Need to Know: August 14, 2020


You might have heard: Ken Doctor is starting a news outlet of his own in Santa Cruz (The New York Times)

But did you know: Year-old publication Santa Cruz Local has nearly doubled paying members since the coronavirus pandemic (Poynter)

Santa Cruz Local was founded in 2019 as a podcast, newsletter and website devoted to public policy coverage in Santa Cruz County, California. The site’s founders, Kara Meyberg Guzman and Stephen Baxter, have kept up with original reporting and community listening events during COVID-19, and that work has paid dividends. Since the start of the pandemic, the outlet has seen its number of paying members nearly double to 500, tripled its newsletter subscription rate, and grown to include two more part-time staffers.

+ Noted: Zeus Technology to license its performance adtech to Tribune Publishing (The Washington Post); The Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican partnering to print both publications, will layoff 70 (AP News)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Is it too late to contend with QAnon, Kremlin-backed fake news and Serbian protests. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


What makes successful media and advocacy partnerships (Medium, Center for Media, Data and Society)

A new study from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs examined four collaborations between media and advocacy groups around the world to explore how they can work together to further their own missions. While there is no one model for these partnerships, almost all are built on a foundation of familiarity and trust. A good place to start is with training, as the resources invested in seminars and workshops will help both groups in the long-term even if the collaboration is short-lived. One area of difficulty is that a journalist’s idea of impact may differ from an advocate’s, so it is important for each group to articulate the roles and goals of each group at the beginning of any collaboration.


Combatting Africa’s infodemic with a WhatsApp-only publication (WAN-IFRA)

The Continent, a pan-African newspaper distributed mainly on WhatsApp, began when journalists Simon Allison and Sipho Kings began noticing dual trends on the messaging app: plagiarized copies of legitimate newspapers, shared alongside dangerous COVID-19 misinformation. The publication, a partnership with the South African Mail & Guardian, publishes short articles that are designed to be read and shared on mobile phones. The publication launched within two weeks of the idea, and has thrived in part because WhatsApp’s encryption technology makes it virtually impossible for government censors to interfere with publication.


Big Tech pushes voter initiatives to counter misinformation (Axios)

The presidential election in November is likely to be very different from past elections, and tech companies are taking proactive efforts to make sure that they’re spreading accurate information about voting. Google will direct people to verified pages for information on voter registration and voting, candidate information will appear on YouTube when someone searches a candidate’s name, and Google ads will offer more transparency into political ads. Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat are also rolling out tools and features to make it easier for users to vote.

+ Apple readies subscription bundles to boost digital services (Bloomberg)


The QAnon cult is growing and the media is helping (Columbia Journalism Review)

The cult of QAnon has been growing online since 2017, but its spread recently has been fueled in part by credulous coverage by media outlets, argues Mathew Ingram at CJR. By profiling QAnon believers and bringing the conspiracy theory to the mainstream, journalists run the risk of “normalizing” the group’s behavior and beliefs. This is true especially as political candidates who align themselves with QAnon are successful at the ballot box and tech companies struggle to deal with the spread of the disinformation on their platforms.


Nandini Jammi’s Sleeping Giants targeted the news business, but now she has a plan to help (Wired)

Nandini Jammi and Matt Rivitz started Sleeping Giants in 2016 to encourage brands to block their advertising on Breitbart, leading to a crippling of the site’s finances. The technique involved telling advertisers how to restrict their content from appearing next to certain keywords, which had the unintended consequence of harming hundreds of legitimate websites who lost ad revenue when covering legitimate news. (Less reputable sites were able to work around the blocks.) Now, Jammi and Claire Atkin are working on a system to help marketers see where their ads are going, with the hope of breaking the dependence on programmatic ads and encouraging brands to invest in ads with high-quality publishers.


+ Why most journalism startups suck: Deconstructing business patterns in journalism (Medium, Johannes Koponen)

+ The civil war tearing Sports Illustrated apart (The Daily Beast)

+ Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, CEO of Grist, on how to make the environment “culturally resonant” (Medium, The Idea)

+ Bat Boy Lives! An oral history of Weekly World News (Mental Floss)