 1619 Project and the stories we tell about slavery

So what’s different this time? For one thing, the company says news will continue to appear in the regular News Feed, as well as in the new tab. The new location will also be prominently featured, and presumably will also be highlighted and recommended by the News Feed algorithm. The company claims it has learned from the Trending Topics affair, and is looking to hire professional journalists rather than freelancers with little industry experience (a description that some of the previous round of curators dispute). In any case, this is likely to do little to assuage critics who are eager to play the bias card, of course, and the fact that Facebook is paying a select group of outlets could actually make it worse instead of better. The list of who makes the cut and who doesn’t will no doubt be pored over for evidence of bias and favoritism.

The Trending Topics debacle may have been a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, but one of the main ripple effects was that Facebook showed itself to be highly vulnerable to those who try to “work the refs,” as some call the lobbying and pressure tactics by conservative groups, to the point where the company seemed to be bending over backwards to appease the right wing. Whether it will do any better this time around is an open question.

Here’s more on Facebook, the news, and conservative bias:

  • Short on facts: After repeated complaints about Facebook’s alleged bias, the company agreed to let former Senator John Kyl conduct a “bias audit,” the details of which were released this week. Casey Newton of The Verge says the report is “long on feelings and short on facts.” Critics of the effort point out that it is based on interviews with 133 conservative individuals and groups, which makes it feel more like a list of grievances than a scientific audit.
  • Forced integration: Emily Bell, the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia, wrote for CJR about Facebook’s proposal to pay media outlets for their news. The offer highlights the fact that “the slow, forced integration of news into large tech companies continues,” she wrote. “Will news outlets be able to resist the allure of additional funding from Facebook?”
  • Check please: Meanwhile, as part of its ongoing shift towards longer-form video, Facebook continues to pay media companies to produce shows for its Watch video feature. According to Axios, the company is funding two new shows from BuzzFeed, part of an estimated $90 million or so the social network has committed to spent on shows produced by a number of outlets.

Other notable stories:

  • Lewis Raven Wallace writes for Nieman Reports about how trans journalists are challenging newsrooms. “We are asking journalism leaders to confront the structural barriers that make it hard for trans people, particularly trans people of color, to enter and remain in the industry,” Wallace writes. While the number of trans journalists has increased, there are still few in leadership positions.
  • Last week, MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito apologized for taking money from Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in jail after being arrested on charges of sex trafficking. Shortly afterward Media Lab veteran Ethan Zuckerman said he was resigning over the issue. On Wednesday, researcher Nathan Matias, said he is also resigning as a result of the revelations.
  • Jeremy Gordon writes for CJR about whether music journalism will be able to overcome its access problem. Access-driven writing is “increasingly repetitive and less revelatory than it ever has been,” Gordon writes. More and more media outlets that are pressed for time and resources are running interviews and profiles taken from the same homogenous pool of artists, and criticism is “incentivized by the same celebrity model,” says Gordon.
  • Game Informer, one of the largest-circulation magazines in the US, has abruptly laid off almost half of its editorial staff. The magazine is published by GameStop, a chain of video-game stores that has been struggling financially. The company laid off more than a hundred employees on Tuesday, including seven of the magazine’s editors.
  • Bloomberg writes about The Athletic, the fast-growing, sports-journalism startup that says it now has over 600,000 subscribers paying an average of $64 a year, and expects to end the year with more than a million. The company now has about 400 editorial staffers, and recently hired away several top sports journalists from a number of British outlets. It has yet to make a profit.
  • In 2016, Breitbart News was cut off by digital advertising network AppNexus because the company’s CEO said he could no longer stomach serving ads on the right-wing site next to anti-immigration screeds and other hate speech. But now The Verge reports that AT&T, which acquired AppNexus last year, has reinstated Breitbart. The site “inquired how it could return to our platform, satisfied our requirements, and is reinstated,” said a representative.
  • Han Zhang writes for The New Yorker about College Daily, a fast-growing online news site aimed at Chinese college students in the US. The site’s articles often get more than a million pageviews, Zhang says, thanks to being widely shared on WeChat, the popular Chinese social networking app. But the College Daily newsroom also has a host of rules for its writers, including a ban on terms like Dalai Lama and Falun Gong (a banned religious group), and its coverage of the protests in Hong Kong expresses support for the police.
  • James Poniewozik of the Times writes about former White House press secretary Sean Spicer joining the cast of the TV show Dancing With the Stars, and how it’s a depressing example of the ease with which even professional liars like Spicer can rehabilitate their image thanks to the power of network television. “To treat Spicer, and his reason for notoriety, as a harmless joke is to whitewash the harm of what he did,” writes the Times critic.
  • Kyle Chayka writes for The Nation about former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s latest media venture, a weekly subscription email newsletter known as Air Mail. Chayka calls it “a newsletter for the rich and boring,” and “an exercise in misplaced nostalgia for the heyday of glossy magazines.” The newsletter tries hard to recapture some of the glory days of mag publishing, Chayka says, but its tone is “labored and humorless” rather than ironic.

