Can signing a “pro-truth pledge” actually change people’s behavior online?

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.

“Elections in India are now fought and won on WhatsApp.” The Washington Post’s Annie Gowen and Elizabeth Dwoskin look at news-sharing (plus the spread of “fake news and religious hatred” on closed messaging platform WhatsApp in India, during a high-profile election in the state of Karnataka this month and ahead of the country’s national election next year. India is the Facebook-owned WhatsApp’s largest market; it has more than 200 million users there. While Facebook partnered with Indian fact-checking site Boom to fact-check news on that platform, “little has been done in this cycle to combat incendiary content on WhatsApp…Indian officials, feeling helpless to stop the spread of WhatsApp content, have resorted to Continue reading "Can signing a “pro-truth pledge” actually change people’s behavior online?"

What a 2004 experiment in hyperlocal news can tell us about community voices today

In 2004, a team of Medill School of Journalism grad students tried to save democracy, newspapers, and local communities. The threat? The internet. Our response? A website called GoSkokie for the people of Skokie, Illinois. Yes, we thought we could use the internet to fix what was wrong with it. But with increasing social isolation, rising partisanship, and newspapers’ ongoing woes, it seems that the problems we hoped to solve with our shuttered project have gotten worse, not better. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why, 14 years after the GoSkokie project, Google recently launched an experiment in local, user-generated storytelling: Bulletin. Google suggested that Bulletin will enable people to “be the voice” of their community by contributing “hyperlocal stories,” but it appears to be struggling with getting people to participate during limited pilots in Oakland, Calif., and Nashville, Tenn. Sounds familiar. We used the term Continue reading "What a 2004 experiment in hyperlocal news can tell us about community voices today"

Pear Video produces hundreds of news videos a day across China — with no full-time video journalists

Wei Xing — the founder of Chinese startup Pear Video (梨视频), which produces more than a thousand viral news clips a day — doesn’t fear rapid change. In almost two decades in Chinese media, he’s moved from working at newspapers in Shanghai to setting up some of the most innovative digital media outlets in China: The Paper — which is overseen by Shanghai United Media Group, a conglomerate owned by the Chinese Communist Party, but has touched on some controversial topics — and its English-language sibling Sixth Tone. Not content with working only on text-focused ventures, Wei launched Pear Video in 2016. With a cash injection of more than $15 million from China Media Capital and a reported Series A funding round of nearly $100 million, Pear now claims it’s China’s leading short news video platform, generating around 500 million daily views. (The publicly traded unit of People’s Daily, the Continue reading "Pear Video produces hundreds of news videos a day across China — with no full-time video journalists"

What happens when two companies journalists love to hate are also handing out cash for journalism?

One Wednesday this spring, I wrote about an accelerator aimed at local newsrooms and funded by Facebook. Two days later, I criticized the fact that Facebook’s algorithm changes don’t actually appear to be hurting hyperpartisan publishers. This is a fairly common dynamic at Nieman Lab, where we write about the duopoly’s latest news funding efforts and announcements even as we bemoan their increasing dominance. We’re certainly not alone among news outlets in doing this, but, as Mathew Ingram pointed out this week in Columbia Journalism Review, it’s a weird situation:
These mega-platforms are now two of the largest funders of journalism in the world. The irony is hard to miss. The dismantling of the traditional advertising model — largely at the hands of the social networks, which have siphoned away the majority of industry ad revenue — has left many media companies and journalistic institutions in desperate need of a Continue reading "What happens when two companies journalists love to hate are also handing out cash for journalism?"

Is there a big enough global audience interested in China to sustain the South China Morning Post’s ambitious new sites?

If you concocted news sites in a lab for maximum hipness, high polish, and most evocative noun names, you’d get Abacus and Inkstone. These separate verticals — new offshoots of the Alibaba-owned South China Morning Post, the storied English-language newspaper covering China, based in Hong Kong — are highly designed, efficiently product-managed, and precisely targeted at the types of topics meticulous consumer surveys have determined are what news readers want more coverage on, but which few existing news sites cover satisfactorily. Abacus covers tech in China broadly, and Inkstone is a daily digest on Chinese life and politics, with an eye towards explaining China for people who might just be glancingly interested in the country or newly aware of its influence in global politics. A third site, name undisclosed and launching sometime in June, will focus on food and travel. These new verticals will be workhorses in trying to fulfill SCMP’s
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Exiting the exit poll: The AP’s new plan for surveying voters after a not-so-hot 2016

One hundred and seventy-four days remain until the United States’ midterm elections (421 until the next presidential election, but who’s counting) — which means there’s still time to “evolve” how polling is conducted. The 2016 presidential election wasn’t polling’s shining moment, with many post-mortems pointing to opinion polls misleading election forecasters and underestimating now-President Trump’s support. It didn’t help that some polls were tied to news organizations that don’t really have the resources anymore to support this work — at least doing this work well. There’s no perfect poll aside from (maybe) the ballot itself, but the polling system — both conducted by the media and reported on in the media — has faced critics since long before November 8, 2016. These issues contributed to the Associated Press’ and Fox News’ departure from the Election Day polling data shared by the major networks last year. But now the wire Continue reading "Exiting the exit poll: The AP’s new plan for surveying voters after a not-so-hot 2016"

This program made people better at identifying disinformation. (They still weren’t great at knowing what to trust.)

The success of media literacy programs is often described in terms of number of people reached, rather than by how (or if) they actually change people’s behavior in the long run. It’s not even clear what metrics to judge them on. But a new report from a media literacy course run in Ukraine suggests that the program actually was able to change participants’ behavior — even 18 months after they’d completed the course. The program was called Learn to Discern (L2D); it was run by global development and education nonprofit IREX with funding from the Canadian government and support from local organizations Academy of Ukrainian Press and StopFake (which Nieman Lab covered four years ago). First, the raw numbers: IREX says that its L2D seminars “reached more than 15,000 people of all ages and professional backgrounds” through a “train the trainers” model, in which 361 community leaders were trained
Continue reading "This program made people better at identifying disinformation. (They still weren’t great at knowing what to trust.)"