Need to Know: August 17, 2021


You might have heard: A collective of Afghan female journalists are battling to make women’s voices heard (The Guardian) 

But did you know: Afghan journalists are ‘absolutely petrified’ amid the Taliban takeover (CNN) 

Global and local journalists in Afghanistan, especially female journalists, are worried about their safety as the Taliban quickly sweeps into power. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that Afghan journalists “face extreme dangers,” and Reporters Without Borders says that three female journalists have already been murdered this year. While Western journalists are unlikely to be targets, locals who have worked for global news organizations “have a big X on their backs,” says CNN’s chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward. An Afghan radio station manager was killed in Kabul last week, and many independent news outlets have “hunkered down” during the unrest. CNN also reports that two female journalists were visited by Taliban fighters on Sunday, with others receiving threatening phone calls. 

+ Related: Washington Post publisher asks Biden administration to help evacuate journalists (NBC News) 

+ Noted: PolitiFact partners with Arizona State University’s D.C. campus, expanding its footprint in the heart of the nation’s capital (Poynter) 


Podcast: How the LA Times created compelling virtual events during the pandemic (It’s All Journalism)

The Los Angeles Times has a long history of hosting successful in-person events. Its annual Festival of Books, for example, draws more than 150,000 people every spring. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many of those events were at risk of being cancelled. The Times’ audience engagement director, Samantha Melbourneweaver, and live events editor, Donna Wares, talked to It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell about how they took those events virtual, what worked and what didn’t. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Table Stakes newsroom training program.

+ Earlier: Read more about how the LA Times tapped its newsroom talent and expertise to put on successful virtual events (Better News)


How to teach the solutions journalism framework (Poynter) 

Teaching solutions journalism is more than just instructing students to report on solutions as well as problems, writes researcher and professor Barbara Gray. Inspired by a course from the Solutions Journalism Educators Academy at the University of Oregon, Gray teaches her students the four main tenets of “sojo” — response, evidence, insight and limitations. Students should focus on how people are successfully tackling particular needs within larger issues. Focusing on solutions can also help journalism students get over nerves in interviewing by helping them focus on listening and searching for evidence in hard data. A good solutions journalism piece should also have insight into what is working and what isn’t working in a particular field, and an awareness of the limits of these solutions in the long run.


‘This is more than a news story for us’: Why local journalists in the UK won’t doorknock or show gunman’s face (Press Gazette) 

Last week, a gunman killed five people in the British city of Plymouth. Journalists at the local news site Plymouth Live told residents that they wouldn’t be contacting residents impacted by the shooting this week, nor would they publish a photo of the shooter, even though it has already been published in national outlets. The site’s digital editor, Edd Moore, said that the decisions came out of a concern for local residents and the desire to give them “the space to grieve.” The local crime reporter, Carl Eve, tweeted, “You need time and space to process this. If you want to speak to us later, we’ll be here to listen to you.” 


Why companies are waging war on meetings to tackle burnout (Digiday) 

A day full of meetings has long been seen as a sign of importance, but some companies have found that fewer meetings leads to both more productivity and happier employees. Instead of ongoing check-ins, student career platform Shamrck has shifted to bi-weekly and quarterly team meetings, with most other communication occurring via Slack. For many companies, fewer meetings will require adopting asynchronous communications, and allowing emails, documents and videos to convey updates rather than face-to-face sessions. At digital media company TheSoul Publishing, the rare meeting includes a mandatory agenda, a 30-minute time limit, and a recording of the meeting stored with other important information. For companies not committed to cutting back meetings so drastically, some have implemented meeting-free days. 


The Afghan debacle lasted two decades. The media spent two hours deciding who to blame (The Washington Post) 

With the Taliban’s abrupt takeover of Afghanistan over the weekend, Margaret Sullivan writes that the media fell far too quickly into political punditry rather than substantive historical analysis. This sort of “winners and losers” coverage can be particularly damaging for a story like Afghanistan, she writes, because most Americans have not followed the ins and outs of the war closely. The weekend’s coverage didn’t provide context about the history of the conflict, such as the important work done by Washington Post journalists in The Afghanistan Papers, a project that found that government officials had lied about the U.S.’s prospects in the war for nearly 20 years. Instead, the focus became how the situation will affect President Biden’s legacy and popularity. 


How Red Ventures has become a massive digital media company by focusing on selling high-value items to niche audiences (The New York Times) 

In the past few years, media company Red Ventures has purchased a string of “intent-based” media outlets, which attract niche readers in areas like travel and tech and nudge them towards purchasing decisions, taking a cut for each product bought. Currently, Red Ventures owns CNET, The Points Guy, Lonely Planet and Healthline, and with $2 billion in annual revenue, it may be the biggest digital publisher in the country, writes Ben Smith. Unlike traditional “affiliate” marketing, where a publisher might take a single-digit percent cut of a sale, Red Ventures has focused on lucrative financial commissions, where each credit card sold can earn up to $900. While the company’s CEO insists that there is a “red line” between editorial and business, some journalists worry that the focus on commissions may lead to pressure to focus on profitable ventures over other news.