ICYMI: Why federal prisons like the one where Epstein was held aren’t held accountable

Posted: August 22, 2019, 11:46 am

Fact-checkers in Kashmir: What they saw (and felt)

This story has been updated. When Shadab Moizee, a senior correspondent for the Indian website The Quint, arrived in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, all the communication systems were down. There were no taxis, shops were closed and the streets were flooded with security forces. Once he reached his hotel, the administration […]
Posted: August 22, 2019, 11:45 am

Recession watch: Does anyone know what they’re talking about?

A recession is coming, according to every outlet that covers the economy. Finance reporters are watching the trade war between the United States and China. They’re fretting over last week’s 800-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which marked the worst day of 2019. They’re monitoring higher budget deficits and an inverted yield curve. […]
Posted: August 22, 2019, 10:50 am

The Boston Globe continues its regional expansion experiment, with students in a suburb

Earlier this summer, The Boston Globe officially launched its new section focused on Rhode Island after poaching three veteran reporters there. “This is in many ways kind of a digital-age version of what we did many years ago in the suburbs,” Globe editor Brian McGrory told me in June. But now “you don’t have to...
Posted: August 21, 2019, 7:15 pm

The biggest spender on pro-Trump Facebook ads (besides his campaign) “straddles the line between an ultraconservative news outlet and a conspiracy warehouse”

We at Nieman Lab have gotten the question from readers several times: What exactly is The Epoch Times? It publishes in more than 20 languages, including Slovak, Hebrew, and Ukrainian; it’s attached (or not attached?) to the Falun Gong movement and banned in China; it really seems to like Donald Trump. And it has free...
Posted: August 21, 2019, 4:03 pm

How trans journalists are challenging — and changing — journalism

Kate Sosin and Nico Lang landed in Anchorage in March 2018 and got into a Lyft to their hotel. The Lyft driver asked what the pair was doing in town. “I was stupid enough to say, ‘Oh, we’re reporters,’” Sosin recalls. They told the driver they were there to report on Proposition 1, which would have required...
Posted: August 21, 2019, 3:17 pm

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

IN THIS WEEK’S LOWERCASE… Pitcher Bartolo Colón makes for a funny headline. Via Reddit My nominee for worst Catholic newspaper typo of the year. pic.twitter.com/dGUzNnhZ9U — Matt Franck (@MatthewJFranck) August 21, 2016 A team of people were paid to produce this pic.twitter.com/yE8G5yZWFc — Christian Borys (@ItsBorys) July 19, 2019 ICYMI: Chuck Todd has a basic […]
Posted: August 21, 2019, 1:00 pm

