Need to Know: August 18, 2021


You might have heard: The New York Times is making about a third of its newsletters subscriber-only (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Are opinion-driven newsletters more likely to attract subscription dollars? (A Media Operator)

Publishers are beginning to look at newsletters not just as a path to subscription, but as a product worth subscribing to directly, writes Jacob Donnelly. Along with a handful of general-interest newsletters, The New York Times is putting several of its “personality-driven” newsletters behind its paywall — newsletters by popular columnists and opinion writers like Kara Swisher and Peter Coy. “There’s a very simple reason for this,” writes Donnelly. “People want to pay for thoughts that resonate with them and confirm their inherent biases.” He predicts this opinion-driven newsletter strategy will be replicated by other publishers in the coming months. “If you have someone on staff that people resonate with, their thoughts rather than reporting might be what gets someone to become a paying subscriber.”

+ Noted: The Washington Post evacuates Afghan employees and family members from Taliban-held Kabul (The Washington Post); Maltese business mogul Yorgen Fenech to stand trial for murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (Times of Malta)


Trust tip: Create journalism that fuels pluralism (Trusting News)

By focusing on extremes and flattening complex viewpoints, journalism often contributes to the “us versus them” thinking that seems to override most societal issues today. But journalists can lift audiences out of entrenched viewpoints and bridge divides by asking themselves three questions: Do I resist oversimplified narratives? Am I fair and accurate in my characterizations? And do I look out for my own blindspots? Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.

+ Trusting News is launching a network of journalists working to build trust across the political spectrum and foster open-mindedness with their reporting. Learn more about the “Road to Pluralism” initiative and how you can get involved.


Why dynamic data visualization is key to covering climate change (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Interactive maps can help readers understand climate change — and what it means for their own lives — more easily than static visualizations, writes James Cheshire. Maps can help readers drill down to specific places that matter to them, offering a localized as well as a global perspective. The New York Times, for example, was able to show through maps that neighborhoods with less green space and fewer trees tend to heat up more quickly. “The power of maps lies in their ability to show us simultaneously that as global average temperatures rise, local conditions threaten to become ever more extreme,” writes Cheshire. “We now need to better harness that power to inspire action.”


Reverso builds a culture of accountability ahead of Argentina’s midterm elections (Poynter)

The fact-checking organization Chequeado has brought together its second iteration of Reverso, a collaboration of Argentinian media organizations fighting election misinformation. Participating outlets will act as an “early warning system” for emerging misinformation. Journalists can contribute fact checks to the project, which will be republished across the Reverso network. Political diversity among the participating outlets was key to Reverso’s success in its first iteration, says Chequeado director Laura Zommer. “If we weren’t able to have partnerships with media from both sides of what we call, in Argentina, ‘la grieta’ (political divide), then perhaps we wouldn’t have gone ahead with the project,” she said. “To be successful in what we’re trying to do, we need media from both sides of the political spectrum.”


Twitter is testing a way for users to report misinformation (Twitter, @BrandyZadrozny)

Yesterday Twitter announced it is testing a new feature to let users report misinformation on the platform in real time. Some users in the U.K., the U.S., South Korea and Australia will see the option “It’s misleading” as among the other reasons to flag a tweet when they click “Report Tweet.” Twitter said it’s starting small to test the effectiveness of the approach: “We may not take action on and cannot respond to each report in the experiment, but your input will help us identify trends so that we can improve the speed and scale of our broader misinformation work.”


Should stories about underserved communities live behind a paywall? (Twitter, @kat_stafford)

Many news organizations put stories about crisis situations — the COVID-19 pandemic or extreme weather events, for example — in front of their paywalls, so the information is free for anyone to access. But what about stories covering historically underserved communities? Many people in those communities can’t afford to access news coverage that directly impacts them, AP reporter Kat Stafford wrote on Twitter. That can perpetuate a longstanding problem in the news industry: “Too many newsrooms are writing about Black [and] brown communities for white-majority audiences.”


Newsroom leadership has never been this diverse, but that’s not enough (CNN)

A new class of media executives who’ve taken the helm at major U.S. publications over the past year is made up mostly of women and people of color. These new hires represent many “firsts” for those publications. But there is still a lack of diversity in the lower ranks, writes Kerry Flynn, and it’s too early to see whether new leadership will help to change that. Some industry observers, however, have noted a greater willingness from new leaders to address the lack of trust that some communities of color have in the media. “Just that rhetorical awareness about how we have not served our audiences, or we have not served them sufficiently, is progress,” said editor and media consultant Stacy-Marie Ishmael.