Need to Know: Jan. 9, 2020


You might have heard: Twitter’s “Hide Replies” feature, designed to encourage more civility on the platform, concerns fact-checkers looking to expose misinformation on the platform (TechCrunch)

But did you know: New options for limiting and managing replies to tweets could actually work in fact-checkers’ favor (The Verge)

Twitter is unveiling new functionality designed to promote civil dialogue on its platform, by allowing users to better manage who can reply to their tweets. The new feature will be added to the compose screen, and will offer four options: “Global, Group, Panel, and Statement.” Global lets anybody reply to the tweet, Group is for people the user follows or mentions, Panel is just the people specifically mentioned in the tweet, and Statement simply allows no replies. While the new feature could make it more difficult to rebut false information through direct replies, fact-checkers and journalists would still have the option to screenshot the offending tweet and post the image with a rebuttal — which could also serve to limit the spread of the original tweet. The feature will appear experimentally in the first quarter of 2020, and launch globally later in the year.

+ Noted: Tegna unveils effort to help its local TV newsrooms identify false information online (Variety); An uncritical Teen Vogue story about Facebook caused bewilderment about whether it’s sponsored content, before the entire article vanished (Business Insider); New York Post reporter was impersonated to spread pro-Iran propaganda (The Daily Beast)


Strategies for truth-telling in a time of misinformation and polarization

A local politician is attacking your reporting. Rumors about a disaster in your community are spreading on social media. Your comments section is a petri dish of polarization. These issues — media attacks, misinformation and polarization — all reinforce one another. Our report looks at some basic strategies for combating them.


Anatomy of a subscription fail (Media, Disrupted)

When John L. Robinson’s 7-day newspaper subscription bill came, the price had gone up from $122.14 the previous year, to $281.52 — an increase of about 130%. It didn’t, however, come with any explanation as to why. Digging into his bill, Robinson discovered additional charges for “premium editions” and a $3.95 charge for renewing by mail. He also noted that new subscribers can get a year’s subscription for $86 — but there was no reward for being, like him, a long-time subscriber. While Robinson doesn’t plan to cancel his subscription, “with billing like that, I want to. I’m surprised that anyone renews.” His suggestions: explain why pricing has skyrocketed, and stop hiding fees for “premium editions,” which make readers feel they’re being gouged for something they already pay for. Also — stop charging for renewal by mail. “I don’t want you to have my credit card number and I don’t want you to automatically renew my subscription each year. Get rid of that.”

+ The News & Observer developed an online grant directory and a guide to getting grant funding (News Media Alliance); A guide to navigating the Trump-Iran story (CJR)


Spark team creativity by embracing uncertainty (MIT Sloan Management Review)

Getting hung up on process can inhibit creativity, writes Aithan Shapira. Instead of focusing on getting the creative process just right, teams should embrace a certain amount of uncertainty and even conflict to unlock creativity. One way to do that is to invite team members to challenge the leader by asking them, What are we missing? Are we moving in the right direction? What if we did this differently? Team leaders should also ignore official roles and functions when problem-solving. “Don’t assume that the finance person’s opinion is only relevant for budgetary matters or that the marketing lead must only weigh in on customer messaging,” writes Shapira. “Instead … invite them to operate from what they don’t know as well as what they do, approaching challenges with curiosity rather than solutions.”


Don’t expect McConnell’s antitrust bill to help news publishers get real money out of Google and Facebook (Nieman Lab)

Yesterday’s announcement that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will cosponsor a bipartisan bill designed to help publishers negotiate with Big Tech didn’t draw much excitement from some quarters of the industry. “News content isn’t nearly as important to Google and Facebook as publishers think it is,” Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton argues. (European publishers learned that the hard way with the link-tax battles.) On Facebook, only about one in 25 News Feed posts are about actual news; as for Google, most of its ad revenue comes from people searching for products, not news. So it’s likely that extra negotiating power for publishers still wouldn’t be enough, says Benton.


Mapping local news in New England (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)

In an effort to understand the local news ecosystem in New England, a project team formed on behalf of the Solutions Journalism Network took a useful approach to mapping the existing news organizations in the region. They created a map on which layers of news organizations belonging to various consortia could be applied, including the Institute for Nonprofit News, Local Independent Online News, public media, TV stations, newspapers, and student newspapers. Users can hide certain layers as they view the map, which allows for more insight into the local news landscape of New England.