How media coverage of epidemics helps raise anxiety and reduce trust

Lethal infectious diseases are making headlines again, with 17 confirmed new Ebola cases reported in Congo as of August 8. The news brings back the memories of Americans’ unjustified fear during the 2014 outbreak. In any outbreak or public health crisis, health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention need to deliver accurate and timely information to the public about risks and treatments. For most people, this information comes mainly from the news media. But does the news provide the information the public needs during outbreaks of infectious diseases? My study suggests that probably not. Looking at the coverage of epidemics from the past few years, I found that the media often focused on what may have seemed interesting, but not what is necessary for people to make educated decisions.

Communicating in a crisis

In the late 1960s, backed by scientific developments in the form of antibiotics
The Conversation
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I want bad news and I want it fast: That’s the business model for Factal, a business-focused company from the founders of Breaking News

Breaking News, which sent out news alerts from around the globe 24 hours a day, was beloved, but that wasn’t enough to save it. The company, consisting of a Twitter feed (with 9.1 million followers), app, and website, was shut down by its owner, NBC News, at the end of 2016. From a memo to employees at the time, in part:
Breaking News has built up a large following among journalists, government workers, industries whose success depends on accurate and fast news, and news junkies of all types from around the globe. Unfortunately, despite its consumer appeal, Breaking News has not been able to generate enough revenue to sustain itself.
A little under two years later, the founders of Breaking News think they’ve found a way to bring back the product (sort of) while making money. Cory Bergman announced Tuesday that he and Ben Tesch are launching Factal, Continue reading "I want bad news and I want it fast: That’s the business model for Factal, a business-focused company from the founders of Breaking News"

American podcasters are starting to pay more attention to their international audiences (and their pounds, loonies, and euros)

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 173, published August 14, 2018. International House of Podcasts. When considering the global potential for podcasts, the prospects of non-American podcast companies and publishers — like the BBC, Louie Media, The Australian (I guess? what a week for that organization), and so on — only make up half the story. The other half revolves around the relationship between American publishers and non-American audiences, to which the physical-space-collapsing nature of the internet theoretically gives them easier access. It’s very much still early days on this front, but for some publishers, the tangible advertising opportunities provided by international listenership are beginning to make themselves loud and clear. HowStuffWorks, the veteran Atlanta-based company behind shows like Stuff You Should Know and Atlanta Monster, is one such publisher. Jason Hoch, the company’s head of new initiatives, tells me that non-American downloads for Continue reading "American podcasters are starting to pay more attention to their international audiences (and their pounds, loonies, and euros)"

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"

Facebook’s message to media: “We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic…That is the old world and there is no going back”

The Australian — the Murdoch-owned national paper — has an interesting (and aggressively paywalled) scoop about Facebook today, based on comments Campbell Brown, the company’s global head of news partnerships, allegedly made during a meeting with Australian media executives in Sydney last week. Here are the quotes attributed to Brown in the story:
“Mark [Zuckerberg] doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes,” Ms Brown said. “We will help you revitalise journalism … in a few years the ­reverse looks like I’ll be holding your hands with your dying ­business like in a hospice.”
I should note that Brown denies making the comments (“These quotes are simply not accurate and don’t reflect the discussion we had in the meeting”); I should also note that The Australian has five people in the meeting corroborating them. Much of the attention given
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An analysis of 16,000 stories, across 100 U.S. communities, finds very little actual local news

We know that local journalism is suffering. We talk about news deserts and shuttering newspapers. Research has tended to focus on individual communities, or more broadly on certain types of journalism outlets and the coverage of certain types of topics. But what do the problems for local news look like on a broader level? Researchers from the News Measures Research Project at Duke analyzed more than 16,000 news stories across 100 U.S. communities with populations ranging from 20,000 to 300,000 people. (U.S. Census data identifies 493 such communities; the researchers chose a random sample of 100.) What they found isn’t promising: — Only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local — that is actually about or having taken place within — the municipality. — Less than half (43 percent) of the news stories provided to a community by local media Continue reading "An analysis of 16,000 stories, across 100 U.S. communities, finds very little actual local news"

We can write about Twitter, we can stay on Twitter, but we can’t expect anything from Twitter

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.

Are you still having fun? Brief recap of why Alex Jones and Infowars are bad and gross. Infowars is a conspiracy-theory-driven website that publishes many fake stories and also sells a ton of overpriced and ineffective nutritional supplements. (It has also, over the years, ripped off thousands of pieces of content not just from Russia Today but also from mainstream news organizations like The Washington Post, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and CNN.) Some of the conspiracy theories that Jones has propagated on the site and his daily radio show: That the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax (Sandy Hook parents are suing Jones for claiming that their murdered children were crisis actors); that Continue reading "We can write about Twitter, we can stay on Twitter, but we can’t expect anything from Twitter"