Need to Know: April 5, 2021

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: In February, hedge fund Alden Global Capital reached a deal to buy Tribune Publishing, which runs the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune and other papers (The New York Times)

But did you know: That deal has been interrupted by a rival bid for the Tribune (The Wall Street Journal)

Late last week, the owner of Maryland-based Choice Hotels, Stewart Bainum Jr., and Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss submitted a $680 million bid for Tribune that could push Alden to raise its own $635 million bid for the publishing company. If shareholders determine that the new proposal is better than Alden’s, the hedge fund would have four days to submit a counterbid. If Alden doesn’t place a higher bid, the hedge fund would have to abandon its efforts to take over the Tribune, which have lasted over a year. 

+ Noted: Meredith Corp. is considering selling its local television stations (Bloomberg); General Motors pledges to devote more ad dollars to Black-owned media (Variety); Vice Media Group is opening an office in Saudi Arabia (Hollywood Reporter)


7 questions to help local media rebound in 2021 (American Press Institute)

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 to organize information to bolster investigative reporting (Nieman Storyboard)

Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, who won a Pulitzer in 2017 for his coverage of Donald Trump’s history of charitable giving, suggests some simple habits to build a bedrock for investigative stories. Fahrenthold, who famously tracked Trump’s scant philanthropy on a legal pad, started his Trump organization reporting with a different kind of list. Using a spreadsheet, he listed thousands of people with connections to the organization before emailing them and documenting any nuggets of information they had. Without cataloging information as soon as it comes in and adding context, you risk losing that thread, he said. 

+ Earlier: Investigative reporting is often glamorized, but WBUR investigative reporter Beth Healy noted last year: “Often we are doing some very nitty-gritty, dare I say, tedious work. Often, you are poring through records and creating chronologies and spreadsheets.”


On new site, journalists share their mental health experiences during the pandemic (Behind Local News)

Since last year, journalists have covered an onslaught of troubling stories without the option to tune out. On Newsbreak, a site and social media feed created by Tom Hourigan of the BBC, journalists can discuss the strain placed on their mental health while covering the pandemic. On the site, journalists share tips on dealing with anxiety, grief and depression. This post offers some tips on avoiding the trap of doomscrolling with help from phone settings, apps or actively taking a break from following the news.


After a year of remote work, some companies are moving back to in-person work (The New York Times)

Millions of people, including journalists, started working from home in 2020, and now employers like Goldman Sachs and Amazon are preparing to return to the office. Some companies will continue to offer employees the option of remote work or will schedule a mix of working from home and from a central office. Salesforce and Spotify will continue to allow employees to work from home, while other companies are considering rotating staff between remote and in-person schedules.


How public editors could hold newsrooms accountable for racism, bias and inequity (Generocity Philly)

A diversity and inclusion audit found that The Philadelphia Inquirer overrepresented white and male voices while framing its coverage for a white, suburban audience, ultimately affecting the morale of staffers of color. Tauhid Chapell writes that Philadelphia’s newsrooms lack diversity and need accountability, and one solution is reviving the role of public editors, who work to address readers’ concerns about a news outlet’s journalism. Chapell argues that public editors could press journalists to address racism in their coverage and their newsrooms.

+ Earlier: The Washington Post and New York Times removed public editor and ombudsman positions in the 2010s amid growing distrust in the media (Columbia Journalism Review)


After a Missouri paper printed a blank front page, donations followed (Associated Press)

Kansas City weekly Northeast News recently printed a blank front page, didn’t post news online and didn’t answer any office phones for 24 hours to demonstrate its impact to the community. In a column that ran inside the paper, managing editor Abby Hoover urged readers to provide support and wrote that the Northeast, which runs for free in print and online, had 60 days left to operate. The effort resulted in publicity that earned the paper new advertisers and more than $3,000 in pledged donations. Newspapers like the Northeast have lost precious advertising dollars during the pandemic, and some industry observers predict print publications will face additional financial hardships as federal COVID-19 relief ends.