Need to Know: April 16, 2021


You might have heard: Journalists reporting on COVID-19 vaccines should “tell the story in its totality” (Poynter)

But did you know: How fact-checkers are explaining the pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Poynter) 

After the CDC recommended pausing the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, fact-checkers focused on the reasoning behind the decision as well as what it could mean for audiences., for instance, detailed the science behind rare blood clots and why even exceptionally rare ones like this — six cases out of 6.8 million doses — were enough to call for a pause. They also explained the similarities between the J&J vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine, whose distribution was paused in Europe due to related concerns. PolitiFact explained what those recently vaccinated with the J&J vaccine should look out for, while MediaWise took to Twitter to show how headlines that lack context could lead to the spread of misinformation. 

+ Noted: Kim Godwin named president of ABC News, becoming the first Black executive to run a broadcast-network news operation (Variety); Military Veterans in Journalism teams up with the Poynter Institute and Craig Newmark Philanthropies to provide veterans with critical journalism training and fellowships (Poynter); Reuters puts its website behind a paywall (The New York Times) 


7 questions to help local media rebound in 2021 

In many newsrooms, conversations about rebuilding after 2020 aren’t happening, or are focused primarily on narrow questions like when and how journalists will return to their offices. “Frankly, the newsroom reopening decision is likely to be the least complicated task for local newsroom leaders,” writes Jane Elizabeth. Elizabeth presents a short but important list of actions that newsrooms need to tackle now. 

+ We want to know what actions you’ve taken (or questions you have) in your own newsroom to rebuild after 2020. Your responses will inform a follow-up report meant to guide news organizations through this critical recovery period.


How listening to the community transformed this Charlotte newsroom (Medium, Trusting News) 

At WFAE in Charlotte, the radio station’s transition to digital platforms coincided with a refocusing on actively listening to the community. Ju-Don Marshall, the station’s chief content officer and executive vice president, says steps like inviting listeners into the newsrooms for on-background conversations helped reshape the station’s approach to coverage. Engagement has become the core of their work, with initiatives like meeting community members at library branches, creating a community advisory board, and adopting listening tools like call-outs for feedback and a public Google Voice number. They also began focusing on amplifying diverse voices, which led to a collaborative project where anyone can submit story ideas to a cohort of local news organizations, any of which can claim the idea. 

+ Earlier: How WFAE used a podcasting contest to reach diverse audiences (Better News); How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships (American Press Institute)

+ News Media Alliance’s new guide offers tips for successful news publishing partnerships (News Media Alliance) 


How an internal newsletter helped Austria’s Die Presse act on insights from its audience data (WAN-IFRA) 

The Vienna-based news publisher Die Presse has seen a 110% increase in digital subscriptions since 2019, and the secret to success has been a focus on building the organization’s data capabilities. In the beginning, this meant creating dashboards to catch every piece of audience data about their digital product, then fine-tuning the collection to focus on the most actionable data points. These real-time dashboards had their use, but in order to focus on broader strategy, the company implemented a weekly, curated internal newsletter that focuses on what can be learned from that week’s data. This led to a series of other tools — a KPI-driven newsletter broken down by department, a performance prediction tool, a monthly “fitness monitoring” tool — that have put data at the center of the organization as a whole. 


Social media managers are learning to log off (Substack, Link in Bio) 

The job of social media managers often involves an “always on” mentality, whether it’s updating feeds on a weekend or monitoring the success of a post on a day off. Rachel Karten writes that, for social media management to become a sustainable career path, organizations need to address issues around salaries, mental health, networking and time off. When she asked fellow social media managers about their tips for logging off, nearly 200 responded. Many involve dedicated time away from screens and setting boundaries around when they are unavailable, even to do a “quick” update. 

+ TikTok funds first episodic public health series “VIRAL” from NowThis (TechCrunch) 


The death of the newsroom means the end of journalism as we know it (Press Gazette)

In the wake of the announcement that Reach, a major publisher in the U.K., is closing its physical newsrooms (as are several in the U.S.), Chris Blackhurst writes that these closures are a profound loss in the field. While some may say that the need for a newsroom is antiquated, Blackhurst argues that a newsroom is about “a buzz, an intangible chemistry” that can’t be replicated with staffers working mostly remotely. Particularly in the case of newspapers, newsrooms create the opportunity for spontaneous collaborations and community building within the organization. And, he maintains, it’s important that the difficult work of newsroom management, like budget cuts and layoffs, should be done face-to-face in an office, rather than virtually. 

+ Why CNN reporter Clarissa Ward’s “shallow coverage of the Myanmar coup, endangerment of her sources and embarrassing rationalizations erode journalistic ethics” (New Naratif) 


What does movement journalism mean for journalism as a whole? (Reynolds Journalism Institute) 

The term “movement journalism” was popularized in 2017, but its goal — using journalism as a way for underrepresented communities to comment on and control their own lives — hearkens back to the days of Ida B. Wells. A new generation of journalists, particular Black, brown and queer reporters, see movement journalism as a way of countering the traditional model of “objectivity” in newsrooms that often fails to account for minority viewpoints. But those advocating for movement journalism have found that many reporters of color are hesitant to embrace it, given how hard they’ve worked to succeed in mainstream publications. Supporters hope that, with the success of new outlets like The 19* and Scalawag that embrace movement journalism, more reporters will see it as a viable option. 


+ “Maybe the kind of reform that we want comes from creators being like, ‘I’m done’”: Charlie Warzel on newsletters, platforms, reporting, editing and luck (Nieman Lab) 

+ To get more news coverage of women, we need more women making the news (Evoke) 

+ The journalist and the whistleblower: As the government attacks press freedom, reporters must consider their responsibility to sources — and each other (The Intercept)