“NPR’s capacity is really in news and the spoken word, and it’s very active on the cultural side, but not organized around music. There was a sense we either needed to work with each other or have a hard time competing at all.”
How many news alerts will you tolerate on your smartphone’s lockscreen? Which organizations do you get them from? And what types of alerts do you prefer?
“News Alerts and the Battle for the Lockscreen, a new report by Nic Newman for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, surveyed 7,577 adults in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Taiwan who received notifications from news apps on their phones and said they engaged with the notifications frequently.
— A third of smartphone users in America receive news alerts; of those, 72 percent “say they value the notifications they receive and many see alerts as a critical part of the news app proposition.”
— Breaking news alerts were the type most valued by users. “Clickbait headline and emojis were strongly disliked in this context…People click on the alert about half the time.”
— Fox, CNN, and (surprise?) local TV news were the top U.S. brands for those who received news/sports alerts. Meanwhile, BBC News was by far the top source of news alerts in the U.K. (63 percent); the top brand in Germany was TV company n-tv; and Yahoo News was the most popular source in Taiwan, followed by Apple News.
— Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the most important reason to get alerts was “keeping me informed on topics relevant to me.”
Newman notes that “there is clearly a significant demand for personalized and targeted alerts,” but this is challenging, because it requires “a deep understanding of audiences, along with investment in technical solutions that learn about individual preferences based on usage and other signals. This will be important because most users, particularly older groups, tend not to make or change selections manually.”
News organizations are working on this: The New York Times lets users separate out the kinds of alerts they get, for instance. “We’re mindful of the fact that it may irritate our readers when they get alerts about things that aren’t breaking news,” the Times’ Karron Skog told Nieman Lab last year.
The Knight Foundation on Thursday said it was giving a total of $455,000 to three journalism groups to launch new initiatives that are meant to improve journalism education and help news organizations share best practices.
Knight is granting $180,000 to INN to fund the creation of an online hub that will offer resources and training for outlets:
The hub will include lessons on strategic business planning, playbooks, case studies and more. In addition, the organization will introduce in-person training focused on increasing the business skills of nonprofit journalism leaders. The training sessions will focus on developing new approaches to audience engagement and revenue opportunities, while helping participants better apply data, mobile and social tools to advance their work.
LION, a membership organization for independent local news sites, is receiving $200,000 to hire a full-time executive director. The person hired for that role will help “strengthen and expand its peer-to-peer learning network, which helps independent journalists share best practices and develop their expertise in technology and business skills,” according to Knight’s announcement. LION will also use the funding to support its annual conference and other events.
IRE is receiving $75,000 to fund new programming at its conferences. It is also using the grant to support the Ida B. Wells Society, which works to increase the number of investigative journalists of color.
Nonprofit FOIA site MuckRock announced Tuesday that it is officially taking over the records request tool FOIA Machine. FOIA Machine, funded through foundations like Knight and via a successful 2013 Kickstarter campaign, helps records requesters (whether journalists or interested members of the public) send and track their information requests. It’s a service that intersects with much of MuckRock’s work to make the FOIA process more efficient and more transparent. The MuckRock team rewrote FOIA Machine’s source code to bring in some of MuckRock’s databases (on agencies and exemptions), and will open source its own code base as well.
“The two teams have gotten to know each other very well over the years, and we’ve talked a lot about ways we could broaden our impact. Since we’ve seen agencies become increasingly reluctant to release records back to the public, working together to improve both tools seemed like a good step forward,” Michael Morisy, cofounder of MuckRock, wrote in an email. “One of the things that FOIA Machine really focused on was traditional newsrooms, which tend to want to have more control over the process, compared to our users, who tend to be happier to have us take on that work. Being able to serve both those audiences well was really exciting to us.”
The three journalists who had been working on FOIA Machine are joining MuckRock’s advisory board. Djordje Padejski (who started FOIA Machine during his time as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford), Coulter Jones, and Shane Shifflett all have other full-time jobs.
Both sites will still be separately available to users:
[T]he two sites will now share the same codebase, as MuckRock goes open source. As improvements are made to one tool they will more easily be developed for the other.
FOIA Machine will remain free to let users manually track their own requests, while MuckRock will continue to offer a “full service” experience that submits the requests directly to the agency, automatically follows up, and conveniently digitizes any responsive documents…
Over the next few weeks, current users of FOIA Machine will receive an email detailing how they can have their accounts transitioned over to the new site. If you’re eager to go ahead and poke around, you can try it out the beta of the new FOIA Machine here (you can use either your existing MuckRock credentials or create a new account).
