Need to Know: April 23, 2021


You might have heard: Climate journalism enters the solutions era (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: We need a new local language of climate change reporting (Reuters Institute) 

Climate change is a global story, but it is often told from the perspective of the world’s richest countries — those that contribute most to it and those in the best position to address its effects. But it is people in less affluent countries who will be most affected. Reporters in Africa say that they struggle to explain the impacts of climate change to locals who think it’s about “the polar bears” rather than the water and air in their own country. For many around the world, coverage of climate change involves the political wrangling around environmental issues and images of extreme events like California’s wildfires that feel remote from their lives. Global reporters said that what’s needed is local data that explores the effects of climate change in various parts of the world, as well as access to funding and experts to better tell their region’s stories. 

+ Earlier: When people are already searching for information about a local weather event, journalists can optimize those articles so that they’re in the context of climate change, to help people connect the dots between the weather they’re experiencing and global warming (

+ Noted: New York Times tells tech workers to put union effort to a vote (The New York Times); Guardian Media Group to voluntarily return £1.6m of furlough money (The Guardian); A political group’s hiring of journalist Mark Halperin draws protests from staffers (The Washington Post)  


A ‘slow interview’ on journalism values, people’s moral values and trust (Galley by CJR)

Last week API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research co-published a study examining how the trust crisis might be better understood through people’s moral values rather than their politics. In an interview with CJR’s Mathew Ingram, API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel said the research, which looked at connections between moral values and journalism values, aimed “to get at why the question of trust in journalism often seems like ships passing in the night the same way politics now does.” He explains the origins of the study, its approach and the greater context of research surrounding press relationships with the public.

+ Earlier: The study’s story experiments suggested that by emphasizing additional moral values in news reports, journalists can better engage more people, skeptical and trusting alike (Twitter, @AmPress)


How a tiny media company is helping people get vaccinated (MIT Technology Review) 

Epicenter-NYC, a newsletter launched during the pandemic and based in Jackson Heights, Queens, has begun focusing on getting more people in the neighborhood vaccinated. The news outlet has booked more than 4,600 vaccine appointments for people in New York City and elsewhere. With the help of more than 200 volunteers, the newsletter has put up fliers, translated information and directly booked appointments for some people. Right now, the outlet is focusing on “matchmaking” — connecting people who want to get vaccinated with the closest vaccine sites. In an interview, publisher S. Mitra Kalita writes that many people who are still unvaccinated are not hesitant about receiving the shot, but struggling to work it into their schedules. 

+ Earlier: How a Florida reporter became a one-woman help desk for anxious seniors navigating the COVID-19 vaccine (Poynter)


Russian news outlet publishes guide for journalists on what to do when authorities raid their homes (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

In the wake of multiple raids by Russian authorities into journalists’ homes and offices, Julia Krasnikova of the Russian watchdog outlet IStories has written detailed advice for fellow journalists in Russia and around the world about how to handle this situation. “At a minimum we can support each other by drawing maximum attention to what is happening,” she writes. In preparation for a possible raid, she recommends retaining a lawyer, memorizing key phone numbers and backing up all your accounts in case all of your devices are seized. During a raid, she suggests trying to maintain a calm demeanor, ask questions about what the police have the authority to do, and record instances of misconduct when possible. 


Internal report shows how Facebook failed to prevent the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement (BuzzFeed) 

Despite assurance from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the company had worked hard to fight against election misinformation, a new internal report showed how the platform was used by the “Stop the Steal” movement to plan the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The report found that the company’s focus on fake accounts and “inauthentic behavior” took precedence over curbing the spread of disinformation from real people. Facebook, the report says, was outplayed by a coordinated network of accounts that promoted the election lie as well as violence and hate, and the company’s piecemeal attempts at regulation failed to grasp the harmful effects of the movement at large. 


How media freedom (and Section 230) led to the conviction of George Floyd’s killer (The Conversation) 

Darnella Frazier’s video of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd turned the incident into a global story. And, Michael J. Socolow argues, it wasn’t just the ability of cellphone videos or social media’s influence that allowed that video to spread. It was also the U.S.’s tradition of civil liberties and media freedom that protected Frazier’s right to record the video and the tech companies’ rights to host and publish it. He writes that Section 230, which prevents most websites from being held liable for user content, is a modern-day equivalent of press freedom, ensuring that even unpopular media remain free and allowing people like Frazier to “stand up to the government in ways previously unimaginable.” 

+ Related: FTC nominee Lina Khan signals support for aggressive approach on Big Tech (Wall Street Journal) 


Facing ‘unprecedented demand,’ The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma expands (and adapts) its offerings (Nieman Lab) 

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University is working to help journalists who are feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and traumatized after an exhausting year in news. Founded in 1999, the center says the last year has been its busiest and most intense. Now, it is focusing on increasing its newsroom trainings, developing specific resources for journalists from underrepresented communities, and emphasizing the importance of resilience during times of “open-ended” stress. The center’s director, Bruce Shapiro, said that this year has brought more interest from organizations, rather than just individual journalists; trainings for newsrooms have focused on creating peer support and structured workflows that allow employees to step back. 


+ America’s newsrooms are reckoning with their mass shooting coverage (CNN) 

+ On Oscar weekend, a personal reflection on “Spotlight,” which won best picture five years ago (Poynter) 

+ “Sign of the Times”: Caliphate and the perils of reporting online (Harpers)

+ Addressing the information gap for Black West Virginians (Columbia Journalism Review)