Need to Know: Dec. 21, 2016

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism


You might have heard: Newspapers and Democratic lawmakers suspected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of pushing for the fast passage of a bill “that would eliminate the requirement for public notices to be printed,” a law that could cost the state’s newspapers millions in ad revenue (New York Times)

But did you know: New Jersey is delaying a vote on a bill that would have ended a requirement to publish legal notices in newspapers (Associated Press)
New Jersey lawmakers are delaying a vote until 2017 on a bill that newspaper companies say could cost them millions in ad revenue. The proposed law would no longer require government agencies to publish legal notices in newspapers, instead allowing the agencies to publish the notices on their own websites. And some said the proposed law, which is supported by Gov. Chris Christie, was a veiled attack by Christie on media organizations. Nine other states have reviewed the newspaper publication requirement, and all decided to keep it. New Jersey Press Association executive director George White explains that if the law is passed, New Jersey would be the first state to make this change.

+ Noted: Facebook is launching its version of social radio, Live Audio, with partners including the BBC and HarperCollins (TechCrunch); “We know we need to be patient for the “digital advantages” to fully prevail, and it’s why we’ve raised so much capital, so we have the luxury to be patient through ups and downs along the way,” Jonah Peretti says in a year-end memo to BuzzFeed staff (Recode); Vice announces that it is getting rid of comments on its website (Vice); First Draft News launched French, Spanish, German and Arabic-language versions of its website (First Draft News)


7 characteristics of effective accountability journalists
This summer, API gathered 17 highly effective accountability reporters for two days in Washington, D.C., with the goal of identifying techniques and models that can help journalists everywhere make reporting on government and civic affairs more effective. After looking at the characteristics of these reporters and listening to their conversations at our gathering, we’ve identified seven characteristics of effective accountability journalists. Those characteristics include exhibiting broad curiosity and adapting to new technology, thinking about multiple audiences, and building connections inside and outside of their newsrooms.

+ API executive director Tom Rosenstiel outlines seven steps for journalism to move forward and better serve the public in a new political, technology, and information landscape (Brookings Institute)


7 things other publishers can learn from the Dallas Morning News: Local audiences are valuable to advertisers and diversify your revenue (TheMediaBriefing)
“The Dallas Morning News has consistently been identified as an exemplar; a legacy publication which has successfully evolved and prospered in the face of digital disruption,” Damian Radcliffe writes. Based on discussions with Dallas Morning News’ VP and managing editor Robyn Tomlin, Radcliffe shares 7 lessons other newsrooms can take away from the evolution in Dallas: Local audiences tend to be more valuable to advertisers, data is also important for teams that work on content, and diversify your newsroom’s income.


A network of bots in Russia are siphoning $3 million to $5 million in video ad revenue every day from ‘premium’ publishers, a new report from White Ops says (Marketing Land)
According to a new report from digital advertising fraud security firm White Ops, a Russian “botnet” called Methbot is siphoning off $3 million to $5 million in video ad revenue every day from “premium publishers.” The “botnet” works by creating fake versions of publishers’ websites, on which real ads from real advertisers are run. White Ops released a list of 250,267 URLs generated by Methbot across 6,111 publisher domains. Spoofed websites include The Economist, ESPN, Vogue, Fortune and Fox News.

+ “The scheme exploited known flaws in the system of digital advertising, including the lack of a consistent, reliable method for tracking ads and ensuring that they are shown to the promised audience” (New York Times)


Skills that innovative leaders share: They’re curious and take advantage of opportunities, while managing risk (Harvard Business Review)
After collecting competency data on nearly 5,000 leaders, talent assessment company XBInsight has identified five characteristics that innovative leaders tend to share. Those leaders tend to manage risk, demonstrate curiosity, lead courageously, seize opportunities, and maintain a strategic business perspective. “The data suggests that the most innovative CEOs don’t ignore risks – they manage them,” XBInsight founder/president Katherine Graham-Lewis writes. “These leaders anticipate what can go wrong without getting boxed in. They’re curious, and they seize on clear opportunities, balancing exploration with being opportunistic.”


Why artificial intelligence won’t solve the fake news problem: Identifying fake news requires human judgment (Wired)
“Neural networks can recognize cats in YouTube videos, spot computer viruses, and even help a car drive down the road on its own. But they can’t identify fake news — at least not with real certainty,” Wired’s Cade Metz explains. “Part of the problem is that the characteristics of fake news stories are enormously hard to pin down. Recognizing what’s fake requires not just the kind of pattern recognition that AI is so good at. It requires human judgment … A machine that can reliably identify fake news is a machine that has completely solved AI.”

+ Examining Germany’s plan to fine Facebook when it fails to remove fake news stories: “With the jury still out on whether fake news did or didn’t play a role in outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, Germany’s ruling parties are understandably concerned with keeping the electorate well-informed. That said, there is concern … that giving a company or government power over what people can and can’t say is basically begging for eventual censorship,” Chris Velazco writes (Engadget)


Twitter will hand over data on the user who sent a seizure-inducing tweet to a journalist (The Verge)
Late last week, a Twitter user sent a seizure-inducing GIF to Newsweek and Vanity Fair write Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy. In a string of tweets, Eichenwald said he would be filing a lawsuit and requesting that Twitter hand over its data on the unidentified user. And after a civil suit was filed by Eichenwald in Dallas district court this week, Twitter has agreed to hand over all relevant subscriber data on the user. “The next step is likely to be a lawsuit against wireless carriers or service providers implicated by Twitter’s records, who will have records linking IP addresses and other metadata to the attacker’s legal name,” Russell Brandon explains.