Need to Know: Sept. 15, 2017

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


You might have heard: Facebook’s advertising practices have come under scrutiny after the company disclosed that a Russian firm linked to the Kremlin bought $100,000 worth of political ads during the U.S. presidential campaign (NPR)

But did you know: ProPublica finds that Facebook enabled advertisers to target anti-Semitic ad categories such as ‘Jew hater’ (ProPublica)
To test if Facebook’s anti-Semitic ad categories were real, ProPublica paid $30 to target groups who had expressed interest in the topics “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world,’” displaying a ProPublica articles in their feeds. Facebook approved all three of ProPublica’s ads within 15 minutes. After ProPublica contacted Facebook last week, Facebook removed the categories, which it says were created by an algorithm and not by people, and said it would “explore ways to fix the problem.”

+ In a statement released on Thursday, Facebook said it was removing “self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue” (Facebook Newsroom)

+ Facebook is also banning advertisers who promote news stories from altering news headlines, “a practice that some publishers say misrepresents their work” (Wall Street Journal); “The public’s reaction to [Facebook’s] disputed label is largely irrelevant to stopping the spread of misinformation. One reason is that any link rated false by third party checkers automatically has its reach reduced on Facebook. People can share it all they want but the platform prevents it from going viral as a result of an algorithmic push,” (BuzzFeed News) Craig Silverman writes on research finding Facebook’s disputed tag has little impact on people’s perception of a story’s accuracy (Politico)

+ Noted: A leaked memo from national security adviser H.R. McMaster directs every federal government department and agency to hold a one-hour event on handling classified and unclassified information to prevent leaks (BuzzFeed News); News executives say Google is planning to revise its “first click free” program that allows publishers to give paywall exemptions to users coming from Google News, but Google says “we don’t have anything to announce at this stage” (Financial Times); Google is adding “Community Updates” to its local section of Google News, using “machine learning techniques to find additional sources publishing local content,” such as a high school newspaper or hyperlocal blogger (The Keyword); “Every major advertising group is blasting Apple for blocking cookies in the Safari browser,” arguing that it will hurt the user experience and campaign targeting (Adweek)


The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes better ways to correct people’s misperceptions, how manufacturers of fake news are preparing for 2020, and what it’s like to be a victim of fake news.


What makes people willing to pay for news online? Quality content, and a clean and customizable reading experience (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)
According to new research from Kantar Media and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, people are more willing to pay for news online if it’s in a customizable, clean format and if it’s coming from a “quality” news brand. The study also uncovered, however, that some people are not sympathetic to funding challenges in journalism: “They are crying dollar signs but it doesn’t make sense to me. Have a big gala and invite your top investors or people who you know will donate big bucks. Don’t come to me,” one study participant from the U.S. said on fundraising.


Fact-checkers in Germany say that fake news likely won’t impact the outcome of Germany’s election (Poynter)
Talk to fact-checkers in Germany, and they’ll say they don’t think fake news will impact the outcome of Germany’s election in two weeks. “It’s not really like we’ve been having a lot of fake news,” says Jacques Pezet, a fact-checker for Correctiv. And compared to recent elections in the United States and France, there’s also been a relative lack of conflict in Germany’s election. “That lack of conflict during the campaign has translated into a general indifference among German voters toward both fake news and its debunking,” Daniel Funke reports.

+ “In India, economic and financial news is heavily skewed towards male readers; particularly financial media where 70 percent to 80 percent of the reader base is male. Newsrooms are doing little to attract the female reader” (Pankti Mehta Kadakia, Medium)


A group of former female Google employees are filing a class action lawsuit against the company, claiming ‘segregation’ pushed them into lower-paying jobs (Guardian)
Three female former Google employees filed a class action lawsuit on “behalf of all women employed by Google in California over the last four years.” The lawsuit claims that Google denies promotions and career opportunities to women, who are “segregated” into lower-paying jobs, and claims Google is paying women less than men for “substantially similar work.” Kelly Ellis, a former Google employee and lead plaintiff on the case, says: “We’ve been talking about these issues for a long time, and it hasn’t really changed. There’s been a lot of PR and lip service, but … this is going to be one of the only ways to get these companies to change how they hire and compensate women.”

+ Google has publicly claimed that it has eliminated its gender pay gap (@Google, Twitter), but its own internal debate over diversity became public last month when a male engineer wrote a memo criticizing affirmative action (CNBC)


A new report commissioned by WAN-IFRA warns publishers against ‘outsourcing’ their future to Facebook and Google (PressGazette)
A new report commissioned by WAN-IFRA investigates how publishers make money through Facebook, finding that the money publishers are earning directly through Facebook “will not pay for a traditional newsroom.” On average, the report found that Facebook is contributing 7 percent of WAN-IFRA members’ digital revenues. The report goes on to warn publishers against “outsourcing” their futures to Facebook and Google because of that low revenue share: Even for some of the largest digital publishers in the U.S. “the revenue shared by the leading platforms is too low to fully fund editorial operations,” the report says.

+ “Sometimes the best way to engage with a new audience might be something other than your own website. It might even be something other than journalism,” Birmingham (U.K.) Mail editor Marc Reeves writes. “Often, the answer will be new and different content, but we need to be prepared to build something when the answer is ‘a new app’, ‘a new social page’ or even ‘a new event.’” (Mark Reeves, Medium)


Just 14 percent of Americans name freedom of press as a right guaranteed by the First Amendment (Annenberg Public Policy Center)
A new national survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania finds that “many Americans are poorly informed about basic constitutional provisions.” The survey asked respondents to name rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Unprompted, 37 percent could not name any First Amendment rights, and just 14 percent named freedom of the press. Almost half of those surveyed named freedom of speech at 48 percent, while 15 percent named freedom of religion, 10 percent named right of assembly, and 3 percent named right to petition the government.


+ Four major magazine editors have stepped down in the last week: “It’s not a coordinated exodus. But it’s not entirely a coincidence either. The transition from the print age to the digital age has been grueling. Major publishers have been making hard choices about cuts. And analysts expect even more cost-cutting in the near future,” Brian Stelter writes (CNN Media)

+ ESPN tried to kick Jemele Hill off the air after she called Trump a “white supremacist,” but her SportsCenter co-host Michael Smith refused to do the show without her — and after producers reached out to Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan to fill in for Hill and Smith, both Eaves and Duncan refused (ThinkProgress); A profile of Hill and the future of ESPN as Hill and Smith have been “blamed for the network’s perceived liberal bias” (The Ringer)

+ “The David Carr Generation”: More than a dozen of Carr’s mentees reflect on what he taught them about being a mentor and their stories of Carr being their champion (The Atlantic)

+ “Turnaround at San Francisco Chronicle shows way for legacy newspapers” (CJR)