Need to Know: August 20, 2021


In a new study from the Pew Research Center, almost half of the country (48%) thinks that the government should be taking steps to curb false information, up from 39% in 2018. Correspondingly, the percentage of Americans who think “the freedom to publish and access information” must be protected, even if that information is false, has dropped since 2019, from 58% to 50%. (Pew Research Center)

Collaborations between news outlets are leading to arrangements where the funding and editing of one reporter is shared by two or more news outlets, write Melody Hoffman Guernsey and Mark Jacob. Large organizations like Open Campus and ProPublica have teamed up with smaller newsrooms to help cover the costs of reporting on stories for both outlets. (Medill Local News Initiative) 


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week. 

New research shows how journalists can connect with conservatives and right-leaning audiences. A group of 27 newsrooms conducted interviews with conservative and right-leaning members of their audiences to understand their frustrations with the news. Several pieces of advice for journalists came out of those conversations, including avoiding narrow or extreme stereotypes of conservatives, making an effort to increase intellectual diversity in newsrooms (not just racial and ethnic or gender diversity), and paying more attention to national wire content, which interviewees said they tended to distrust more than the local news. (Medium, Trusting News) 

The conflict over conflicts of interest. Several New York Times writers have been scrutinized recently for conflicts of interest, mostly discovered by outside investigations rather than internal processes. Increasingly, some in journalism are wondering whether conflicts of interest are so hard to avoid that they should cease to be considered a problem. (Columbia Journalism Review) 

New tool allows NPR to track source diversity in real time. Dex, a tool attached to NPR’s CMS, asks journalists to input demographic information about each source used in a story, then tracks all that information for later reports about source diversity. The goal is for NPR to “look and sound like America.” (Poynter) 


We’re on A Road to Pluralism. Will you join us on the journey? (Medium, Trusting News) 

Trusting News’ new initiative, A Road to Pluralism, is designed to help local journalists take stock of their role in a polarized society and how they can reach and be trusted by a more diverse audience with fact-based, responsible journalism. The goal of the new Pluralism Network is to strengthen trust across the political spectrum by helping journalists bridge divides, foster productive conversations and fuel open-mindedness.

+ Trusting News is also taking applications for a program specifically on earning trust with communities of color — learn more and apply by Sept. 7 (Medium, Trusting News)


+ Selling the story of disinformation: How “Big Disinfo” emerged during the Trump years at the juncture of media, academia, and policy research (Harper’s Magazine) 

+ The new WikiLeaks: How the transparency collective DDoSecrets eclipsed Julian Assange (The New Republic) 

+ The media’s role in the Cuomo myth: Journalists preferred to lavishly praise the New York governor for appearing strong while overlooking his actual policy decisions (Columbia Journalism Review)