March 15, 2018

First off, the names may seem unfamiliar. And the blowback was so intense the CEO had to get involved.

At issue: A study by NewsWhip, a content analytics and discovery company, on which reporters are engaging most with Facebook audiences. The study first noted that reporters like Nicholas Kristof and Dan Rather have extremely engaged Facebook audiences. Then it dropped the bomb with its list of the 10 top reporters in February in English-language content.

Six of the writers came from two hyper-partisan web sites: Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire (conservative) and Truth Examiner (liberal). Only one came from an “established” source, but that’s a tangential connection: Terri Peters is a “parents contributor” to The Today Show.

The critiques began: That’s why people don’t trust Facebook. It’s furthering propaganda. Etc.

“Starting to question where any legitimate news outlet should intentionally put its content on Facebook,” tweeted Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next.


NewsWhip CEO Paul Quigley’s Twitter thread was blunt: “The ‘people formerly known as the media elite' would be happy if middle America just shared NY Times news stories all day. But dammit, they don’t.”

He also said the “top reporters” often reflected tiny outlets with only a handful of reporters. Bigger newsrooms, albeit with not as much engagement per reporter, are doing just fine on the whole, he said. He produced this chart:


“Facebook is trying to solve a hard problem,” Quigley added. “Initially, the response time was slow but it’s being attacked in good faith. An AP partnership on verification. The Facebook Journalism Project. Improvements to News Feed … against clickbait."

“The larger problem — people opting into tribal bubbles — is bigger than Facebook. Right now Facebook is the messenger — showing us that we live in a tribal world. It’s fun for media people shooting the messenger — and they took our ad revenue! — but it won’t solve the problem.”

Dear reader, we suspect you won’t solve the problem today either, but we hope this was helpful — and that our roundup of stories below may help you orient yourself, which is important on the Ides of March.

How he got that shot

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

AP photographer Andrew Harnik was covering Rex Tillerson after the Secretary of State had found out, via the internet, that he was fired. As Tillerson’s news conference ended on Tuesday, Harnik got this shot of the departing official in the hallway outside, an image that has been widely shared on social media.

But what was Harnik thinking? Did he have that “Exit” sign in his head the whole time?

Harnik, in an email, told us he got a notion near the end of the press conference:

“I remembered a day a little over a year ago when former Secretary John Kerry was finishing up his term. I had run into him in the hallways as he moved between network interviews. Though Tillerson isn’t one to give interviews like Kerry did, it still occurred to me that I might be able to get images of Tillerson as he walked back up to his offices.

“As his speech concluded, I walked brusquely straight out the door. Sure enough, he and his aides were already turning down the hallway making their way right for me.

“As Tillerson reached the end of the hallway I moved next to the wall and photographed him with a zoom lens and framed him with his reflection in the marble on the wall. Once I was back to my computer, I saw the exit sign hanging above him.”

Instantly, he knew that would be the photo.

Quick hits

HEADS UP, PLEASE: YouTube made a big announcement Tuesday about how it would deal with conspiracy theories. From now on, it would drop a Wikipedia link beneath any videos that had contested topics. That’s nice, said Wikipedia, but why didn’t you let us know you were going to do that?

EPILOGUE TO A TWITTER THREAD: On March 6, USA Today White House correspondent Gregory Korte typed out a series of tweets that ended with a horrific twist and a poignant sign-off: “Thank you for listening.” A source had emailed him a data set, but then went dark. It was only after he Googled the source’s name that he discovered the man had killed himself and his sons. Now he’s written the story behind those tweets.

SMART ANALYSIS: The Washington Post published a column from Nelson W. Cunningham, a former general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who warns that even if Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III issues a report on his findings, it might not be made public. He explains why.

FROM ‘NEW DAY’ TO NIGHT NIGHT: CNN is moving morning show host Chris Cuomo to a prime-time slot at 9 p.m. That means Anderson Cooper’s show shrinks from two hours to one. Cooper, says the New York Times, had been drawing about a third as many viewers as Sean Hannity over on Fox.

DEFINITELY NEWS YOU CAN USE: Surely you’ve heard by now of the dog who died in the overhead bin during a United Airlines flight. Apparently that airline has a problem with flying pets. HuffPost looked at data and determined that 24 pets died on U.S. carriers last year, and 18 of those were on a United flight.


