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What We’re Reading: The Problem with Preprints, Publishing’s Missing Money, and State-sponsored Misinformation Labels

Image: Shutterstock

This week’s Friday 5, where we round up our favorite reads from around the online world in English, delves into the perils of reporting on preprint research platforms, a snapshot of end-to-end digital advertising and publishing supply chains, and how the French government took down a “fake news” page after being accused of “overstepping its constitutional role and infringing on press freedoms.”

Covering Science at Dangerous Speeds (CJR)

As the pandemic spread, newsrooms around the world shifted focus. Now a huge bulk of our work — along with our lives — has two periods: before the coronavirus (BC) and after the coronavirus (AC). Medscape’s Ivan Oransky, a doctor-turned-journalist and co-founder of Retraction Watch, gives some excellent advice about science and health reporting during the pandemic, and particularly on the use of preprints, in which researchers submit their work for publication on sites like bioRxiv and medRxiv before the peer review stage. “Research findings are never vetted as carefully as many scientists, medical journals, and others would like us to think they are,” he notes. As we wrote in a recent Friday 5, Harvard epidemiologist Bill Hanage is even more cautious about journalists covering preprint research: “Don’t go near it if you are not a science journalist.”

Time for Change and Transparency in Programmatic Advertising (ISBA)

A study released this week by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) provides an snapshot of end-to-end digital advertising and publishing supply chains. Researchers identified each element of the chain, the services delivered, and costs applied at each stage, using real market data. The upshot? Publishers receive just 51% of what advertisers spend on average, with 15% disappearing into an “unknown delta” — in other words, a black hole fueled by a “lack of organization and complexity.” They recommend urgent attention to standardization “across contractual and technology areas to facilitate data-sharing and drive transparency” and more research into where the disappearing 15% goes. It’s a crucial step in understanding more about media’s sustainability as countries like Australia take on Facebook and Google, attempting to force digital platforms that increasingly dominate news consumption into paying media companies.

French Government Takes Down Its Own Coronavirus “Fake News” Website (Guardian)

Amid the blink-and-you-miss-it dystopian news environment, the Guardian reported this week how the French government took down one of its own pages — a website it had put up only the week before to call out what it deemed “fake news.” A media union had filed an emergency appeal, saying that through Desinfox — which is a play on the word désintox or detox —  the government was “overstepping its constitutional role and infringing on press freedoms.” It appears to be another worrying sign of state-sanctioned media crackdowns under a misinformation and disinformation guise; this week a GIJN report on Indian government opacity around the virus noted how the national Press Information Bureau created “PIBFactCheck,” a Twitter handle which has flagged critical coverage of the pandemic as fake.

RQ1 Newsletter (RQ1)

RQ1, launched earlier this year, is a monthly newsletter which sums up key research on news and journalism. Washington and Lee University’s Mark Coddington and University of Oregon’s Seth Lewis put together RQ1 to help colleagues get a handle on the changing digital media environment, data journalism, social media, and news engagement and aggregation. You’ll find overviews of research which this month took a scholarly look at global, multi-newsroom watchdog reporting; the organizational challenges of data journalism teams in newsrooms; and the news industry’s “post-colonial” reflexivity, which looked at foreign correspondents covering Africa.

+1 Bonus Tip: NICAR-Learn (NICAR)

During the coronavirus pandemic, IRE and NICAR are offering up a 365-day free trial of NICAR-Learn — an on-demand video library designed for journalists to learn and share computer-assisted reporting techniques. Register to tap into 10-minute videos taught by some of the best data journalists the world, addressing specific skills, problems, and software.

Tanya Pampalone is GIJN’s managing editor. Prior to GIJN, she was executive editor of Mail & Guardian, managing editor of Maverick (now Daily Maverick), and head of strategic partnerships and audience development for the African arm of The Conversation. Tanya is co-editor of I Want To Go Home Forever, and a contributor to Southern African Muckraking and Unbias the News.

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