3 to read: Tribune Publishing apologizes for fake bonus offer in phishing-simulation email | How the media handled Wednesday’s Breonna Taylor ruling | How to be funny in a pandemic.

Mayra Parrilla Guerrero

Fake bonus offer: Tribune Publishing, which has already enraged employees with pay cuts, furloughs and other miseries, managed to make a bad situation worse by sending out emails promising bonuses — which were fake. The idea, Trib officials, explained to furious workers, was to make people aware of “phishing” attempts to steal corporate information. But to bruised workers it was just another humiliation, writes Eric Wemple at the WaPo. The Tribune has apologized.

How the media handled Breonna Taylor: Tom Jones for Poynter breaks down the media’s reaction to the decision not to charge anyone in the death of Breonna Taylor. His point: The media cut through “all the legal talk and got straight to the point…. The networks couldn’t conceal their anger…” Interesting report by Jones.

Humor in a pandemic: The era of COVID-19 has been a challenging time for everyone, but many have tried to look on the bright side of things by using humor. Kristen Hare explains how Stephanie Hayes at the Tampa Bay Times has managed to thrive as a humor columnist — despite starting her job just as the pandemic got rolling. It’s a story about rolling with your community as they struggle to make sense of a very strange year. 

3 to Read: COVID-induced media crackdown | NPR’s audience expands | Understanding automated fact-checking

COVID-induced media crackdown: In response to the rise of COVID-19 misinformation, countries around the world have implemented laws and regulations that allow them to slow or stop the spread of fake news. However, human  rights organizations worry that certain governments have taken the restrictions too far, and are using the pandemic as a justification for silencing journalists and whistleblowers. Countries like Cambodia, Egypt and Indonesia have already arrested citizens for allegedly circulating false information, Jenna Hand writes for First Draft. Other tactics, such as internet shutdowns, could prevent people from accessing up-to-date  information about the virus, increasing the risk of people catching COVID-19.

NPR’s audience expands: Though overall radio audiences have shrunk with people working from home, National Public Radio’s influence is larger than ever. NPR hasn’t been untouched by the decline in radio listening, but users are still flocking to the publication on other platforms, such as its website, apps, podcasts, livestreams and social media platforms. Leaders have also been making an effort to reach younger generations by releasing content on Spotify, YouTube and TikTik, Sarah Scire writes for NiemanLab. Investing in its younger listeners has paid off — this year, for the first time ever, NPR’s biggest source of income has been the underwriting on its podcasts rather than its radio shows.

Understanding automated fact-checking: In the age of fake news, fact-checking has become an important journalistic tool. Although fact-checking can be done manually, automated tools are increasingly being used to help catch claims that slip past humans.. Writing for Poynter, Samuel Danzon-Chambaud discusses the two different types of automated fact-checking tools, and delves into cutting-edge research about their application.

By Maya Homan & Matt Carroll

3 to Read: Precautions in Hong Kong | Social media as search engines | Bypassing a news blackout

Precautions in Hong Kong: Apple Daily, a pro-democracy investigative paper in Hong Kong, made international headlines in the wake of a government raid of its offices and the arrest of its founder, Jimmy Lai. The paper has been vocal in its critiques of Hong Kong leaders and in its support for pro-democracy protests. However, since the new national security law passed in late June, reporters at the Apple Daily have been taking precautions to protect themselves, Tiffany May and Austin Ramzy write for the New York Times. These include deleting the contact information of certain sources, moving sensitive information to private servers in different countries and disabling tools like autosaved passwords. Locals have also taken a stand to support the paper, both by purchasing physical copies and investing in Apple Daily’s parent company, Next Digital.

Social media as search engines: During the Covid-19 pandemic, more people than ever are using their social media feeds as search engines. However, vast amounts of information about coronavirus circulating on sites like Facebook and Instagram is not credible. This disconnect between the large number of people searching for information and the small amount of verified information circulating creates what’s known as a data void. Writing for NiemanLab, Tommy Shane examines how data voids contribute to the circulation of misinformation, and points to possible solutions.

Bypassing a news blackout: Amid the largest protest in the history of Belarus, independent journalists and state-run media alike were nowhere to be found. The demonstrations against President Aleksandr Lukashenko resulted in an internet shut down, blocking access to news sites and social media. A messaging app called Nexta managed to bypass the blackout, Diana Kuryshko writes for BBC, allowing updates on police activity, protest instructions and legal resources to reach the demonstrators. The app, which mostly publishes content submitted by its users, now has an audience of over a million. However, its reliance on unverified information and anonymous sources has garnered criticism from journalists who see the circulation of unverified information as dangerous.

By Maya Homan & Matt Carroll