Need to Know: August 10, 2021


You might have heard: Online harassment of female journalists is real, and it’s increasingly hard to endure (The Washington Post) 

But did you know: Newsrooms are failing to protect women journalists. Survivors hope Felicia Sonmez’s lawsuit will change that (The 19th*) 

Former Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez is suing the paper for discrimination after editors told her she couldn’t cover the accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh because she had publicly come forward about her own sexual assault. Now other journalists who are sexual assault survivors are hoping that this lawsuit will discourage these kind of career-sidlelining editorial decisions. Many feel that newsrooms fail to support and protect their female reporters from attacks both online and in-person, due to costs and liability concerns, and instead move them off of beats or stories that could be “dangerous” or controversial. 

+ Related: Sonmez’s lawsuit highlights a “system that treats women fundamentally differently” and feeds into a debate about what objectivity in journalism really means. (Tomorrow Will Be Worse) 

+ Noted: White House to require visitors, journalists to confirm vaccination status (The Hill) 


Best practices for journalists covering crises on Twitter

A study examining how journalists cover crises on Twitter found that audiences value objective, “instructing” information during a crisis, and are most likely to retweet that information — possibly out of a desire to help. It also offers three priorities for journalists who are using Twitter as a reporting tool during a crisis. This article is part of API’s Research Review series, which highlights academic research that could be relevant and useful to the news industry.


Gannett launches a network-wide push to rework its crime coverage (Poynter) 

As Gannett newspapers like New York’s Democrat and Chronicle and the Arizona Republic began reevaluating their crime coverage, Atlantic regional editor Hollis Towns realized the whole chain needed to change its approach. Journalists across the Gannett’s network have been attending trainings over the summer to make their crime coverage more enterprising and less reactive. Having already phased out mugshot galleries, Gannett is now sunsetting police blotters and focusing more on trend stories rather than individual crimes. Articles about crimes now include more context, and a variety of voices beyond the “official” police narrative. And the papers are committed to covering a crime story through to the end, rather than only covering an incident or an arrest. 


Long reads and no ads: The UK start-up hoping to provide a future for local journalism (iNews) 

Launched in Manchester, England less than a year ago, The Mill is a newsletter service providing well-researched long reads about local issues that might otherwise go uncovered. Nearly a thousand people subscribe to the outlet’s daily newsletter for £7 per month, while another 13,500 subscribe for the free weekly edition. The success of the Substack newsletter has inspired the launch of two sister publications in other northern English cities, countering the tendency for British media to be dominated by London-based publications. The publication schedule was partially inspired by Tortoise, the British “slow journalism” site. 

+ Earlier: Why “slow journalism” thrived during the pandemic ( 


Twitter’s racist algorithm is also ageist, ableist and Islamaphobic, researchers find (NBC News)

Researchers in a Twitter-hosted contest have found that the social media platform’s image-cropping algorithm discriminates against gray- or white-haired people, those in wheelchairs, and those wearing headscarves. These findings follow on the discovery last year that the algorithm discriminates against Black people in photos as well. The image-cropping algorithm would decide which part of a photo to show as a preview; it was taken offline last year after the AI was found to prefer white faces over Black ones. At the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas, Twitter sponsored the contest to find new elements of discrimination in its AI; the winner won $3,500. 


Physicians want the media to change the way Covid is being covered (CNN)  

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S., some doctors are frustrated at the way the media is covering the issue. Radiologist Dr. Nisha Mehta said that stories should be based less on official press conferences, which have not changed people’s behavior. Instead, she wants to see more personal stories on those afflicted with COVID-19, as well as coverage of bed and staffing shortages at hospitals. “We almost wish that we could take people on rounds in the ICU with us or walk them through the emergency room,” she said, “and have them listen to the stories of the people that are there.”  


How the Albany Times Union’s principles put it on a collision course with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (The New York Times) 

Last week, a report finding that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women also revealed that his office had attempted to release damaging information about accusers to the press, including to Albany’s local paper, The Times Union. That leaked info was never published or even seen by the paper’s reporters, largely due to The Times Union’s “old-fashioned principles” — no off-the-record discussions unless absolutely necessary and minimal schmoozing with political figures. This made the paper an enemy of Cuomo, who wasn’t able to coerce as much good coverage from the paper as he wanted, especially after he moved full-time to Albany in 2019.