Need to Know: April 21, 2021


You might have heard: Unions push for pay equity as a path forward (Nieman Reports) 

But did you know: A record number of journalists unionized during the COVID-19 pandemic (Axios)

The last year has seen an unprecedented rise in news media unionization efforts. This has been a result of the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, more consolidation of local media outlets, and an impassioned focus on social justice in newsrooms. More than 1,800 journalists unionized in the NewsGuild and Writers Guild of America in 2020, up from 1,500 the year before. The trend is spreading to local newsrooms, in large part due to the threat of hedge fund and private equity takeovers. Union leaders predict that when workers return to the office, unionizing efforts will only pick up more.

+ Noted: Local Media Consortium announces that applications are open for its second annual scholarship program (Local Media Consortium); Publishers of 125 newspapers in 11 states have filed or announced lawsuits against Google and Facebook claiming unlawful monopolization (Editor & Publisher) 


Trust Tip: When you stop covering something, tell your audience (Trusting News) 

Newsrooms are good at telling their audience when they’re doing something new, but not so good at announcing when they’re stopping something. Joy Mayer writes that regular readers will notice when a segment has been dropped or staff has left, and if the newsroom does not explain the change, readers will make their own — often negative — assumptions. When dropping a coverage area, for instance, a news outlet should explain why as honestly as possible to the audience, even if it means admitting that something isn’t being read by a paying audience, or that cutbacks are requiring a change in staff priorities. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 


The state of digital news preservation: Endangered but not too late (Reynolds Journalism Institute) 

In some ways, digital content can “live forever” online, but for many newsrooms, one disk failure or corrupted server could wipe out an entire backlog of content. A report from the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri looks into the difficulties that newsrooms face in maintaining a digital news archive that can withstand software updates, standardization efforts and upgrades to new technology. Recommendations from the report include creating a preservation policy, assigning preservation as a specific task to someone in the newsroom, reviewing metadata to ensure that crucial information is not missing, and looking into options for web archiving. 

+ New free online course for women journalists and allies: Learn how to plan for reporting safely (Knight Center)


How the Economist drove digital engagement in 2020 through social media (International News Media Association)

For the Economist’s U.K.-based social media team, 2020 was a record-setting year. The team focused on refreshing its social media accounts by focusing on clearer graphics, illustrations and data visualizations, leading to its highest levels of monthly referrals for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The team of editors, working remotely, crowdsourced material from around the newsroom, all of which was subject to a thorough fact-check before being shared publicly. The Economist branched out into Instagram Stories to explain the beginning phases of the pandemic, while turning to Twitter and Reddit for coverage of the U.S. presidential election. 


Twitter’s timeline algorithm buries external links but expands source diversity (Medium, Technically Social) 

New research from the Computational Journalism Lab at Northwestern University has found that Twitter’s algorithm is less likely to show users tweets with external links than an unfiltered view. When users view their feed as an algorithmic timeline — which prioritizes “top tweets” — only 18% of tweets include an external link, compared to 51% of tweets when users view their timeline as a chronological feed. At the same time, algorithmic feeds showed a slightly higher number of internal Twitter links (13% compared to 12% chronological) and more internal pictures (30% compared to 19%). Twitter users who view the algorithmic feed almost doubled the number of unique accounts in their feed, and saw fewer tweets from the most prolific posters. 


Humanity faces a climate emergency — shouldn’t that be news? (The Washington Post) 

Eleven years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, garnering global coverage of the catastrophe. But, writes Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, the media has failed to convey the importance of the ongoing climate crisis with the same urgency. In 2019, for instance, broadcast news networks in the U.S. spent only four cumulative hours discussing the climate crisis throughout the whole year. She argues that mainstream media needs to be covering the impact of climate change more like it did the COVID-19 pandemic, with prominent stories showing how the crisis is permeating everyday life. 


Why do people still get print newspapers? Well, partly to start up the grill (Nieman Lab) 

A study of news consumers in Argentina, Finland, Israel, Japan and the U.S. finds that people who read news in print are often getting more out of it than just the news. Researchers in both Argentina and Finland found men subscribe to a newspaper in part to use the pages to start stoves at their home. The study found that, in many ways, people’s relationship to print products is often not directly about the content itself. Instead, print media consumption is often a part of other routines, such as reading a magazine in a coffee shop, or traditions, such as a child reading what a parent has recommended. The study indicates that leaders looking to the future of media need to think more about the context in which users consume news.