Democracy is cracking and platforms are no help. What can we do about it? Some policy suggestions

Platforms aren’t efficiently self-regulating. Government officials don’t know how Facebook’s advertising works (or some know it too well). The internet can be a cesspool of spiteful users and malicious bots and yeah, in some places, digital-based communities and positive connections. But what can be done? How about requiring internet companies to be legally liable for the content appearing in their domains? Auditing algorithms regularly and making the results publicly available? Launching a large-scale civic literacy and critical thinking campaign? Giving individuals greater rights over the use, mobility, and monetization of their data? These are some of the suggestions floated in “Democracy Divided,” a new Canadian report by Public Policy Forum CEO/former Globe and Mail journalist Edward Greenspon and University of British Columbia assistant professor/Columbia Journalism School senior fellow Taylor Owen. The ideas are bold, sure, and maybe a little far-fetched — especially when viewed from the very different regulatory context Continue reading "Democracy is cracking and platforms are no help. What can we do about it? Some policy suggestions"

Major internet companies might want to push their own point of view, but can they also take care of misinformation please and thank you

So we all heard Facebook’s view on the role that major companies play in deciding who gets what news. (Really, no need to say it twice.) But what does your average Mark or Campbell think? According to a new survey by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, American adults feel negatively about major Internet companies tailoring information to them individually, acting as content arbitrators that enhances bias, and not being transparent about their methods. (Note: Knight has provided support to Nieman Lab in the past.) Those major internet companies in this context are Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter (surprise). Of the 1,203 U.S. adults interviewed earlier this summer, most got their news from Google (53 percent daily/a few times a week) or Facebook (51 percent), with only 23 percent coming from Yahoo and 19 percent from Twitter. The survey’s authors kindly broke out the percentages we’ll highlight
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How not to be a parachute partner: ProPublica’s figured out how to collaborate with local newsrooms without bigfooting them

Eight months into its first year, ProPublica’s local reporting network has helped: a radio reporter in Orlando survey first responders about PTSD; a newspaper reporter in southern Illinois scrutinize the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s policies nationwide; and a reporter with 27 years of experience hone his writing as his newspaper was bartered in bankruptcy court. (Among other things.) ProPublica’s staff is no stranger to collaboration with news organizations of all sizes (see: its project with nine other newsrooms to track the missing immigrant children). In this case, they appear to have mitigated the risk of parachute-partnering with the local newsrooms in their network, instead using its resources to strengthen and amplify local reporting. My conversations with reporters participating in the network confirmed that they see this as a hand-up, not a handout. It’s not a charity case, but a true collaboration. “It’s nice when you’re in Continue reading "How not to be a parachute partner: ProPublica’s figured out how to collaborate with local newsrooms without bigfooting them"

Submissive audiences? “Less special” news outlets? And other inspiring thoughts from WordPress’s publisher summit

Do you really want your audiences to submit to you? That and other questions came up during this year’s WordPress Camp for Publishers, running Wednesday through Friday in Chicago. Brian Boyer of Spirited Media “forever ruined” Submit boxes for some attendees, but Austin Smith (CEO of Alley and the Lenfest Institute‘s recent entrepreneur-in-residence) also presented his report on the narrow path for local news. (Link to come once it’s published!) Here’s more of the conversation, and or check out videos of the talks here:

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote an audience-driven article using Instagram Stories (and it wasn’t even about a hippo)

If you follow news organizations on Instagram, you probably see a dozen news quizzes or “things to know” every week on your Instagram Stories. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong about testing followers on current events and sharing roundups. But on a platform that lets users vote, rate something’s emoji-level, ask questions directly, and more — there might just be opportunity for a little more engagement. If you follow the Cincinnati Enquirer, though, you might get the chance to decorate some digital coloring book pages of Fiona the Hippo, or even sound off on the city’s public transit problems — and have the newsroom hear you out.
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How The Wall Street Journal is revamping its newsletters — and trying to add some whimsy

The Wall Street Journal is not exactly known for its sense of whimsy — but that’s what the folks revamping its newsletter system are aiming for. When Cory Schouten and Annemarie Dooling (formerly of CJR/Indianapolis Business Journal and Vox Media, respectively) joined the Journal’s newsletter team earlier this year, they embarked on the journey of whittling down the paper’s 126 newsletters. Some were automated but didn’t generate many clicks; others had a little more voice, but a pretty dry voice nonetheless. That whittling has led to what are now around 40 streamlined, audience-driven emails. They can now feature market information updating in real time (even after a newsletter is sent), and coaxing non-payers toward a subscription is core to their mission and design. (This process began under product designer Cory Etzkorn three years ago and accelerated through a migration to the Campaign Monitor platform since last fall.) “When
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If Facebook makes a safe harbor for journalists and researchers, would it help?

If The New York Times hadn’t reported on the fake Twitter follower factories. If ProPublica hadn’t investigated targeted Facebook ads discriminating against users based on race, disability, and gender. If Gizmodo hadn’t uncovered the way Facebook’s “People You May Know” feature can create shadow profiles for non-users. If the Tow Center and The Washington Post hadn’t analyzed the depth of the Russian disinformation campaign on Facebook. If journalists and researchers stopped investigating activity on social media platforms — especially Facebook, one of the most closed platforms and also one of the most widely abused — the “thens” are too important to sacrifice. That’s the argument Continue reading "If Facebook makes a safe harbor for journalists and researchers, would it help?"