What will Libra, Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, mean for news?


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Facebook is pitching its new cryptocurrency, Libra — which will be officially launched in 2020 — as a way for the world’s unbanked to save, send, and spend money. To some, it’s also a massive power grab by an already immensely powerful company (and a bunch of other powerful companies — Libra’s 27 initial partners include Visa, Mastercard, Uber, Lyft, and Paypal, among others) and a potential privacy nightmare. But what might it mean for payments for news? Of Libra’s 27 initial partners, only one — Spotify — is a media company, although the list also includes VCs like Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures which have invested in media companies. “Facebook hopes its Continue reading "What will Libra, Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, mean for news?"

The Atlantic introduces a “daily idea” for smart speakers


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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The Atlantic is launching a new skill for Amazon Echo and Google Home: A “single, illuminating idea” every weekday. From the release:
Every weekday, when people ask their smart speakers to play The Atlantic’s Daily Idea, they’ll hear a condensed, one-to two-minute read of an Atlantic story, be it “An Artificial Intelligence Developed Its Own Non-Human Language” or “The Case for Locking Up Your Smartphone.” The skill will include reporting from across The Atlantic’s science, tech, health, family, and education sections, as well as the magazine’s archives, representing the work of dozens of writers.
The Atlantic’s briefing joins a number of other offerings from publishers. But while ownership of the devices is increasing — an estimated 65 million U.S. adults, around 23 percent of the population over 12, own one; 12 percent of U.S. adults said they used one in the past
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As the Christchurch massacre trial begins, New Zealand news orgs vow to keep white supremacist ideology out of their coverage


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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As the trial of the man accused of the Christchurch mosque massacres began a few hours ago, New Zealand’s major media organizations had a plan. They will refuse to run coverage in which the accused and his supporters champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology. They won’t cover, broadcast, or print messages, “imagery, symbols, or signals (including hand signals)” made by the accused or his supporters during the trial. They also won’t cover the shooter’s manifesto, a document that made its way around the Internet following the March shooting in which 51 people were killed and which has since been banned in New Zealand. The shooter, who livestreamed the massacre on Facebook, faces 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one terrorism charge. (In a move some found surprising, he pled not guilty to all charges today, which means a lengthy trial is now set to begin in
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Populists prefer television to online news — but are sticking to Facebook as others leave


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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“Populists prefer to use television news,” and they’re also spending more time on Facebook. This week, Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released its annual Digital News Report, a good chunk of which focuses on partisan news, fake news, and trust in the media. (We covered the highlights from the rest of the report here.) Some interesting findings: — People are worried about fake news (no surprise) and claim they are switching to “more reputable” sources. (Note: “The interpretation of ‘reputable,’ ‘less accurate,’ ‘dubious,’ and other subjective terms were left
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Even people who like paying for news usually only pay for one subscription


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Publishers worldwide are installing paywalls, but many — even most — won’t succeed. Private WhatsApp groups are becoming the default for sharing and discussing news in non-Western countries. Trust in the media is down worldwide. And more people say they avoid the news now than did in 2016, with a particularly large increase in news avoidance in the UK. These are some of the findings from a big new report out Tuesday evening from Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report for 2019 surveyed more than 75,000 people in 38 countries about their digital news consumption. (Included in the report for the first time this year: South Africa.) The research is based on YouGov surveys conducted earlier this year, followed by in-person interviews with young people in the U.S. and UK. The report includes a number of findings on fake news, misinformation,
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ProPublica’s Facebook-monitoring political ad tool (which Facebook fought) is alive again with a new home at the Globe and Mail


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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The Globe and Mail is the new home to the Facebook Political Ad Collector, a browser extension that ProPublica built and released in 2017. As Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson — names that are familiar to you if you’ve been following The Markup … thing — wrote at the time:
The tool is a small piece of software that users can add to their web browser (Chrome). When users log into Facebook, the tool will collect the ads displayed on the user’s news feed and guess which ones are political based on an algorithm built by ProPublica. One benefit for interested users is that the tool will show them Facebook political ads that weren’t aimed at their demographic group, and that they wouldn’t ordinarily see.
ProPublica used to the tool to supplement reporting around the German federal elections and the U.S. midterms. Facebook didn’t like the tool, urged ProPublica
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Promoting based on potential: How The Atlantic is putting a lot more women in charge


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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It’s not a shocker that a lot has changed at The Atlantic since it was founded all the way back in 1857. Perhaps more surprising, though, is how much has changed there in just the last two and a half years. In 2016, women made up just 17 percent of editorial leadership at The Atlantic. Today, women account for 63 percent of newsroom leaders (see the masthead here; though this story focuses on the editorial side, there are a lot of women on the business side too). In 2018, 75 percent of new newsroom hires were women. This isn’t an accident. The Atlantic — like other news organizations that have sought to diversify their staffs, though there’s still a ton of work to be done — has been intentional about hiring more women and people of color under the leadership of Jeffrey Goldberg, who was appointed editor-in-chief in 2016. Continue reading "Promoting based on potential: How The Atlantic is putting a lot more women in charge"