The Quartz Bot Studio (which the publication intends to maintain after the grant funding is used up) will develop new bots for messaging platforms like Slack and voice interfaces like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Oxford Dictionaries recently chose “post-truth” as its international word of the year. The spread of fake news on Facebook helped propel Donald Trump to victory. And mainstream news organizations are grappling with questions about balance and calling out political candidates’ lies.
Into this fraught environment comes a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which takes a look at the growth of fact-checking sites in Europe: Over the last decade, more than 50 “dedicated fact-checking outlets” have launched across the continent. Worldwide, meanwhile, there are 113 active fact-checking groups; about 50 of those launched in the last two years.
The report’s authors, Lucas Graves and Federica Cherubini, conducted interviews and did an online survey of fact-checking sites across European countries. Among their findings:
— “The legacy news media remain the dominant source of political fact-checking” — but that’s especially true in Western Europe. “In the East and the South, meanwhile, the practice is less a supplement to conventional journalism than an alternative to it, based almost entirely in NGOs and alternative media outlets.” For example:
In the Balkans, for instance, a network of NGOs founded in the wake of civil conflicts in the 1990s has turned its attention to fact-checking over the past several years. Serbia’s Istinomer, or ‘truth-o-meter,’ a fact-checking and promise-tracking site modeled on PolitiFact, was established in 2009 by the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA)…Through organizational links and common funders — especially the National Endowment for Democracy — sister sites quickly spread across the region: Istinomjer, a project of Bosnia’s Zašto ne? (Why Not?), a peace-building group begun by student activists in 2002; Vistinomer, from the Macedonian NGO Metamorphosis, which began as an Open Society Foundations affiliate in 1999; and most recently Faktograf, by Croatia’s GONG, originally founded in 1997 as a citizens’ election-monitoring group. ‘The truth-o-meter was the glue for our network,’ said Dušan Jordovi, a CRTA project manager and one of Istinomer’s creators.
— “At established news organizations fact-checking is often tied to data journalism efforts.” Le Monde’s Les Décodeurs, for instance, started out as a two-person blog “but now manages a staff of ten producing roughly 15 fact-checks per month…the operation has evolved into the newspaper’s data journalism hub, and includes political reporters but also web developers and data specialists who produce the interactive charts and graphics the site is known for.”
— Many European fact-checking organizations, particularly those in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, tie fact-checking into an agenda of political reform. “We don’t see ourselves as journalists, because we are not. But we are trying to contribute to the journalistic scene in Turkey by providing fact-based content,” said Baybars Örsek, a founder of Turkey’s Doğruluk Payı.
— “In our survey, half of European fact-checking outlets indicated that they relied on the news media heavily (four or more on a scale of five) to increase the reach and impact of their fact-checking.” This is problematic when the mainstream media in your country is partisan:
In media environments dominated by partisan outlets, factcheckers worried that their reputation would be stained by journalists who distort their work or cite it selectively. For instance, Bosnia’s Istinomjer has seen its articles selectively edited and reprinted by a newspaper owned by a party leader. “That was really potentially harmful for us,” said Aida Ajanovi. “It made an impression like we were actually working for the paper because they would give us like the middle two pages…And in a very consistent manner, they omit all the things written about the party that owns this paper.” In Macedonia, soon after Vistinomer launched, one opposition party unveiled a truth-o-meter that looked suspiciously similar but only fact-checked the ruling party.
Several fact-checkers complained that their work is sensationalized or misrepresented by journalists. “For the media to make it interesting they always use the term ‘lie,'” said Zdeněk Jirsa of the Czech site Demagog. “Then basically we have to write some sort of response, and clarify [that] we are not saying that the politician is lying, we are just purely stating that a fact is untrue.” Another widespread concern is that news outlets take material without fully crediting the fact-checkers who produced it. “There’s a lot of ripping off,” said Alexios Mantzarlis [the director and editor of Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network]. “The better stories would end up on La Stampa even with scarce attribution.” He recalled an instance in which Pagella Politica debunked a far-right claim that authorities were removing a piece of playground equipment shaped like a pig because it offended Muslim mothers, only to see their reporting, and their carefully verified photo of the playground, spread across Italian media. Practitioners in Serbia, Poland, Romania, and elsewhere agreed. “Basically what happens in Kosovo, because it’s such a fragile system, what all the media outlets do is they steal our news,” said Faik Ispahiu. “It is a kind of flattery, but it is very frustrating.”
— Measuring impact can be difficult. (“No one ever corrected themselves on the basis of what we wrote,” said Alisa Karović, of Bosnia’s Istinomjer.)
“Though fact-checkers are the first to admit their work rarely has a dramatic impact,” said the report’s lead author Graves, “evidence suggests that fact-checking can help to dispel misinformation and inhibit political lying.”