Need to Know: April 1, 2021


You might have heard: Journalists should talk to experts in vaccine hesitancy: “Most of the stories I was seeing had quotes from physicians, including outspoken vaccine advocates, but the reporters hadn’t spoken to the researchers who … study vaccine hesitancy and its reasons/motivations/etc.” (Association of Health Care Journalists)

But did you know: Journalists reporting on COVID-19 vaccines should ‘tell the story in its totality’ (Poynter)

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that provides information on health policy, has been tracking Americans’ attitudes towards the vaccine since December. Although much of the reporting around vaccine hesitancy has focused on Black Americans, “Really, if you look at who is just not going to get vaccinated, it’s mostly Republicans and white evangelical Christians,” says senior vice president Jennifer Kates. While it’s not journalists’ responsibility to encourage people to get the vaccine, it is their responsibility to give them the data and context they need to make an informed decision, says Houston KTRK/ABC13 anchor Chauncy Glover. “We have to be careful in making sure we tell the story in its totality. We just can’t say experts say it’s safe. We have to say why experts say it’s safe. What goes into a trial? How does it become approved?”

+ Noted: Bloomberg is developing its own advertising platform, joining the growing list of publishers to do so (AdAge); Journalists at The State newspaper move to “form South Carolina’s largest newspaper union, The State News Guild” (The State News Guild); Denver Post union commits to diversifying its newsroom and coverage (Denver Newspaper Guild); The Google News Initiative commits $200,000 to the Tiny News Collective (@ckrewson, Twitter)


What news publishers do to retain subscribers

API surveyed news publishers across the United States to find out what they are — and aren’t — doing to retain subscribers and decrease churn. Nine key retention strategies emerged, as well as several areas where many publishers say they need help. From our conversations with publishers, we also put together a list of 31 effective subscriber-retention ideas to use.


A guide to more inclusive reporting (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Part of the way through her fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute, Melba Newsome has spent a lot of time researching how to make newsrooms more representative of the communities they cover. The most important thing she’s learned, she writes, is that “lack of diversity is often caused by bad habits, not necessarily bad motives and that a few small tweaks can make big differences.” To that end, Newsome has created a guide with 10 steps to more inclusive reporting, with tips on where to find diverse sources, how to build your own source database, and how to track diversity in your sourcing.


How the Daily Maverick used a major investigative story as part of its marketing strategy (GIJN)

In 2019, journalists at South Africa’s Daily Maverick realized they had a major corruption scoop: The leader of South Africa’s third-largest political party had purchased luxury goods with funds looted from a community bank. But they didn’t want the story to disappear after the 24-hour news cycle. So the newsroom team planned marketing, multimedia, and editorial campaigns around that scoop; including radio and TV interviews for the reporter; a Twitter thread promotion; Google Earth Studio animations for a video; and launch of the investigation to newsletter subscribers before they broke the story to the world. According to CEO Styli Charalambous, the investigation spawned a dozen related stories that drove up traffic for a month, and directly boosted the site’s membership conversions.


Facebook now lets users and pages turn off comments on their posts (The Guardian)

Twitter recently launched a feature that lets users control who can reply to their tweets; Facebook is now following suit by allowing users to limit who can comment on their posts. The change follows a landmark ruling in Australia in 2019, which made news outlets liable for defamatory comments posted by users on their public Facebook pages. Facebook’s new feature will bring some relief to news outlets that struggle to keep up with moderating conversations on the platform, writes Josh Taylor.


If you don’t support abuse on Twitter, should you support Twitter? (Medium, Jane Elizabeth)

Twitter is not typically a place where meaningful engagement between journalists and their audiences happens — instead many journalists, especially women and journalists of color, experience daily abuse on the platform. So maybe it’s time for more journalists to step away from Twitter — and for their editors and managers to support them doing so, writes Jane Elizabeth. Apart from the stress and anxiety of being regular targets of threats and hostility, Twitter can also give journalists a distorted view of the people in their communities, Elizabeth adds.


The unglamorous reality of community engagement and why it’s totally worth it (Medium, LAist/KPCC)

Journalists are often led into community engagement work by lofty ideals and aspirations of what journalism should be, but the day-to-day work can be difficult and even tedious, writes Ashley Alvarado. From schlepping stacks of printed materials to events, to wading deep into massive spreadsheets, to answering the same questions from audiences over and over again, journalists at Southern California Public Radio share the least glamorous aspects of their jobs — and why, at the end of the day, they still love what they do.