THE #WALKOUT: Want to see at the grassroots how Wednesday’s school walkouts went? Check out this Snap Map. (hat tip, Poynter colleague Daniel Funke). … Here are some of the best signs from the walkouts, from The Cut. … Sobering photos from across the country. … And this: A woman from Philadelphia named Laura S. Silverman has started a Facebook page called Portraits of Parkland. There, you’ll find downloadable portraits of the victims, which many people are printing out to use on posters and postcards.

HOW-TO: A comic book is teaching American students how to do walkouts. Sponsored by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, “Be Heard” outlines best practices for student free-speech rights. “They deserve to be heard,” says cartoonist Kai Texel.  “It is a brave and powerful thing for so many kids to come together and make a stand against violence.”


‘THE BEST PEOPLE:’ Soft-jazz music. '80s-style sitcom lettering. The NYT Opinion section, a magnet for critics these days, pushed a jaunty video keyed to the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others. “This is awful,” responded Tommy Vietor, the Obama administration’s NSC spokesman and current podcaster. “Don’t ever do this again.” Scroll down for more, but be warned: It’s pretty brutal.

SAD DAY IN DENVER: The Denver Post announced that it was cutting 30 newsroom jobs. The Post currently has about 100 journalists. The first 25 reductions are expected to be made by April 9. The company is owned by Denver-based MediaNews Group, which does business under the name Digital First Media.

A BREAKING NEWS TIMELINE: Frustrated by all of those 24-hour-old tweets you keep seeing in your timeline? Us too. That might change soon. Twitter is experimenting with a way to surface more timely news tweets, reports BuzzFeed.

HYPE MACHINE: In crime they are statistically insignificant. At Fox News, they are not — in terms of digital clicks. The company, ravaged by sex harassment cases, has scoured America to find lurid tales of female teachers having sex with students.


LOOKING BACK: This week’s apology of National Geographic for its racist past coverage prompted one former North Carolina editor to look back at his old paper. It turns out that Greensboro reporters had a front-row seat to a signature moment in civil rights history: the segregated lunch counter sit-in by four black college students at the city’s Woolworth in 1960. John Robinson details his findings here.

NEWS FROM THE COSMOS: The Atlantic brings us a story about a fascinating new aurora discovered by Canadian sky watchers. Meet Steve. You'll love his photos.

REMEMBERING: Stephen Hawking, who died Wednesday at 76. Says Jesse Jackson Sr., who has masterfully summarized leaders such as Thurgood Marshall: “Scientific genius proved none of us are disabled, just differently abled. Thank God for his contributions.”  … Time resurfaced this piece explaining how famed photographer Annie Leibovitz captured this remarkable man’s portrait. “I didn’t want to avoid the chair,” she said. … The New York Times gave us “6 memorable culture moments inspired by Stephen Hawking.” … Slate reminded us how his disability activism was just as inspirational as his scientific achievements. And this was former President Barack Obama’s send-off, via Twitter:


Holding them accountable

A BILLIONAIRE'S DOWNFALL: The founder and chief executive of Theranos Inc. settled civil-fraud charges Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Elizabeth Holmes also had to give up voting control of her blood-testing company and paid a $500,000 fine. It was the culmination of a two-year investigation touched off by reporting on the company in the Wall Street Journal that raised questions about the legitimacy of its testing technology.

THE $43,000 PHONE BOOTH: Thanks to FOIA requests, we now know that this is closer to the real cost to install a soundproof phone booth in Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office last fall. Previously, the Washington Post (and others) had reported it was $25,000. But that was before the prep work needed ahead of time. When all was said and done, some $18,000 had been spent to pave way for the booth.

PUTS THE $ IN $HERIFF: He was budgeted money to feed an Alabama county’s jail population. The sheriff managed to keep $750,000 of it. Apparently, it’s legal to skim off the imprisoned in parts of the state, but it has become a campaign issue, Connor Sheets reports.

New on

  • It took a while to compile, but we’ve published a guide to all of the anti-misinformation efforts going on around the world.

  • We also take a look at what’s happening on that front in the European Union and in Southeast Asia.

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