Unpacking The New York Times’s multitudes

It’s been a difficult few weeks for The New York Times. A little over a month ago, the paper, along with many of its rivals, was called out for its euphemistic descriptions of Trump’s racist tweets. Three weeks later, after a gunman in El Paso killed 22 people in an anti-Latino massacre, the Times became a lightning rod for criticism; it had topped its story about the president’s post-shooting speech with a headline—“Trump urges unity vs. racism”—that was sorely lacking in context and skepticism. Last Monday, Dean Baquet, the Times executive editor, convened a town-hall meeting for staff and addressed the headline, which, he conceded, had been “a fucking mess.” A simultaneous scandal around Jonathan Weisman, a deputy Washington editor, and his tweets about Democratic politicians of color, exacerbated tensions within—and external scrutiny of—the newsroom. Last Tuesday, the Times demoted Weisman. On Thursday, Slate’s Ashley Feinberg published a transcript of the town hall, further prolonging a critical Times-centric news cycle.

Ironically, while last week’s town-hall and Weisman drama played out, the Times was earning rave reviews on a related front. Last Tuesday, the Times Magazine launched its 1619 Project, a sprawling initiative that aims to reframe America’s origin story around the arrival, 400 years ago, of the first African slaves in Virginia. On Sunday, the package dropped in print; Twitter—which, 10 days earlier, had rung with subscriber threats to drop the paper over its inadequate coverage of race—suddenly filled with readers’ proud snaps of the 1619 pullout. Still, the day did not pass without complaint: critics assailed the paper for a headline, on A1 of the same edition, that they said romanticized Stephen Miller, Trump’s hardline anti-immigration adviser, by referring to him as a “young firebrand.” It all felt rather contradictory. One critic, the writer John Warner, tweeted, “The NYTimes truly contains multitudes.”

Related: The 1619 Project and the stories we tell about slavery

The Times does contain multitudes. Headlines are not stories; A1 is not the magazine is not the opinion section. Some critics on the right, however, see no such contradictions—the Times, they say, is pursuing a calculated, unified agenda to paint Trump as a racist. Several conservative commentators took remarks made by Baquet at the town hall—in particular, that the Times is pivoting from the Trump-Russia story to “a more head-on story about the president’s character”—as evidence of a shifting smear campaign. Amid a flurry of furious tweets, US Sen. Ted Cruz compared the paper to Pravda; on Monday, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, also invoked Pravda, in a Fox & Friends discussion about the 1619 Project. Also on Fox, host Greg Gutfeld said the Times is “creating a framework to shape the news, to lay out a blueprint so you can just slot in all the stories about race.” Referring to the “slave article,” Gutfeld said, “I didn’t read it, but now my assumptions are this is all part of a greater narrative to paint Donald Trump as racist.”

Contemporary racism, including from the president, and the legacies of slavery are part of a connected narrative—just not in the way such critics think. In fact, it’s the disconnect in the Times’s treatment of the two that is particularly instructive: the 1619 Project is powerful because of its unflinching truth-telling, whereas some coverage of Trump’s words, in particular, seems to pull punches. The Times, which always courts outsized attention from media critics, is not a lone offender here, and Baquet’s editorial philosophy, as articulated at length at the town hall, is nuanced and worth reading in full. The paper does seem, however, to be overly concerned with perception. Baquet told staff that words like “racist” and “lie” lose their power when they’re repeated too often. But what if the truth requires repeating them?

Similarly, Baquet has stressed repeatedly, both internally and in interviews (including with CJR), that it’s not the Times’s job to lead the “opposition,” or the “resistance.” But there’s a difference between adversarial reporting on those in power—which is the proper function of a paper like the Times—and political opposition for opposition’s sake.

The Times attracts so much scrutiny because—arguably more than any other outlet—it sets the national news agenda. Agenda-setting power is inextricable from allegations of political bias. The best thing for a newspaper to do is wield that power with the confidence that it’s telling unvarnished truths; second-guessing public perception obscures those truths. As Feinberg wrote of the town hall, “The problem for the Times is not whether it can navigate social-media controversies or satisfy an appetite for #resistance-based outrage, both of which it can tell itself are not a newspaper’s job to do. It’s whether it has the tools to make sense of the world.”