Americans think “made-up news” is a bigger problem than climate change


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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U.S. adults are more likely to say that “made-up news/info” is a big problem than they are to identify climate change, racism, terrorism, or sexism as such, according to a study out from the Pew Research Center Wednesday: Fifty percent of those surveyed said made-up news (the artist formerly known as “fake news”) is a “very big problem” in the United States. By comparison, 46 percent called climate change a “very big problem”; 40 percent said the same about racism; 34 percent said the same about terrorism. “Made-up news/info” can’t touch some other issues, though — like drug addiction and affordable health care. It ranks only a hair behind income inequality. The report is the bleakest I’ve seen when it comes to the partisan divide in the United States around fake news. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to identify made-up news as a “very big problem.
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Newspaper headlines don’t reflect the most common causes of death — but should they?


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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In the United States, deaths caused by homicide and terrorism are extremely rare; the leading causes of death are heart disease and cancer. But you wouldn’t guess that by looking at mainstream news coverage, which devotes far more coverage to violent death than it does to death from disease. (And Americans believe crime rates are much higher than they actually are.) This finding — which probably won’t surprise you — was explored this week in a post on Our World in Data. (Our World in Data is a collaboration between the University of Oxford and the nonprofit Global Change Data Lab.) Hannah Ritchie looked at 2018 research published to Github by Owen Shen, a student at the University of California, San Diego. For his project, Shen pulled data from four sources: The CDC’s WONDER database for public health data, Google Trends search volume, The Guardian’s
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What do we do about the “shallowfake” Nancy Pelosi video and others like it?


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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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.

Facebook and the Pelosi video. A week ago, The Washington Post reported that altered videos (“shallowfakes”) of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — slowed down to make it look as if she were drunk and slurring her words — were spreading on social media. Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, tweeted one of them (though he later deleted the tweet). From the Post:

One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, had been viewed more than 2 million times by Thursday night, been shared more than 45,000 times, and garnered 23,000 comments with users calling her “drunk” and “a babbling mess.”

YouTube took the videos down. Facebook said it would downrank
🇪🇺
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After four years of handing out money for European news projects, Google is expanding its funding to North America


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Since Google launched its Digital News Initiative in Europe in 2015, it’s supported 662 European projects with payouts totaling more than €140 million. Now that effort is going global, and that means Google money will become available for North American news organizations: Google announced yesterday that it’s looking to fund digital news projects on this continent. (Well, some of this continent: just the United States, U.S. overseas territories, and only the non-Quebec portion of Canada, for some reason.) Projects will receive funding up to $300,000, with Google financing making up to 70 percent of the total project cost; applications are due July 15 at midnight PT. (It’s not just North America and Europe, by the way: Challenges for Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa will open to applications soon. It’s all overseen by Ludovic Blecher, a 2013 Nieman Fellow.) There’s no indication of how many Continue reading "After four years of handing out money for European news projects, Google is expanding its funding to North America"

Want to feel less anxious about the state of the world? Try diversifying your online news sources


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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A new study suggests that consumers who actively take steps to diversify their news consumption — following accounts and news outlets that post a wide range of viewpoints, and interacting online with people who have different views from their own — feel less anxious about current events than people who don’t take such actions. Hunkering down in a self-created news echo chamber, however, does not seem to reduce anxiety. Democrats also report feeling more anxious about current events than Republicans, which isn’t surprising considering who’s in the White House. The paper is “Factors motivating customization and echo chamber creation within digital news environments,” by Brooke Auxier and Jessica Vitak of the University of Maryland. Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, they surveyed 317 U.S. adults about their news consumption habits, categorizing whether they were “echo chamber builders” or “diversity seekers.” The echo chamber folks “find content providers (both people and
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Elections in India and the EU mean a flood of homegrown fake news


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Other European studies had similar findings. My colleague Christine Schmidt wrote up one this week. The Financial Times wrote up another:
Researchers found many new websites, notably in Italian, set up to collate and disseminate anti-migrant and anti-Muslim stories. In some cases, the stories are linked to current events such as the fire at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.  “Anti-migrant themes have been relentlessly exploited as a way to galvanize, connect and create active digital communities,” said Alex Romero, chief executive at Alto Data Analytics, which found anti-immigration content was among the most-shared material on more than 500 Twitter accounts suspected of spreading disinformation or hyperpartisan stories. 
“It’s not 2016. We are not seeing the automated, networked activity with an obvious Russian fingerprint across these elections,” Sasha Havlicek, head of London’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told The Washington Post. “What we’re seeing much more of is coordinated, Continue reading "Elections in India and the EU mean a flood of homegrown fake news"

The New York Times brings its summer pop-up newsletter back for a second season, with lessons learned


