Need to Know: April 7, 2021

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: PA Post merges with Spotlight PA to create largest statewide news organization in Pennsylvania (The Lenfest Institute)

But did you know: 5 imperatives for expanding independent local news (Nieman Reports) 

As quality local news struggles to survive, Christopher Baxter of Spotlight PA writes that collaborative statewide newsrooms could be a crucial element in the journalism industry. Spotlight PA operates as a centralized reporting hub, funded by grants and members, that fills in gaps in statewide political coverage. These stories are then distributed through community newsroom partners throughout Pennsylvania. Baxter writes that the success of this “hub-and-spoke” model in local communities rests on five pillars — operational alignment and opportunity, where both the hub and the spokes serve each other’s needs; a clear and evident need for this type of journalism in the community; an information assessment of community needs, which centers listening to what the community wants from local news; the capacity for individual and/or institutional financial support in the area; and distribution pathways and opportunities for partnerships. 

+ Noted: Meredith explores sale of local television stations (Bloomberg)  

API UPDATE

Lessons on covering voting and election-related misinformation from API’s microgrant recipients 

Last year, the American Press Institute offered 36 newsrooms small grants to support projects focused on the mechanics of voting and election-related misinformation. Today, we’re sharing insights from those projects, including how to detect and address false information, center audiences in election coverage, and offer back-to-basics reporting in times of confusion. The three articles discuss successful approaches to help journalists strengthen future coverage, not just of elections but of civic life and governance more broadly.

+ Trust Tip: Earn trust in your political coverage year round (Trusting News) 

TRY THIS AT HOME

How workers guided Reveal’s coverage of the 2020 census (Reveal) 

Last spring, after Reveal wrote about the census’s last-minute switch to an untested digital platform, a census worker reached out with another tip on tech issues. Reveal’s coverage of further glitches and equipment shortages led to more tips from census workers — so many that the outlet created a web form to allow feedback from more workers about various issues at the Census Bureau, from poor training to repetitive work to inadequate COVID-19 precautions. Reveal used these complaints to create a roadmap for census coverage, which guided their next investigation into the working conditions for census workers. This, in turn, led to more feedback and more stories, guided first and foremost by the experiences of the workers. 

+ El Tímpano releases its first impact report, detailing how the outlet expanded its work and organization during the pandemic (El Tímpano) 

OFFSHORE

How an Indonesian magazine made the switch from legacy to digital (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

The pandemic pushed media companies around the world to focus even more on digital, with major news outlets adding record numbers of digital subscribers last year. Tempo Magazine, an investigative magazine based in Jakarta, Indonesia, used to have a reputation as a print-focused publication. But this year, editor-in-chief Wahyu Dhyatmika expects to make 50% of the magazine’s total revenue from digital. He said the first thing to tackle in the switch to digital was the newsroom culture, which meant bringing in an outside consultant to guide a campaign to build an open newsroom that would be interactive, collaborative and audience-centric. One measure was a monthly meeting called Digital Friday, where programmers and editorial staff met to discuss ideas and projects together. 

OFFBEAT

TikTok adds automatic captions to videos in accessibility push (The Verge) 

In an effort to make the social media app more accessible, TikTok will now allow users to add automatically generated captions to their videos. The feature will initially be available in American English and Japanese, and will expand to more languages in the coming months. Creators can edit the automatic captions to fix mistakes, and viewers can turn captions off if they choose. The company said that the addition of the captions will help deaf and hard of hearing viewers as well as provide convenience for all viewers. TikTok has taken other steps towards making its platform more accessible, such as warning creators about videos that may trigger photosensitive epilepsy, and providing a text-to-speech feature.

UP FOR DEBATE

As we think about returning to newsrooms, what should we keep from the pandemic? What should we lose from before? (Poynter) 

As the vaccine rollout progresses in the U.S., newsrooms leaders are starting to look at what post-pandemic work will look like. For many journalists, the biggest challenge of the last year has been working without the sense of togetherness that a newsroom brings. But certain lessons from pandemic life, such as flexibility regarding remote work and informal virtual gatherings like book clubs, are likely to stick around even when office work becomes more viable. And some news organizations, like the Sahan Journal in Minnesota, are leaning towards like time in the office for reporters and more time out in the community. 

+ Related: 7 questions to help local media rebound in 2021 

SHAREABLE

Why does so much news about the European Union still come out of London, even post-Brexit? (Nieman Lab) 

English is still the most widely spoken language within the European Union, which has meant that a significant portion of news written and consumed about the EU has been produced in the UK. This remains true even post-Brexit, meaning residents within and outside the EU are most likely to be reading news filtered through a country no longer part of the bloc — including in many papers with strong opinions about the existence of the EU itself. This has led to cross-border partnerships and pan-European publications, some funded by the EU. But so far, the continent is still working to determine how to create news that enhances the European “public square,” and if such a concept exists at all.