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Thursdays with First Draft

Our Thursday webinar series continues today with discussions on President Trump's forthcoming executive order about limiting platform protections, the response to George Floyd's death by Minneapolis police officers, local coverage of how states are reopening, and more. Join us at 5 p.m. EDT to participate in the discussion, ask questions, and share what’s happening in your newsroom right now.

Reopening America

A photo of the mask-wearing efforts in a town on Long Island, N.Y., taken by First Draft staff member Diara J. Townes.

Memorial Day weekend saw several viral instances of people around the country who were either disregarding mask-wearing rules or ignoring social distance guidelines. The issue was picked up by national media outlets, while noting the steady climb to the 100,000 mark of Americans who have died from COVID-19. 

Tonight's webinar discussion item: How is your newsroom covering the public response to state and local health guidelines?

Reporting Fellows update

First Draft has five reporting fellows based in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and most tracked news and online commentary related to reopening measures this past week.

Sandra Fish in Colorado reports:
  • Local reopen groups in Colorado were vocal on May 22, announcing that 400 restaurants would reopen and flout state laws over the Memorial Day weekend. Facebook groups promised to post the list of restaurants opening; the announcement received a lot of traction, although the list has yet to appear. Colorado announced that restaurants could reopen on May 27, under strict guidelines.
Shana Black in Ohio reports:
  • WMFD-TV reported that Gov. Mike DeWine suppressed data disproving his COVID-19 policies. While most of this article is a timeline of DeWine’s actions, many people from the reopen and anti-mask movements are using it to call Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and DeWine tyrants, citing this sentence from the article: “Instead of using a scalpel to carve out policies to target the most vulnerable, alleviate economic impact and spare the uninfected from sheltering, DeWine, Acton and Husted did the opposite — they swung a wrecking ball.”
Howard Hardee in Wisconsin reports:
  • Wearing a mask — or refusing to wear one — continues to be a political statement for some. In an email to constituents in Wisconsin’s Senate District 33, Sen. Chris Kapenga downplayed the severity of coronavirus, saying: “The COVID-19 ‘pandemic’ is slowly but surely turning into the COVID-19 fiasco. As the case continues to build that the virus isn’t much more dangerous than the common flu, we are seeing the severe overreaction by citizens, public officials and the media.”

Twitter fact checks Trump

On Tuesday, Twitter placed a fact-check label on two of President Donald Trump’s tweets with claims of voter fraud in California with mail-in ballots. A discreet, light blue “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” label links to a Twitter Moment that has the corrected information and includes “What you need to know” to provide more context, followed by a collection of fact checks from other news sources.

The use of this policy on Trump is a first and has erupted into online conversations and debates about the role and responsibility of social media platforms in regulating user posts, censorship of political voices, and legal protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

There also have been significant attacks on Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, who has had his tweet history resurrected by Fox News and Breitbart, where he demonstrates a clear political leaning to the left and disdain for Trump. In one tweet from 2017 he described those in the White House as “actual Nazis.” It’s been reported that Trump is now drafting an executive order to limit platform protections.

Tutorial: Localizing social monitoring

How to find local Facebook groups

Local Facebook groups can be a rich source of what is happening, and general sentiment, in your community. You can start by typing in your location or topic in the search bar, then filter by “groups.”

How Facebook Ad Library works locally 

Start by selecting “Issue, Electoral, or Political” in the menu, then type in a local topic, politician, or place name. Adjust the filters by state, advertiser and reach. Click “see ad details” to see more information about who the ad reached and how much money the advertiser spent on each ad.

Add geographic keywords to search strings for your area 

Twitter and Google support Boolean queries, which are a particular way of writing search strings to find very specific content. Here’s an example of a Boolean search using words that pertain to the San Francisco Bay Area to find content specific to that region. We recommend writing a query like this one for your area, and pasting it into Tweetdeck or a search engine. Remember to use quotations if your keyword is more than one word.

(California OR CA OR berkeley OR oakland OR "san francisco" OR SF OR "bay area" OR "san jose" OR "san mateo" OR “governor newsom” or “gov. newsom” OR newsom OR newsome) AND (reopen OR reopening

  • Orange =  keywords that relate to your local area. These can be cities, state names, names of local politicians, local hangouts, or any other key words that would single out your geographic area.
  • Green =  keywords that relate to the topic you are interested in monitoring.

Using Followerwonk to find local Twitter accounts

While you can use Tweetdeck to search tweets according to tagged locations, most accounts are not geotagged. Followerwonk is a tool that lets you search accounts by content people list in their bios or profiles. It can also rank results according to following or Social Authority score, which is helpful if you’re looking for influential local accounts to follow.

The U.S. 2020 Student Network

A reminder that First Draft’s all-volunteer US 2020 Student Network launches June 1 with a weeklong training. Students will spend the summer researching, monitoring and verifying online information, and will learn effective reporting techniques leading up to the November election. When they find misinformation or disinformation that could be helpful to reporting, we will make the connection with a local newsroom partner. Interested students should fill out this form.

See you tonight at 5 EDT,
The First Draft Team

Today's First Draft 2020 newsletter is written and compiled by Keenan Chen, Serena Daniels, Jacquelyn Mason, Aimee Rinehart, Diara J. Townes, Shaydanay Urbani, and Madelyn Webb.

If you have missed any of our previous newsletters, or just want a refresher, here’s our archive. And please invite your colleagues to sign up to this newsletter.
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