A project of Democracy Fund

March 15, 2019

Local Fix: Don’t Post the Video

Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. But first, we always begin with one good idea…

One Good Idea: Don’t Post the Video
As we write this, newsrooms around the globe are reporting on the horrific terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand. The attack, which was rooted in racism and white supremacy, was live-streamed on Facebook. We are already seeing newsrooms around the globe post clips and screenshots of the video and other content from the killer on their sites and social media. Don’t be one of those newsrooms. Researcher Whitney Phillips and many others have shown how extremists hijack news media to amplify the messages of hate groups. Phillips’ report, “The Oxygen of Amplification” offers clear guidelines and best practices for these situations. We can and must report on these events in ways that don’t play into the hands of media manipulators, that respect and lift up the dignity of the victims, and that put these events in the proper context. Two months ago we rounded up advice from educators, peace negotiators, researchers and journalists who have been on the hate beat for years. But at the root of all of this advice is a simple idea – understand the power of every choice you make in coverage of these events and above all, do no harm.  

Is Facebook Down?

Facebook and Instagram both suffered major outages this week. It can be a little disconcerting when the platforms we have come to rely on for doing and delivering our work (and posting cat videos) disappear with little sign of when they will be back. However, data from Chartbeat suggests that when big social media platforms go down, traffic to publishers actually goes up. In October, when YouTube experienced a sustained outage, it “resulted in a 20 percent net increase in traffic to publisher sites.” A few months earlier when Facebook went down for 45 minutes Chartbeat found that people “went directly to publishers’ mobile apps and sites.” The good news is they weren’t just reading articles and searching for info about why Facebook or YouTube was down (though there was some of that). However, we should remember that print newspapers are platforms themselves – so what happens when they go dark? One study suggests that when a print newspaper shifts to online only “most of that print audience will just…disappear.” What did you do this week without Instagram and Facebook for a few hours? What did your readers do?  

Get in the Game

An article in the New York Times this week told the story of how Elizabeth Hargrave “turned a passion for ornithology and spreadsheets” into a popular board game about birds that is both fun and scientifically rigorous. Like science, journalists are often on the front lines of pursuing the truth and so we wondered if there were any good journalism board or card games out there rooted in reporting. Turns out that there was a failed Kickstarter project last year called “Breaking the News” which was described as “A Cards Against Humanity-style party game that lets you feel like journalists in a world of fake and sensationalized news.” And while that game sounds like a lot of fun, there have also been a number of serious card games created to help journalists design their newsrooms, plan their reporting and engage their readers even better. We’ve rounded up links to a bunch of those card decks for you in the list below.

Covering Trauma

Journalists face traumatic events in person and online every day. But the culture and structures of journalism doesn’t often provide the needed resources and support to deal with this reality. A first-of-it’s kind legal ruling in Australia recently found that a newsroom was liable for a reporter’s occupational PTSD, which is one reason some newsrooms may start paying attention to these needs for their employees. The DART Center has written that if newsrooms did provide more organizational support, it would “likely result in a reduction of mental health harm, [and] a reduction in occupational dysfunction and an increase in job performance (and likely work satisfaction).” While this case involved a reporter who covered stories on the ground, we know that journalists also experience trauma through digital reporting. Research conducted by the Eyewitness Media Hub in 2015 revealed that nearly 60 percent of social media and user-facing journalists have access to graphic and/or traumatic content on a weekly basis. Of that number, nearly half reported not being mentally prepared to process it. In response to the EMH findings, First Draft News published an educational toolkit with 10 methods of combating that stress. LA Times reporter Sonali Kohli recently shared her own experience with PTSD symptoms after covering several mass shootings, massive wildfires and other traumatic events. Take her advice to pay attention to your mental health, and hopefully newsroom management will do the same. 

Have a good weekend,

Josh, Teresa, and Maya
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @mayaaliah

The Local Fix is a project of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square. Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund, you can find a full list of the organizations we support on our website.