Need to Know: August 11, 2020


You might have heard: The Compass Experiment is on its way to Youngstown (Medium, Mandy Jenkins)

But did you know: Mahoning Matters proves its worth in a newspaper-less Youngstown, Ohio (NPR)

When Youngstown, Ohio’s only newspaper, The Vindicator, ceased publication in 2019, digital outlets like Mahoning Matters stepped up to cover the void. The outlet has found a sustainable local news model by balancing necessities like schools updates and local sports with investigative reporting into city-wide neglect and code-violating restaurants. COVID-19 brought new pressures to the site; the editor created a “Keeping the Faith” column that offers positive vibes in a dark time. The five-person team, including three reporters, was launched with Google seed money and must develop a self-sustaining revenue stream in the next few years.

+ Noted: Scripps Howard Foundation to award $600,000 to advance diversity in journalism (Scripps Howard Foundation; Apple News+ in iOS 14 opens article web links in Apple News, intercepting traffic from websites (MacRumors); Registration is open for Radically Rural, a Sept. 24 digital conference that includes a track about small-town journalism (Radically Rural)


How might we reimagine opinion journalism for our digital, polarized age?

Newspaper opinion sections can be polarizing — and in an age of fragile trust in local news, many newsrooms are unwilling to risk driving away readers. We look at three newsrooms that are reinventing their opinion sections, turning them into venues for engaging, inclusive dialogue around local issues. 


The New York Times shows how viral particles spread in a subway car (The New York Times)

Public transit has become a pariah during the coronavirus pandemic, with fears that crowded, stuffy trains can spread the virus. The New York Times breaks down how the city’s subways are ventilated, and how a sneeze travels within a single car. In a step-by-step breakdown, the visualization shows how air flow is recycled and filtered within the car, overlaying text with moving arrows. It also shows the parts of the subway that riders can’t see themselves, like the cooling coils and fans on top of the trains. The visualization also shows the difference in particle dispersal between a sneezing mask-wearer and a sneezing non-mask-wearer. It’s an example other journalists may be able to follow, even with less technical sophistication, by reporting on how ventilation works on public transit in your city.


Italy’s new liberal newspaper Domani promises ‘facts not chatter’ (The Guardian)

Carlo De Benedetti, an 85-year-old Italian newspaper tycoon, is launching a progressive, independent newspaper and website in September that he calls “a post-COVID 19 newspaper born alongside the hope for the country’s reconstruction.” The paper will launch with  €20 million of De Benedetti’s own money, then be taken over by a foundation. He claims that Italian newspapers are too conservative or centrist, and often influenced by the opinions of their owners. Major issues for the paper will include the environment, economics, and Europe. 

+ Bucking industry trend, Pierre Karl Péladeau’s nationalist newspapers thrive in Quebec (The Logic)


Wikipedia has decided to stop calling Fox News a ‘reliable’ source (Wired)

The accuracy of Wikipedia relies on an enormous number of reader-editors who are constantly updating entries, and in July, a panel of administrators ruled that Fox News would no longer be considered a “generally reliable” source of information for politics or science for the site. The site claims that it’s not a political decision, but one made after much discussion between editors, and with the aim of creating consistent policies that can be implemented across the site’s millions of articles.


Stop calling racist rhetoric a ‘dog whistle’ (Columbia Journalism Review)

Journalists often invoke the idea of a dog whistle — a whistle that makes a noise that dogs can hear, but humans cannot — to refer to comments that may seem innocuous but are actually racist. But, Bill Grueskin argues, these days, politicians are not using dog whistles; instead, their racism is loud and blatant. References to the dangers posed to white people by people of color are not subtle, and journalists should not give into the convenience of the phrase when it would be more accurate to accurately describe these statements as racist.


News outlets mull the possible end of their editorial and business-side ‘Trump Bump’ bonanza (Digiday)

Ever since Donald Trump positioned the media as the “enemy of the people,” news outlets have seen a bump in numbers when it comes to coverage of the president. But with coronavirus dominating conversation, and the current forecasts that Joe Biden may be elected in November, news organizations are wondering whether a reduction of political drama could erode their clicks, ratings and views. News outlets that have walked a fine line between maintaining journalistic integrity while also fighting back against the notion that journalism is “the opposition” could find themselves struggling to appear relevant in a less newsy time.