Need to Know: April 8, 2021

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


You might have heard: Earlier this year, the Biden administration’s communications team asked reporters to send in questions in advance for White House press briefings (The Daily Beast)

But did you know: Most reporter questions to the White House are about health, immigration (CNN)

Those topics rose to the top in data compiled by college students in a media course at St. Bonaventure University. International affairs and politics were other popular topics at White House briefings, according to the analysis, and questions about the environment were at the bottom of the list, with just five questions. The data contrasts with results from a January Pew Research Center survey that asked Americans what they thought should be a top priority for President Joe Biden and Congress. About 80% of respondents believed the economy and pandemic should be top priorities, compared to 39% who identified immigration as a top concern.

+ Noted: Two CBS executives were removed from the network after allegations that they created a toxic environment and blocked efforts to hire Black journalists (Los Angeles Times); Digital ad spend grew 12% in 2020 (CNBC)


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How to cover a topic that hasn’t been studied much (Journalist’s Resource)

Last year,, The Indianapolis Star, The Marshall Project and the Invisible Institute collaborated on an investigative project examining the use of police dogs. When the team began digging into the issue of police dog bites, the journalists realized that topic rarely appeared in news coverage or academic research. That meant they needed to find alternative sources to help them evaluate the performance of police dog programs. To do that, the team requested data from 20 cities, spoke with a wide swath of sources with expertise on the subject and watched dog training sessions, all of which led them to identify trends and improve their understanding of dog bite videos.


Italy investigates claims of wiretapping linked to migration reporting (The Guardian)

Last week, Italian newspaper Domani reported that during a human trafficking investigation in 2017, Italian prosecutors secretly recorded at least 15 journalists’ phone calls. The news prompted Italian officials to begin an investigation into the wiretaps, which Domani reported exposed journalists’ sources. Prosecutors also used cellphone data to track the location of Nancy Porsia, a freelance journalist with a focus on migration. Porsia said that her phone was tapped even though she had provided police with information on human traffickers.

+ Earlier: In the United States, the Department of Justice seized phone records for Associated Press journalists in 2013 (Wired)


Some companies are improving employee benefits due to the pandemic (Harvard Business Review)

In a survey of 500 human resource and business leaders, 98% said they plan to offer a new benefit or expand an existing one, especially those related to child care, senior care and mental health support. Attitudes toward senior care appear to be changing, with one respondent saying, “Our company is realizing that senior care is just as important as child care. Employees cannot focus if they have to tend to dependents.” About 90% of those surveyed said they also planned to shift away from at least one benefit that has been affected by the pandemic, such as paid vacation, on-site child care and commuter benefits.


Email shows Insider reporters are judged by something called ‘impact points’ (The Hill)

What are impact points? In an email to staff, editor-in-chief Jim Edwards wrote that journalists earn the points through national TV and radio appearances, social media shares from accounts with more than 1 million followers and other exposure of their work. Spots on local radio, newspapers, and journalists on Twitter, “unless the journalist is huge (i.e. yes to Yasher and Andrew Neil, no to Max Tani)” Edwards said in the email, which was first posted by Tani, media reporter for The Daily Beast.

+ Earlier: In a 2014 piece on how to measure the impact of journalism, Lindsay Green-Barber wrote that the Center for Investigative Reporting’s definition of impact at the time was “a change in the status quo as a result of a direct intervention, be it a text article, documentary, or live event.”


Margaret Atwood is this neighborhood newspaper’s book reviewer (Poynter)

Writer Margaret Atwood was the first supporter of the West End Phoenix, a four-year-old community newspaper in Toronto, Canada that is delivered by volunteers. Now the “Handmaid’s Tale” author has written five book reviews for the paper after promising the submissions if the publication reached 2,021 subscribers this year. “I think her participation really validates us in a lot of people’s eyes who still might think we’re simply a small, neighborhood press,” publisher Dave Bidini said. Along that vein, the paper has printed work from other high-profile authors in the neighborhood.

+ A look behind Diversity Hire, a podcast about race and journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)