Need to Know: August 11, 2021


You might have heard: Local media has spread misinformation from vaccine skeptics (The New York Times) 

But did you know: Local news outlets are talking about a lack of trust when reporting on COVID-19 vaccine rejection (CNN)

With COVID-19 continuing to spread and a rift growing between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, Brian Stelter writes that almost all local news outlets are including references in their coverage to misinformation and low levels of social trust. From Massachusetts to Alabama to California, outlets are quoting health care professionals struggling to convey the importance of the vaccine, even to family members, in the face of overwhelming falsehoods that circulate online. According to Olga Khazan of The Atlantic, convincing the unvaccinated to get shots may come down to making them realize the seriousness of the disease, amounting to what Khazan describes as  “a strategy based on fear.” 

+ Noted: Chicago Tribune names Mitch Pugh as new top editor; Colin McMahon resigns after 18 months (Chicago Tribune); Hotel executive Stewart Bainum Jr. is advertising for help to launch a “high profile, well-funded” news startup in Baltimore (Poynter); New York Times tech workers to walk off the job today over accusations of “union-busting tactics” (Twitter, @Silverman) 


Trust Tip: Explain the life cycle of a news story (Trusting News)

The life cycle of a news story — its origins to how it is covered — is mysterious for outsiders. News outlets should make a point of explaining the process of reporting a story, walking audience members through every step, writes Mollie Muchna. At WCPO, senior reporter Larry Seward produced a series on the life cycle of a news story, including how news stories are updated throughout the day. And Marc Duvoisin, editor-in-chief at the San Antonio Express-News, wrote a Twitter thread detailing how a story was discovered and reported. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 


Three ways nonprofit news outlets can grow individual giving in 2021 and beyond (Institute for Nonprofit News) 

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, nonprofit news organizations grew in 2020, with individual giving growing by 63%. These nonprofit news organizations can continue to boost individual giving, INN writes, by incentivizing recurring contributions over one-time donations. This has been a successful model for public media; recurring donations make up only 5% of individual giving amongst nonprofits, compared to 40 to 50% for public media stations. INN also encourages nonprofits to focus on converting small-dollar donors to mid-range contributors, as well as suggested planned giving options for major donors.


Colombian journalism laboratory covers women and LGBTQ+ communities traditionally excluded from coverage (LatAm Journalism Review) 

Female voices, and a focus on female issues, are still underheard in Colombia’s media. A new project — Laboratorio de Historias Poderosas, or the Powerful Stories Laboratory — is looking to expand the media narratives around Colombian women and LGBTQ+ people. The group gathers journalists who are looking to tell stories about communities that have historically been underrepresented, and provides training and resources for them. That training includes both practical knowledge like fact-checking with subtler skills like covering sensitive topics and working with vulnerable people. So far, the lab has published five projects from 20 Colombian and Venezuelan journalists, which were distributed by outlets across Latin America. 


Governments turn to social media influencers to boost vaccine rates (Associated Press) 

State and local governments across the U.S. are turning to local social media influencers to help reach vaccine-hesitant Americans. In Colorado, the state’s #PowertheComeback campaign is aimed at communities of color that have been historically underserved and where vaccine rates are still low. It’s the latest attempt to boost numbers after various incentives like lotteries and scholarships were offered. The state currently pays citizen influencers up to $1,000 per month to post about their own vaccine experiences, share information about pop-up clinics, and dispel myths and misinformation about the shots. 


Journalism jargon is obfuscating the facts (Dame) 

Figures on the far-right of the political debate, such as Ben Shapiro, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Josh Hawley, are often treated as “wacky jokesters or plain old ‘conservatives,'” writes Allison Hantschel, rather than people promoting incendiary lies and bigotry. Hantschel argues that, even after years of debate during the Trump administration about what to call a lie, elite journalists are skittish about using plain wording, preferring euphemisms and vague statements “couched in the language of politeness.” She says that this tendency to fall back on cliches allows bad actors to spread dangerous ideas.


Racket joins a rising tide of journalist-owned media startups (Nieman Lab) 

Ten months after Minnesota’s alt-weekly City Pages was closed by owners Star Tribune Media, four former editors founded Racket, a “reader-funded, writer-owned digital news startup.” Unlike City Pages, which was a free, ad-driven paper owned by a billionaire, Racket is an online-only subscription service. The journalists decided to launch their own publication in part because, as former City Pages editor-in-chief Em Cassel put it, even being in the Star Tribune’s guild “didn’t save us at the end.” The site will launch on Aug. 18 with three membership tiers ranging from $50/year to $999/year; the staff is hoping to pull in 4,000 paying subscribers.