Need to Know: April 27, 2021


You might have heard: According to our 2018 survey, half of the public was “not at all” or “a little” familiar with the term op-ed (American Press Institute)

But did you know: Why The New York Times is retiring the term ‘op-ed’ (The New York Times) 

The New York Times will no longer use the term “op-ed” to refer to contributor opinion pieces, opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury has announced. She explained that the term, coined in 1970, originally referred to these articles’ position opposite the editorial page, but that it’s no longer meaningful in a digital era. Going forward, editorials will retain their name, while op-eds will be known as “guest essays.” The term guest essay will be displayed prominently above the headline online. The term was chosen, Kingsbury wrote, because “[r]eaders immediately grasped this term during research sessions and intuitively understood what it said about the relationship between the writer and The Times.” 

+ Noted: Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible podcast company sold to SiriusXM (Deadline); “Targeted” by Tampa Bay Times wins 2020 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism (Nieman); Nikole Hannah-Jones to become Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina (University of North Carolina, Hussman School of Journalism and Media) 


Do more reporting that is based on audience needs 

In our report “How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships,” we explore ways newsrooms are listening to their communities — particularly marginalized or misrepresented groups — and responding to their information needs. See how you can adapt their listening strategies for your own audience.   


With Trapital, Dan Runcie found a way to cover the business of hip-hop and make it sustainable (Nieman Lab) 

In 2018, Dan Runcie launched Trapital, a media outlet covering the business of hip-hop. His goal, he said, was to cover the business accomplishments of hip-hop artists, many of whom are Black, with the same seriousness as mainstream coverage of tech or finance. One of his most popular essays breaks down why Beyoncé turned to Netflix to release her concert film and documentary “Homecoming,” exploring the complicated metrics behind modern streaming services. Trapital’s offerings include a weekly newsletter covering current news, a monthly essay that dives deep into an evergreen topic and a weekly podcast with industry leaders. The outlet is funded largely by Runcie’s consulting services, which offer advice in areas like partnership development and customer acquisition. 


Singapore’s Straits Times allows subscribers to share content with social circles (International News Media Association) 

In November, The Straits Times added a feature that allows subscribers to “gift” articles to friends or family members. Subscribers can share exclusive content with as many people as they choose, who must register for a free account to read the articles. The change came as a direct result of requests from subscribers to share content with their social circles, and has the added benefit of exposing non-subscribers to the paper’s content. The paper’s lead product manager, Chew V. Ming, writes that it was a “happy coincidence” that the opportunity to “gift” an article coincided with the Christmas season. 


Some publishers reject Google’s new cookieless tracking and ad targeting method (Digiday) 

Several news publishers are objecting to Google’s new FLoC method of tracking and ad targeting. FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts, categorizes groups of people into cohorts and measures them at an aggregate, rather than individual, level. Publishers, including The Guardian and The Markup, are opting out of the FLoC trial, with some concerned that the new system will unfairly categorize people into groups, leading to discriminatory ad targeting or data use. It’s also unclear whether FLoC will be available in Europe, where it may not comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws.  


The limits of the news peg (Columbia Journalism Review) 

Ongoing, systemic problems are often covered in the news via news “pegs,” such as discussions of police brutality that were pegged to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. But the insistence on news pegs makes some stories, such as slow but significant impacts of climate change, difficult to cover. Big, even urgent issues, such as gun violence, are told via individual stories, then relegated when the “newness” fades. And the decision of which individual stories to feature is affected by the same biases as all other news, and often fails to center the narratives of people of color. Jon Allsop argues that news organizations should make a point of covering these important stories whether or not there is a news peg. 


For political reporters, there will be no ‘return to normal’ (Nieman Reports) 

The pandemic has demonstrated the widening partisan gap in America, writes Lisa Lerer, and that gap is something that political reporters will be dealing with long after COVID-19. With the decline of an agreement on basic facts — what some scholars call “truth decay” — political journalists must continue to develop new skills. Just as the pandemic and the 2020 election forced these reporters out their comfort zones — calling out blatant political lies, tracking down virtual interviewees, defending democracy against attacks — the next phase of American life will require reporters to focus on the lingering effects of the pandemic on everyday life. “America will be different,” Lerer writes. “And it will take all our skills — both the traditional and those we learned in crisis — to cover that new reality.” 

+ Related: Addressing false information during the 2020 election and lessons for the future (American Press Institute)