Need to Know: April 30, 2021


You might have heard: In a 2020 survey, 20% of female media workers said they had been attacked offline (ICFJ)

But did you know: 1 in 5 local TV stations reported attacks on journalists in 2020 (Poynter)

In a new survey from the Radio and Television Digital News Association, 20% of television news directors said that their employees experienced attacks in 2020. 86% of these directors said that they had taken steps to protect employees, including purchasing bulletproof vests and gas masks and sending security teams with reporters. Half of the attacks took place during rallies, protests, marches or riots, and the study found that most attacks came from protestors, with some from police. 15% of the attacks appeared to be random. Violence against employees of radio stations was much lower, with only 4% of directors reporting attacks. Reporters in larger media markets were more likely to be attacked than reporters in smaller markets. 

+ Noted: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press urges DOJ to investigate law enforcement’s treatment of the press in Minneapolis and Louisville (RCFP); Verizon explores sale of media assets, including parts of Yahoo and AOL (Wall Street Journal); Newhouse School announces finalists in 2021 Mirror Awards competition (Newhouse School); Gannett issues response to NewsGuild study on pay inequality (Twitter, USATODAY_PR) 


Keeping opinion local: The benefits of cutting national politics from opinion sections

After a local newspaper dropped national politics from its opinion section, researchers found that polarization in the community spread more slowly. The newspaper also experienced a surge in letters to the editor from local contributors on local topics, including transportation, arts and culture, and online readership of the opinion section doubled. We spoke with one of the researchers about the implications of the study and considerations for other news outlets that are considering abandoning national opinion content. 


Increasing engagement through puzzles and games (Twipe)  

Publishers around the world have used puzzles as a way to attract and retain readers and subscribers. Last year, The Wall Street Journal introduced puzzles as part of its onboarding process. One week after subscribing, new subscribers receive an email encouraging them to “Play Smart, Stay Sharp with WSJ Puzzles.” The addition not only improved retention rates, but increased engagement rates across the Journal overall. The paper has since increased its puzzle offerings, including building jigsaws derived from illustrations from news stories. 


How a robot called Sophi helped Canada’s Globe and Mail hit 170,000 digital subscribers (Press Gazette) 

Canada’s Globe and Mail has been using Sophi, an artificial intelligence program that manages the paper’s paywall, for support with homepage editing and social media decisions. The paper credits the AI system for increasing its digital subscriptions, raising its number of digital subscribers to 170,000 and bringing in millions of dollars in revenue. The program works by offering a dynamic paywall, deciding whether a visitor should be able to read an article for free or not based on the article’s content and available reader information. The Globe and Mail is now selling Sophi as a service to other publishers and companies in other sectors.  


When designing flexible work arrangements, focus on individual human concerns, not just institutional ones (Harvard Business Review)

As the pandemic ends, companies are considering how to open up offices after a year of employees working from home. Lynda Gratton writes that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create flexible, hybrid work arrangements that focus on the needs of employees as well as the needs of the company. They will need to grapple with not just the changes in place constraints — employees working from the office versus working from anywhere — but also changes in time constraints — employees working standard hours versus working asynchronously. In order to develop new policies, companies need to focus on the specific jobs and tasks of employees and teams, individual preferences and circumstances of each employee, the projects and workflows necessary for productive work, and inclusion and fairness in new policies. 


Why Facebook’s ‘support of independent voices’ won’t work (Substack, Scrawler)  

Facebook has announced that it will commit $5 million to support independent local journalists and bring them onto their platform. In exchange for a multi-year licensing fee, writers would be asked to ‘“regularly publish written, public-interest journalism focused on a local community.” But, Ryan Lawler writes, Facebook’s history of botched journalism partnerships — Instant Articles, the pivot to video, changes to the News Feed — have left few journalists willing to trust the platform. Instead, independent journalists, or those considering the jump to self-publishing, will and should be wary of partnering with an organization like Facebook, Lawler says. 

+ Related: While journalist Sheila Dang highlighted that Facebook’s program will “prioritize journos working in news deserts and covering communities of color,” media critic Emily Bell called the plan “incentivized fragmentation of the structure of local news” and journalist Craig Silverman said any writers involved should “be mercenary about” getting their data from Facebook. (Twitter, @Sheila_Dang, @emilybell, @CraigSilverman) 


From asylum to visa: Know your immigration vocabulary (El Paso Matters) 

El Paso Matters, a nonprofit covering El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, has written a guide to the vocabulary of immigration in an attempt to “to demystify loaded terminology.” The guide makes clear certain legal differences; for instance, deportation from the United States occurs after a hearing before a judge, while expulsion happens without a hearing. The guide also breaks down updates in official language, such as the change during the Biden administration to using the term “undocumented noncitizen” instead of “illegal alien.” The guide also includes a glossary of commonly-used terms such as the “credible fear” requirement of asylum and the Migrant Protection Protocols put into place by the Trump administration. 


+ A look back at’s milestones as the news site turns 25 (Wall Street Journal) 

+ In the vast Mountain West, collaboration on radio news finds success (Nieman Lab) 

+ Insider’s metrics for measuring success are good for business, but leave reporters feeling frustrated (Digiday) 

+ Victor Pickard: Journalism is in crisis. Only public funding can save it. (Jacobin) 

+ USF St. Petersburg student journalists dive into the university’s finances in yearlong investigation (Poynter)