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Summer is fleeting, as is The New York Times’ summer newsletter, which is returning for its second year this week. It will run through Labor Day. In the intervening winter months, the Times surveyed readers and applied what they learned to the newsletter’s second summer — here are some of the changes they’re making:
  1. Readers loved the 2018 newsletter — it had more than 80,000 subscribers by the end of the summer — but also found it to be too long. “People thought it was hard to scan,” said Jessica Anderson, a senior staff editor for newsletters, who’s taking over Summer in the City this year from Elisabeth Goodridge, the Times’ deputy travel editor (and the former editorial director for newsletters). So it’s being cut this year, from around 2,200 words to 1,200 (and hopefully won’t get cut off on mobile so much). “Last year we provided two Continue reading "The New York Times brings its summer pop-up newsletter back for a second season, with lessons learned"

From “climate change” to “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown”: The Guardian is changing the environmental language it uses


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Human-caused climate change is arguably the largest crisis facing the world’s population of more than 7 billion, but news organizations have struggled to cover it adequately. “Newsroom managers have failed to see the climate crisis as fundamental, all-encompassing, and worthy of attention from every journalist on their payrolls,” Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope wrote in an article, “The media are complacent while the world burns,”. That was co-published last month in The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review ahead of a conference on how news organizations can reframe their climate change coverage. Mainstream U.S. publications, in particular, have often failed to highlight the issue. The Guardian has been ahead of other outlets in the attention it pays to climate change, especially in its daily reporting — it includes CO2 levels in its weather reports, for instance, and it partnered with The Nation and CJR on that conference. On Friday, Continue reading "From “climate change” to “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown”: The Guardian is changing the environmental language it uses"

This is how an Iranian network created a “disinformation supply chain” to spread fake news


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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“Whatever WhatsApp does, there’s a workaround.” WhatsApp has tried to fight the spread of fake news by adding app controls that limit the number of times a message can be forwarded to five. But this week Reuters reported how easy it is to get around those controls: “WhatsApp clones and software tools that cost as little as $14 are helping Indian digital marketers and political activists bypass anti-spam restrictions set up by the world’s most popular messaging app.”
Reuters found WhatsApp was misused in at least three ways in India for political campaigning: free clone apps available online were used by some BJP and Congress workers to manually forward messages on a mass basis; software tools
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The BBC’s 50:50 Project shows equal gender representation in news coverage is achievable — even in traditionally male areas


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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News organizations that want to diversify their editorial output have a number of different ways to do it. On the lame end, they can simply talk about wanting to be more diverse without actually doing anything about it. At the opposite end of the spectrum, they can set a real target and strive to hit it. This worked for Outside Magazine. (Or they can have actual targets couched as “growth goals,” like the Financial Times.) The BBC has publicly taken the tactic of setting a target. A year ago, the BBC set out to achieve gender equality in its on-air programming, with the goal of at least half the contributors to BBC programs and content being female by April 2019. The effort was already underway at some individual programs, starting with Ros Atkins’ “Outside Source” back in 2016.

NewsMatch sums up its third year of helping nonprofit newsrooms raise money


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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In the last two months of 2018, more than 240,000 people gave money to nonprofit news organizations with help from NewsMatch — and 52,000 of them were donating to a nonprofit news organization for the first time. That’s according to NewsMatch’s annual report, released Tuesday. In a recent feature about NewsMatch’s work with four news organizations, my colleague Christine Schmidt explained what it does:
NewsMatch started at the Knight Foundation in 2016 as a “call to action for everyone who believes in quality, trustworthy, in-depth journalism and the role nonprofit news organizations play in building strong communities.” But in an area of the industry that now generates nearly $350 million in annual revenue, the effort has also helped train everyone from editors to interns on how to actually fundraise, with guidance from the Institute for Nonprofit News and the News Revenue Hub. (NewsMatch participants must also be INN
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U.S. journalism really has become more subjective and personal — at least some of it


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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It’s easy to make broad claims about the American media. “They’re all just a bunch of leftists!” “It’s all run by fat-cat corporations!” “They don’t report the facts like they used to — now it’s all their opinion!” The people making these claims aren’t always responsive to facts, but a broad new linguistic analysis out today tries to produce them. How is media today different from what it used to be, back in that simpler pre-web age? The report, from the global policy nonprofit RAND, includes a host of fascinating findings, but the broad strokes are these: Newspapers haven’t changed much. Television news has changed a lot, putting more focus on emotion, first-person perspective, and immediacy. Cable news is like TV news squared, with more argument, personal opinion, and dogmatic positions. And online news shares qualities with both newspapers and TV news, favoring subjective views and
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Most Americans have never spoken with a local journalist. Those who have are likely to be white.


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Seventy-eight percent of Americans have never spoken with a local journalist at all, according to data highlighted by Pew on Friday — but of the 21 percent who say they have (1 percent didn’t answer), they are more likely to be white, college-educated, and older. From Pew:
About 23% of whites have had this kind of interaction, compared with 19% of blacks and 14% of Hispanics, according to the survey, conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 8, 2018, among nearly 35,000 U.S. adults. Older Americans are also more likely to have had personal contact with a local journalist: A quarter of U.S. adults ages 65 and over have done so, compared with 17% of those ages 18 to 29. (This may not come as a surprise: Since the question asked whether Americans have “ever” spoken to a local journalist, older adults have had more time — and a greater chance — to
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