Making sense of the present and making sense of the past are two sides of the same endeavor; as Hannah-Jones put it, the 1619 Project “is, above all, an attempt to set the record straight. To finally, in this 400th year, tell the truth about who we are as a people and who we are as a nation.” When future historians judge this moment, and our coverage of it, will they think we told the whole, difficult truth about it?

Below, more on the Times:

  • A high standard, I: At the height of The Headline furor, Gabriel Snyder, CJR’s public editor for the Times, spoke with Baquet; “People think we are an important and necessary institution and they hold us to a high standard,” Baquet said. Last week, CJR’s Alexandria Neason reported from the launch of the 1619 Project.
  • A high standard, II: Jay Rosen, a professor at NYU, responded to The Headline and the subsequent town hall. “It has always struck me that while the people at The New York Times consider it the apex of journalism, the highest the ladder of excellence goes, they have not extended that reputation for quality to the acts of listening, receiving criticism, sorting signal from noise, and changing their work,” he writes. “‘We are not the resistance’ is a crappy read on what people are trying to tell you. But this is one area where mediocrity and worse—incompetence—is tolerated at the Times.”
  • Faultlines: Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo hears that, within the Times newsroom, views on The Headline mostly differed along generational lines. Sources told Pompeo that there’s also “a growing sense of disillusionment among prominent female Times journalists who have been huddling to hash out their concerns, including a string of high-ranking women leaving the institution for other publications where they ‘could have more power.’”


Other notable stories:

  • Facebook will hire human journalists to help curate a “News Tab” that will soon appear in its app, the Times’s Mike Isaac reports. The company is asking for candidates with five years of relevant work experience, but their role will likely be limited: NBC’s Dylan Byers writes that while “the top stories and breaking news items of the day will be selected by humans… the rest of the content will be determined algorithmically based on user data and preferences. These editors will only select stories and link back to the original sources. They will not edit headlines or stories or write their own content.” Also yesterday, Facebook released a summary of an “audit,” led by Jon Kyl, a former Republican senator, of allegations that the platform is biased against conservatives.
  • NBC’s Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins profile The Epoch Times, a burgeoning website that boasts one of the biggest social media followings of any news outlet, and has spent more money on pro-Trump Facebook ads than any group outside of the Trump campaign. “The Epoch Times looks like many of the conservative outlets that have gained followings in recent years. But it isn’t,” Zadrozny and Collins write. “Behind the scenes, the media outlet’s ownership and operation is closely tied to Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual community with the stated goal of taking down China’s government.”
  • For CJR, Simon Parkin writes that news outlets are using interactive games to tell the climate-crisis story. “In the case of climate change, it’s hard to tell a story about infrastructural changes, or cascading ecological effects, or nonlinear phenomena,” Paolo Perdicini, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art, says. “Games, by virtue of being dynamic and complex systems, have the potential to make us think about complexity.”
  • Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show still draws a large audience; nonetheless, following a string of controversies, advertisers are fleeing, the Times’s Tiffany Hsu reports. Big companies pulled ads from Carlson’s show in December, after he said that immigrants make America “poorer and dirtier and more divided,” and in March, after Media Matters for America dug up incriminating past remarks by Carlson. More recently, after Carlson called white supremacy a “hoax,” smaller firms, such as Calm and SoFi, jumped ship, too. Axios’s Sara Fischer writes that the Trump era has seen a rise in “advertising activism.”
  • Recently, C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia, axed the column of Molly Conger, an independent journalist in the city; Conger had received what she calls an “empty” legal threat after mentioning a photograph of a police officer whose arm was around a white supremacist. Now Conger writes for The Guardian that she’s “surprised the paper’s owners reacted with such incredible cowardice.” (In 2018, CJR’s Brendan Fitzgerald looked at Charlottesville’s media a year after the deadly Unite the Right rally.)
  • For this week’s New Yorker, Susan Glasser profiled Mike Pompeo, the secretary of State. The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan says the article ignored Pompeo’s “well-documented bigotry toward Islam and Muslims—in fact, neither word even makes an appearance in the piece.” Hasan asks of the liberal media: “Why doesn’t rising anti-Muslim bigotry bother them in the same way as, say, anti-Semitism, homophobia, or anti-black racism?”
  • Last week, Joi Ito, the director of MIT’s Media Lab, apologized for courting donations from Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who killed himself in jail last week. Now The Boston Globe reports that Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media, plans to resign over the organization’s Epstein ties. “I no longer feel I can continue working on issues of social justice under the banner of the Media Lab,” he said.
  • And in Canada, the government of Quebec will make a $5-million loan to help a heavily indebted French-language newspaper chain stay afloat. Per the Montreal Gazette, the money will keep the papers in business until the end of the year, in the hope that they can find buyers before then.

