Need to Know: August 24, 2021


You might have heard: News organizations don’t always link extreme weather with climate change (Columbia Journalism Review) 

But did you know: Public radio listeners are willing to pay for climate change coverage (Current) 

Public radio stations across the country have launched special initiatives and ramped up reporting on climate change in recent years. Many stations found that listeners — and donors — want more coverage of climate change. In particular, audience members want guidance about what they can do and answers to seemingly basic questions about things like electric vehicles. Public radio stations have also launched fundraising campaigns that center on environmental coverage. And a dedicated environment beat isn’t always necessary; adding references to climate change when appropriate in other stories helps to keep listeners informed on a day-to-day basis. 

+ Noted: Media unions ask Biden for support for journalists fleeing Afghanistan (The NewsGuild) 


What can journalists do about the ‘Unreality Crisis’?

How much responsibility do journalists bear for misinformation spreading around America, such as the belief by more than half of Republicans that the presidential election was stolen? Tom Rosenstiel argues that modern journalists are more committed to contextualizing false claims now than they were a generation ago, or even five years ago. However, “bothsideism” — giving equal weight to arguments, even outlandish ones based on false information — is still problematic particularly in television journalism, where more airtime is given to those with more extreme views. At the same time, politicians on the right have thrived by rejecting the media entirely, capitalizing on the distrust felt by conservatives and right-leaning Americans. 

+ Earlier: Strategies for truth-telling in a time of misinformation and polarization (American Press Institute)


Back in locally-owned hands, Berkshire Eagle buys a new printing press (Media Nation) 

The Berkshire Eagle, based in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is “one of the good-news stories amid the local-news crisis of recent years,” writes Dan Kennedy. Previously under ownership by Alden Global Capital, it was purchased by local investors in 2016 and has been slowly rebuilding its brand ever since. Last October, the paper announced that it was cutting its printing days from seven to five as a result of COVID-related advertising losses. But now, president Fred Rutberg has announced that he’s investing in a new printing press that will allow color printing on every page, which he hopes will appeal to advertisers and readers alike, and prove that the outlet is committed to remaining a print product. 


How a Norwegian newspaper is reshaping itself ahead of Parliamentary elections (International News Media Association) 

Ahead of this fall’s Parliamentary elections, Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet has focused on reshaping its coverage for a more digital-oriented audience. The outlet has built its own TV studio near Parliament, and has prioritized debates between party leaders and other high-profile politicians, which air on Dagbladet’s website. With the help of an election researcher, the paper has put together an “election machine,” which allows users to test which party’s policies they favor most. The station is also focused on delivering breaking news across multiple platforms, including television and mobile push alerts, with the help of machine learning. 


A Harvard professor predicted COVID disinformation on the web. Here’s what may be coming next (Boston Globe) 

Joan Donovan, a researcher at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, was one of the first to predict that medical misinformation online would stymie the fight against COVID-19. Deeply immersed in the world of online conspiracy theories, Donovan now warns that social media companies need to alter their algorithms before conversations about the pandemic, racial justice and climate change “threaten the national discourse.” Donovan suggests that the social platforms hire librarians to “curate” content — that is, seek out accurate, helpful information and promote it —  rather than simply employ people to moderate and remove bad info. 


In Washington D.C., Twitter reporters are documenting every shooting — and some aren’t happy about it (Washington City Paper)

A crop of social media “spot news reporters” has started covering shootings in Washington, D.C., hoping to fill the gap left by local news outlets that can’t cover every incident. Larry Calhoun, who tweets as DC REALTIME NEWS, says he reports on shootings within five minutes, and that the community finds his public safety information valuable. The author of another account, Killmoenews, says fans send him $300 on an average day, and up to $1000 on a busy one, to support his work. But some in the journalism world fear that the focus on daily shootings can overemphasize crime and give too much power to the police. 


How the Local Journalism Sustainability Act would help America’s Black newspapers (Rebuild Local News)

The Afro-American, a Baltimore-based newspaper that has published continuously since 1892, would benefit tremendously from government aid in the form of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, writes Anna Brugmann. The Afro-American, like other Black newspapers, has covered communities that often go overlooked in the mainstream press, but often it struggles to raise funds for work like audience engagement. Such hyperlocal publications that serve niche populations “truly have the pulse of local communities,” says Professor Letrell Crittenden of Thomas Jefferson University. “The more good media we have, the better it is for our news ecosystem and of our democracy.”

+ Related: A letter to Pelosi and Schumer from America’s Black newspapers (Rebuild Local News)