Need to Know: August 25, 2021


You might have heard: People avoid consuming news that bums them out (Nieman Lab) 

But did you know: News avoiders are making strategic choices about the information they consume  (Nieman Lab) 

When the coronavirus arrived in the spring of 2020, two competing trends in news consumption — constant news monitoring and news avoidance — started rising. A study of Dutch news users from last year found that those who were directly affected by the pandemic were most likely to increase their news consumption, as were those who received “consistent practical and emotional rewards from consuming Covid-related information.” Another study, in Norway, found that “news avoiders” didn’t completely eschew news but began to absorb it more carefully, taking breaks or restricting their own access to news. The study found that news avoidance is often “a thoughtful, strategic part of news consumption more broadly, not its irresponsible or anti-democratic opposite.” 

+ Earlier: How to help your audience navigate the news so they’re less overwhelmed by it (Trusting News)

+ Noted: The application deadline for the Google News Initiative’s Innovation Challenge is tomorrow, August 26 at 12 a.m. PT (Google News Initiative); The Washington Post deepens its investment in storytelling on TikTok, announcing two new positions (The Washington Post) 


Trust Tip: Assess the role of wire news in your local journalism (Trusting News)

Many local news organizations rely on wire services for national coverage, but audiences are often confused about the origins of wire stories and their prominence in a local outlet. Newsrooms can address this confusion by helping their audience understand the choices made around wire content — why certain wires services were chosen, what is normally covered by wire stories and who makes the decisions about which stories to feature. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 

+ Related: Local journalists, do people trust the wire content you publish? (Medium, Trusting News)


Teen Vogue launches Lesson Plan, curated story collections to help aid education in and out of school (Teen Vogue) 

With “In Session: The Teen Vogue Lesson Plan,” Teen Vogue is hoping to counter what it sees as the deficits of the American education system, from “woefully lacking sex education to inaccurate history lessons.” These curated collections of Teen Vogue stories are intended to “help aid education in and outside the classroom” by filling in gaps left by textbooks and standardized testing-focused curriculums. One collection, Non-Whitewashed U.S. History, features op-eds about the history of the word “Hispanic,” a history of treaties between the U.S. and Indigenous nations and a timeline of women’s suffrage in the United States. Other collections include On Planet Earth, Mind & Body and LGBTQ+ Empowerment. 


How Minority Africa is highlighting underserved communities across the region (International Journalists’ Network) 

Founded in November of 2019, Minority Africa is a news outlet that uses data, immersive and mobile journalism to report on the impact of policies on traditionally underrepresented groups. With a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, founder Caleb Okereke is focused on providing context to stories about minorities across Africa, from the LGBTQ community to people with albinism. The outlet is currently working on an e-learning platform that will help guide journalists and others on issues facing minority communities. Okereke’s goal is to “normalize” stories about underserved communities and “change existing stereotypes without debating people’s human rights.”


A group of moms on Facebook built an island of good-faith vaccine debate in a sea of misinformation (The Washington Post) 

In the midst of a wave of misinformation online, private Facebook group Vaccine Talk has become “an evidence-based discussion forum” for people on both sides of the vaccine debate. The group’s moderators say that unlike Facebook’s attempts to curb misinformation — which involves deleting posts with bad info — the group focuses on productive conversations that can help sway people towards vaccination with an open-minded approach. The group has adopted stricter moderation systems and rules of discourse than the platform overall; members must commit to a code of conduct that bans users from misrepresenting themselves, offering medical advice or bullying other members. And all posters who make a claim must be able to back it up with a citation within 24 hours. 

+ Related: About four-in-ten Americans say social media is an important way of following COVID-19 vaccine news (Pew Research Center); How targeted advertising is promoting coronavirus vaccines (The Washington Post)


Judge rules that Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s decision to bar Black reporter from covering Black Lives Matter was not protected by the First Amendment (Pittsburgh City Paper) 

Last summer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Alexis Johnson was barred from covering Black Lives Matter protests after she posted a tweet comparing property damage after a concert and the George Floyd-related protests, which her employer felt showed her to be biased on the issue. Johnson then sued the paper for violating her civil rights. The Post-Gazette claimed that its decision was a First Amendment choice, and that the decision was disciplinary action taken for editorial reasons. Last week, U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan ruled against the paper, calling the decision a discriminatory personnel decision not related to the paper’s “absolute discretion to refrain from publishing content.” 


Three newspaper unions in Texas fight for first contracts (Texas Observer) 

In the last year, three newsrooms in Texas — The Dallas Morning News, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Austin American-Statesman — announced they intended to unionize with the NewsGuild, making them the only union papers in the state. Union negotiations have gone well between Morning News staff and owners DallasNews Corporation, with both sides reaching tentative agreements on almost all “non-economic” issues. In contrast, organizers at the Star-Telegram, which is owned by McClatchy, say it has been an uphill battle to even establish a time to negotiate. And at the American-Statesman, which is owned by Gannett, organizers say the chain has been “dismissive” of their proposals.