ICYMI: Why federal prisons like the one where Epstein was held aren’t held accountable

Posted: August 21, 2019, 12:01 pm

Live from Tehran, it’s Lester Holt, plus The Athletic’s finances and GateHouse’s law enforcement bylines

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Good Wednesday to you. I had a chance to exchange emails with “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt on Tuesday about his trip to Iran earlier this week. That’s where we’ll start. Live from Tehran, it’s Lester Holt Just […]
Posted: August 21, 2019, 11:00 am

Can music journalism transcend its access problem?

A music writer’s job is easily romanticized: Imagine getting paid to listen to music, that most universal, immediately resonant, and cool-conferring of art forms. Sure, modern writers spend just as much time clearing their inbox as they do panning for aural gold, but that’s a small price to pay for hearing new records ahead of […]
Posted: August 21, 2019, 10:55 am

False images and videos about Open Arms show that not even a ‘full humanitarian crisis’ in the Mediterranean can stop misinformation

For almost 20 days, a vessel with more than 100 migrants on board has been stranded off the coast of Italy, waiting for Vice Prime Minister’s Matteo Salvini’s authorization for it to dock in the country. The right-wing Italian government, however, keeps denying that authorization. Italian ports are closed. Operated by a Spanish search-and-rescue team, […]
Posted: August 21, 2019, 10:45 am

Facebook is trying again with journalists for curating its news content

The journalists are back. For now. In the latest update on the coming-this-fall news tab, which will also include payments to publishers for licensing their content, Facebook will be bringing back its human-moderating style. The original system infamously flamed out in the aftermath of a head-scratching Gizmodo article in 2016 about conservative “suppression” that wasn’t...
Posted: August 20, 2019, 5:11 pm

Open or closed: Who will control the paid-podcast experience, podcasters or tech companies?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 222, dated August 20, 2019 PodPass: Open vs. closed. It’s becoming increasingly common to monetize podcasts via a direct connection with listeners, whether via merchandise, donations, live events, or bonus or ad-free content. Big networks and publishers are doing it (e.g., Wondery Plus, Stitcher...
Posted: August 20, 2019, 2:54 pm

So Youngstown will have a daily named The Vindicator after all. But it’s a brand surviving, not a newspaper.

In June, The Vindicator, the daily newspaper of Youngstown, Ohio, announced it would be shutting down, with its final edition scheduled for Aug. 31. It had been losing money for ages, and the family that owns it had been unable to find a buyer among the national newspaper chains. The idea of a city the...
Posted: August 19, 2019, 7:27 pm

Maybe you know that article is satire, but a lot of people can’t tell the difference

In July, the website Snopes published a piece fact-checking a story posted on The Babylon Bee, a popular satirical news site with a conservative bent. Conservative columnist David French criticized Snopes for debunking what was, in his view, “obvious satire. Obvious.” A few days later, Fox News ran a segment featuring The Bee’s incredulous CEO....
Posted: August 19, 2019, 3:08 pm

This reporter came for ER bills (with the help of 1,000-plus patients), and now doctors are listening

Doesn’t sorting through dozens, hundreds, thousands of hospital bills sound fun — especially when they’re not even your own? If your definition of fun is journalism, then yes. Over a year and a half, then-Vox senior editor Sarah Kliff (she joined The New York Times as an investigative reporter in June) went through 1,000-plus bills...
Posted: August 19, 2019, 12:23 pm

