Need to Know: April 14, 2021


You might have heard: Fundraising and membership are key for the survival of nonprofit newsrooms (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

But did you know: Overall, the nonprofit news sector appears to be doing well (Columbia Journalism Review) 

With the pandemic hitting ad-based news outlets particularly hard, many news organizations are rethinking their business models entirely, with conversion to nonprofit becoming a popular option. So far, the nonprofit model seems strong; overall, these newsrooms are lessening their reliance on foundation grants and focusing on individual donors and community partnerships. One of the biggest concerns remains the limits of philanthropic funding and its unequal distribution, but so far, there’s no proof that grant funding for journalism is bottoming out, writes Gabby Miller. Instead, many see this time of disruption as an opportunity to build something new. 

+ Noted:  Some local reporters were barred from a news conference after Daunte Wright’s death (The New York Times); Top bidder for Tribune newspapers is an influential liberal donor (The New York Times); Poynter launches series on layoffs and the people who left news during the pandemic (Poynter) 


A new way of looking at trust in media: Do Americans share journalism’s core values?

Many Americans are skeptical of what journalists consider their core mission, and the argument over media trust often has the feel of people talking past each other. But in new research released today, we found that the trust crisis may be better understood through people’s moral values than their politics. The study between API and AP-NORC explores how people’s moral values relate to their perception of core journalism values, as well as news stories. And it points to simple changes journalists can make to their reporting that could help increase trust with journalism skeptics and supporters alike.


How the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped data journalism (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

When COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020, data visualizations became an integral part of everyday storytelling. Maps, in particular, have become the go-to tool for displaying COVID information, from case rates to government restrictions to the vaccine rollout. In a survey of data journalists and graphic reporters, many said that the pandemic had shown colleagues the value of visualizations in storytelling, and allowed them to “break away from formulaic storylines.” Innovative tools — like The New York Times graphic that allowed users to visualize their place in the vaccine line — helped to give readers context and a sense of agency in a situation that is mostly not in their control. 


Young journalists in Afghanistan are fighting for press freedom (Reuters Institute) 

When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, one of the biggest changes for the country was a rise in independent media. Now, the country has more than 100 newspapers and 170 radio stations. But with the rise of the Taliban again, journalists — particularly female journalists — are under threat, and many news organizations are self-censoring their content. Still, a younger, more educated generation of journalists is holding their ground, lobbying for government help to curb violence against the media and celebrating  National Journalists’ Day on March 17. Many are determined to uphold these values even if the Taliban gains more power after an American withdrawal. 


Facebook’s Oversight Board is accepting user appeals to remove content from Facebook and Instagram (The Oversight Board) 

Facebook’s Oversight Board now says that users on Facebook and Instagram who have exhausted the appeals process can now petition the board to have content removed. Previously, users could only appeal for content that they wanted restored. In a statement, the board said that it will use its “independent judgment to decide” any issue, and that its decision will be binding on the platforms. If multiple users report the same piece of content, the complaints will be consolidated and decided as a single case. The board says that this expansion of powers lays “strong foundations for reshaping Facebook’s approach to content moderation in the long-term.” 


Should Tribune’s future buyer abolish printed papers? (Substack, Second Rough Draft) 

With more potential buyers emerging for Tribune Publishing and other historic newspapers around the country, Richard J. Tofel writes that new owners for these papers should immediately “take the newspapers out of print” and switch to an all-digital model. He writes that most of these potential new buyers don’t have the funds to let their new paper lose money indefinitely, so they need to focus on reinventing or strengthening their digital offerings, rather than propping up a print product that is likely on its way out anyway. He says that new buyers should make these changes at the time of purchase — or even as a condition of purchase — to lessen the blowback from readers, other journalists and workers on the print side. 


How NPR’s ‘founding mothers’ got listeners to pony up for the news (Vanity Fair) 

In the 1980s, NPR faced the possibility of total financial ruin, and in an attempt to keep the lights on, editorial employees — journalists Cokie Roberts and Linda Wertheimer, and anchor Susan Stamberg — leapt into action. Roberts and Wertheimer got 110 members of Congress to sign a petition that expressed support for the network, while Stamberg appeared on C-SPAN and appealed directly to viewers for money. Ultimately, it was this last one that offered the most promise, but NPR couldn’t directly receive funds from listeners; all money had to come through member stations. This led to a three-week fundraising drive, called the “Drive to Survive.”