AI is going to be helpful for personalizing news — but watch out for journalism turning into marketing

What are the most useful ways to bring artificial intelligence into newsrooms? How can journalists use it in their reporting process? Is it going to replace newsroom jobs? A report out this week from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism looks at how AI can be adapted to journalism. It summarizes a previously off-the-record meeting held back in June by the Tow Center and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation. (Full disclosure: Nieman Lab director Joshua Benton was part of the meeting.) Among the report’s findings: — AI “helps reporters find and tell stories that were previously out of reach or impractical.” Three areas where AI can be particularly helpful in the newsroom: “Finding needles in haystacks” (discovering things in data that humans can’t, which humans can then fact-check); identifying trends or outliers; and as a subject of a story itself: “Because they are built by humans, algorithms Continue reading "AI is going to be helpful for personalizing news — but watch out for journalism turning into marketing"

“The Internet hates secrets”: Clear Health Costs works with newsrooms to bring healthcare costs out of hiding

“The voicemails would make you want to cry.” When New Orleans’ WVUE Fox 8 News invited viewers to get in touch and share their healthcare costs, they weren’t sure what kind of response they’d receive. Would people be willing to dig up the explanation-of-benefits forms they’d received from their insurance companies? Would they be okay sharing what they paid for colonoscopies, MRIs, routine blood tests? As it turned out, not only were people willing — they leapt at the chance to participate in this crowdsourced investigation into healthcare pricing in New Orleans. The partnership between WVUE Fox 8, NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune, and Clear Health Costs drew thousands of responses through emails, form fills, letters, and voicemails — resulting in a package of stories that shed light on shady billing practices and help patients save money. Clear Health Costs, based in New York, aims to bring
Continue reading "“The Internet hates secrets”: Clear Health Costs works with newsrooms to bring healthcare costs out of hiding"

Report for America wants to place (and help pay for) young reporters in local newsrooms that need them

Being a local news reporter should be something that young people want to do — and it’s okay if they don’t want to do it forever: That’s the idea behind Report for America, a program that launched this week that aims to put “emerging journalists” into local newsrooms for a year of service. Report for America, a partnership between the GroundTruth Project and Google News Lab with support from the Lenfest Institute, the Knight Foundation, and a number of other journalism organizations, has the ambitious goal of putting 1,000 journalists into underserved newsrooms across America over the next five years (though it’s starting small, with 12 journalists across four regions in 2018). The national organization, cofounded by GroundTruth founder and CEO Charles Sennott and Steven Waldman (the author of the landmark FCC report “Information Needs of Communities“), will pay 50 percent of each journalist’s salary in the Continue reading "Report for America wants to place (and help pay for) young reporters in local newsrooms that need them"

This former hedge fund guy is a one-man nonprofit investigating some of America’s shadiest companies

Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) launched an investigation into the role of America’s drug makers in fueling the country’s opioid crisis. Her first report, “Fueling an Epidemic: Insys Therapeutics and the Systemic Manipulation of Prior Authorization,” was released on September 6 and detailed how Insys “repeatedly employed aggressive and likely illegal techniques to boost prescriptions for its fentanyl product Subsys,” beginning around 2014. Insys’ shady business practices were no surprise to Roddy Boyd, who in late 2015 published the first in a series of stories about how doctors, insurance companies, and sales reps with no medical backgrounds pushed off-label Subsys prescriptions in exchange for cash, leading to at least 63 deaths. “Getting footnoted in [McCaskill’s] report was nice,” Boyd said. (See page 3.) “But having discussed all the crooked MDs, corrupt insurance operation, and the rancid sales practices in detail, and then Continue reading "This former hedge fund guy is a one-man nonprofit investigating some of America’s shadiest companies"

This guy watched a full 24 hours of Facebook Watch (so you don’t have to) and thinks it’ll work

“Dog Who Lost Her Legs Was Determined To Walk Again.” “Two Zombies Go on a Blind Date in VR.” “SHE HAS 20 CARS!” If you haven’t yet waded into Watch — the original video tab that Facebook launched earlier this month — then please know that somebody else spent the equivalent of a day there and then wrote up what he found. Henry Goldman, who was head of video at BuzzFeed News until last month, watched 24 hours of video on Facebook Watch (over the course of about a week) to “to figure out what might work and what seems weird, at least, so far.” (He even made a spreadsheet to track what he watched.) A few of his notes: — “I watched a total of 162 ‘shows,’ with an average run time of 8.9 minutes.” Some videos on Facebook Watch are Continue reading "This guy watched a full 24 hours of Facebook Watch (so you don’t have to) and thinks it’ll work"

You could change your mind. Or maybe (comforting thought!) you could just let Facebook do it for you

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

All the cool academics are studying fake news. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen combed through the 150 papers being presented at this week’s Future of Journalism Conference at Cardiff University and found that 17 percent, the largest category (beyond other) focused on “post-truth, truth, and fake news”:

He notes that “there is relatively little audience research in general, and on this in particular — though Irene Costera Meijer and Tim Groot Kormelink had interesting data and analysis.” (Their paper is “What clicks Continue reading "You could change your mind. Or maybe (comforting thought!) you could just let Facebook do it for you"

Fidget spinner lip gloss, $2 dongles: How BuzzFeed and The New York Times are making money from selling stuff

BuzzFeed is partnering with a “massive brick and mortar retailer” to sell…something, starting next month, Ben Kaufman, head of BuzzFeed’s product labs, told Recode’s Peter Kafka Wednesday at Recode’s Code Commerce conference in New York. Kaufman wouldn’t identify whether the retailer is Target or Walmart (BuzzFeed’s target demographic seems like a better fit with the former) but said that BuzzFeed creative staffers partnered with merchants from “this particular retailer…to understand what the white space was in the store, and where there were areas of the store that hadn’t seen newness and innovation like other categories…literally locked them in a room for seven days and they created a brand-new product together.” The product, whatever it is, will be owned by the retailer’s private label. BuzzFeed helped them get it through the supply chain, it will be on shelves starting in the fourth quarter of this year, and BuzzFeed will Continue reading "Fidget spinner lip gloss, $2 dongles: How BuzzFeed and The New York Times are making money from selling stuff"