When it comes to the consolidation of local news companies, American worry a lot more about political bias than about newsroom cutbacks

Remember the (legitimate) spook that Deadspin video stitching together local Sinclair anchors around the country introduced? From creator Timothy Burke’s explanation: It was just a strange, spooky thing that happened, cut together in an attempt to play the strangeness and spookiness up…. Absent any background on media consolidation in this country, nor knowledge of what...
Posted: August 16, 2019, 3:40 pm

Don’t click this: When should news organizations use “nofollow” links?

Should news organizations use “nofollow” links? In June, The New York Times wrote about a fake Joe Biden site that had become the most popular website about the Democratic presidential candidate. It was actually the creation of two Republican political consultants, not Biden’s campaign. “Links from established media websites are weighted heavily by search engines....
Posted: August 16, 2019, 2:43 pm

One potential route to flagging fake news at scale: Linguistic analysis

Have you ever read something online and shared it among your networks, only to find out it was false? As a software engineer and computational linguist who spends most of her work (and even leisure) hours in front of a computer screen, I’m concerned about what I read online. In the age of social media,...
Posted: August 16, 2019, 1:50 pm

Finally, Instagram is getting fact-checked (in a limited way and just in the U.S., for now)

Facebook is expanding the third-party fact-checking program that it launched on its own platform in 2016 to Instagram — something that many who watch the space have advocated for awhile. Facebook has owned Instagram for seven years; this is an expansion of a trial that began in May. “The potential to prevent harm is high...
Posted: August 15, 2019, 4:05 pm

America’s largest union of journalists is doing a rewrite of its leadership election

A little-noticed announcement this week could have a significant impact on the future of labor and unionization in newsrooms across the United States and Canada. The announcement came from the NewsGuild, known until 2015 as the Newspaper Guild, and for the better part of a century the most important union representing journalists and other news...
Posted: August 14, 2019, 6:13 pm

Americans with less education are more likely to say that local news is important to them (and to get it from TV)

Some groups of Americans value local news more than others: People over 50, black Americans, and Americans with a high school education or less are more likely than other groups to say that they follow local news “very closely,” and they prefer getting that news from TV rather than online, according to research Pew published...
Posted: August 14, 2019, 2:00 pm

In Australia, a new government policy adds protections for journalists, but leaves whistleblowers out in the cold (and leaves plenty of questions)

Back in June, Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the headquarters of the country’s main public broadcaster, the ABC, to search for information on who leaked documents alleging misconduct by Australian special forces to ABC journalists back in 2017. That was one of several police actions against journalists that brought forward the issue of Australian press...
Posted: August 13, 2019, 3:07 pm

Who works best in a revenue development role? Here’s what these local news organizations have found

Folks, it happened: The key to sustainable local news has been discovered. And it involves making money. Spoiler alert: It’s all about making money, and that takes having people whose job descriptions are specifically devoted to that task — along with tying the money-generating to the journalistic mission. And okay, maybe they haven’t found the...
Posted: August 13, 2019, 1:55 pm

Tighten up that paywall! (And some other lessons from a study of 500 newspaper publishers)

When The New York Times first launched its paywall back in 2011, it offered readers 20 free stories a month. A little over eight years later, that figure seems crazy generous — today you can read just five free Times stories a month before being asked to pay — and where the Times goes, so will...
Posted: August 13, 2019, 1:00 pm

PodPass wants to build the identity layer for podcasting (before some big tech company does it first)

PodPass is a simple, open protocol that uses RSS and HTML to enable both existing and new authenticated interactions for podcasts across platforms. As podcasting develops new services that require direct relationships with listeners — such as exclusive content, membership, and private feeds — we believe there’s a need for a new protocol that provides...
Posted: August 12, 2019, 6:43 pm

