Need to Know: April 9, 2021


You might have heard: Bipartisan bill introduced to provide tax incentives in support of local journalism (News Media Alliance) 

But did you know: Infrastructure spending could help save local journalism (The New Republic)

With Democrats in Congress moving forward on a wide-reaching infrastructure bill, Osita Nwanevu in The New Republic makes the case that some of the money should go towards fighting news deserts. Media outlets played a crucial role in informing the public during the pandemic, and Nwanevu argues that the government should dedicate $30 to $40 billion over the next 10 years — approximately 1% of the cost of the proposed infrastructure bill — to a federal fund that offers grants to state and local news outlets and reporting projects across all mediums. By investing in what Nwanevu refers to as “America’s civic infrastructure,” the government would both create jobs in the media and bolster communities across America.  

+ Noted: Teen Vogue names Danielle Kwateng executive editor in first tweet since March (The Wrap) 


How Charlotte’s WSOC-TV dove deep on affordable housing to serve its community — and improved its ratings (Better News)

WSOC-TV was looking to go “bigger, better and deeper” on an initiative called “Priced out of Charlotte,” which focused on the affordable housing crisis in the city. The station challenged itself to do at least one housing-related story every day; it also launched a fundraising and awareness partnership with a local nonprofit that helps to keep families from being evicted or having their utilities disconnected. In the end, the station raised over $100,000 — and jumped to the top of the ratings. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ Related: Winning in a very different way — WSOC doubled down on Priced Out of Charlotte and super-served its community on a critical issue (Cronkite News Lab) 


Chance the Snapper went viral, and Block Club Chicago raked in $100,000 (Medium, LION Publishers) 

In July of 2019, nonprofit newsroom Block Club Chicago broke the news of an alligator sighting in the city. The story quickly went viral, and the newsrooms ultimately published 30 stories about the gator, dubbed Chance the Snapper. The outlet saw an opportunity for fundraising, and thanks to existing relationships with a local artist and printing vendor, Chance the Snapper t-shirts came together in a matter of hours. 4,000 t-shirts were sold, and Block Club Chicago managed to keep most of the profits by keeping the supply chain local — even mailing the t-shirts themselves. The t-shirts proved popular with people who were not regular subscribers to the site. 


Abuse is ‘the reality’ for journalists in Northern Ireland (Belfast Telegraph)

After a photographer for the Belfast Telegraph was attacked while covering loyalist unrest, the paper’s editor in chief, Eoin Brannigan, called the violence “the reality for many journalists going about their work in Northern Ireland.” The photographer, Kevin Scott, was pushed to the ground and had his camera destroyed, then was instructed to leave the area. Brannigan and Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan said that intimidation of journalists was becoming more common in the region. Northern Irish police have appointed an officer to investigate threats towards and harassment of journalists. 


What city governments can learn from collaborative journalism (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media) 

Cassie Haynes, the founder of Resolve Philly, had previously worked as a deputy in the anti-poverty agency for the city of Philadelphia. She found the work of local government frustrating — slow, insufficient, and generally apathetic. She found herself drawn to the work of collaborative solutions journalism, which she saw as a way to have a real impact on communities. Haynes likens the work of municipal governments to the days of competitive newspapers, where agencies are so focused on receiving public recognition for their work that they do not collaborate or share planning processes with each other, resulting in an enormous amount of wasted time and effort. She believes that local governments could learn from the successes of collaborative journalism projects, such as the focus on detailed internal project management. 

+ National Archives can’t resurrect Trump’s tweets, Twitter says (Politico) 


Does the mainstream media need to bring back the ombudsman to restore credibility and trust? (Poynter) 

With trust in the media painfully low, Dan Salamone wonders whether the return of ombudsmen could help restore the perception of the media. In interviews with eight former ombudsman, many said that the rise in public criticism on platforms like Twitter make ombudsmen more necessary than ever. Part of this is because outside criticism is easy for reporters or editors to ignore, even if it is legitimate, but a well-researched critique from an ombudsman carries more weight within a newsroom. At the same time, ombudsmen perform a valuable service on behalf of the newspaper, by explaining journalism values to the public to counter baseless accusations of bias or explain why certain decisions were made. Several ombudsmen said that a current version of that role would be less focused on bi-weekly columns and more invested in daily blogging, social media, and even podcasts. 


The 19th* is a nonprofit news startup made for the moment (Poynter) 

When the 19th* started last spring, the site’s founders, Emily Ramshaw and Amanda Zamora, worried that launching during a pandemic would be impossible. Instead, the site, which focuses on covering politics and current events through a gender lens (with a particular focus on underrepresented communities), quickly became a national success. The site was the first national outlet to report on the death of Breonna Taylor, and over the summer, it was the first news outlet to land an interview with Kamala Harris after she was chosen as the Democratic nominee for vice president. And the site has continued to evolve; in 2021, it added the LGBTQ+ community to its mission, in recognition that women aren’t the only group marginalized by their gender. 


+ “There’s another way to do conflict”: Amanda Ripley, author of Complicating the Narratives, chats about her new book and upcoming virtual event (The Whole Story) 

+ “I know exactly what they need”: An ex-Times editor plans to whip a struggling Swedish start-up into shape (Vanity Fair) 

+ Scale was the god that failed: To understand what went wrong with digital publishing, we need to go back to the fat years of newspaper journalism that preceded it (The Atlantic) 

+ Immigration coverage needs more nuanced language (Poynter)