The unions are (still) coming, and now starting to bargain together

Funding, distribution, algorithmic pivots, unionizing: The path to profitability in digital media is far from figured out, but unionization seems to be part of the trend. The Ringer’s editorial, audio, video, and social staff have formed a union with Writers’ Guild of America East, the same group that represents unions at Refinery29, Gimlet Media, Vice,...
Posted: August 12, 2019, 5:16 pm

How The Wall Street Journal is building an incubator into its newsroom, with new departments and plenty of hires

Ready, aim, innovate: The Wall Street Journal has assembled the leaders of its new departments, spearheading initiatives with an additional three dozen or so staffers. They’ll focus on attracting new generations of readers, engaging subscribers, analyzing audience data, and other broad innovation moves. After announcing a batch of new and expanded departments in March, Journal...
Posted: August 12, 2019, 4:51 pm

Newsonomics: The perils — and promises — of New Gannett

This story was updated Friday afternoon with the news that Alden Global has taken a stake in the new Gannett. There’s the megamerger, and then there are the numbers: $1.8 billion, 11.5 percent interest, 5 years, $300 million, 18 percent…and many more. Investors, industry observers and wags have picked through the pieces of the Gatehouse/Gannett...
Posted: August 9, 2019, 2:08 pm

Investigative journalism YouTube outlet Point is raising money for a misinformation-themed video game based on real-life stories

“Misinformer: A Detective Game Based On Real Journalism.” The investigative online journalism startup Point, a London-based investigative journalism startup focusing on technology and internet culture that publishes solely via video investigations on YouTube, is running a Kickstarter to launch Misinformer, “a text based, detective-style mobile game that puts the player in the position of citizen...
Posted: August 9, 2019, 12:00 pm

Facebook is reportedly interested in licensing publishers’ content for its News tab this fall

The game of “follow Facebook’s money trail” is never a fun one — unless you’re receiving the money, until you’ve been burned by it. (See Facebook Live, Facebook Watch, etc. etc. etc.) Now, per the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is reportedly in discussions with publishers like The New York Times, ABC News, Dow Jones, The...
Posted: August 8, 2019, 9:53 pm

Google Search will now show you podcast episodes (but it won’t have to link back to Google Podcasts)

As Nicholas Quah wrote in May, Google Search is now officially surfacing podcast episodes (helping with the eternal visibility/discoverability woes of a growing industry). Google is surfacing podcast episodes in Search based on what’s talked about in the show, as well as its title and description. The links take you to Google Podcasts, of course...
Posted: August 8, 2019, 2:38 pm

Pacific Standard is shutting down, cut off from its major foundation funder

The day after tech investigative site The Markup, funded largely by a $20 million donation from Craig Newmark, announced its comeback with the funders’ help after a messy spring, Pacific Standard has announced its end. The magazine has been majorly supported by a foundation that’s part of an academic journal, founded by still-executive chairman Sara...
Posted: August 8, 2019, 1:20 pm

Social media is distorting the representation of women in Africa. Here’s what can be done about it

When computer technology made electronic communication possible, the “new media” emerged: email, chat rooms, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and so much more. It looked, perhaps, like a fresh new public space in which to represent women in new ways. But it has turned out to be just like old, conventional media. It emphasizes gender norms...
Posted: August 8, 2019, 1:15 pm

The New York Times and The Guardian are celebrating good digital revenue news today

Good news from big newspapers: The New York Times now has 3.78 million digital subscribers, the company said in its second-quarter earnings report released Wednesday, while The Guardian confirmed that it broke even in 2018 for the first time in years and also broke out its international digital revenue for the first time. Noteworthy bits...
Posted: August 7, 2019, 4:41 pm

Radio giant Entercom buys podcasters Pineapple Street Media and Cadence13

Entercom, one of the largest traditional radio companies in the US, has acquired two highly notable podcast companies: Pineapple Street Media, the Brooklyn-based independent podcast studio, and Cadence13, the Manhattan-based podcast network led by a group of Westwood One veterans. Two things to note off the bat: First, the exact purchase sums for the two...
Posted: August 7, 2019, 3:52 pm