Need to Know: August 26, 2021


You might have heard: Facebook created an “oversight board” to adjudicate — and even overrule — its content moderation decisions (NBC News)

But did you know: Facebook is considering forming an election commission (The New York Times)

Facebook has approached a handful of election policy experts in an early attempt to build a commission that would officially advise it on global election matters, including political ads and misinformation. Outsourcing the responsibility for making election-related decisions could buffer Facebook from partisan criticism, said people with knowledge of the early discussions. If the commission succeeds in forming it would be similar to Facebook’s Oversight Board, a collection of journalism, legal and policy experts who make independent decisions on content that should be removed from Facebook.

+ Noted: Rana Cash is named executive editor of The Charlotte Observer, the first Black person to lead the newspaper in its 135-year history (Charlotte Observer)


How a small-town paper is applying conflict mediation skills to its opinion content

Concerned over the increasing animosity and polarization in its opinion pages, The Laconia Daily Sun partnered with the Solutions Journalism Network to train its letter writers in mediation techniques that promote civil dialogue.

+ Today Trusting News is hosting the first in a series of online discussions about how to build trust with news audiences across the political spectrum. Today’s discussion at 2 p.m. ET will cover the potentially damaging effects of wire content in local news outlets, and what journalists and editors can do about it. Register here. (Trusting News)


A news collaboration documenting the return to school (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)

Six news organizations —, The Dallas Morning News, The Fresno Bee, The Seattle Times, The Christian Science Monitor and The Hechinger Report — have partnered on a solutions-focused reporting series that explores how schools are welcoming students back to campus amidst a lingering pandemic. Each newsroom reported on a core challenge facing schools in their own communities, but the solutions can be applied in other places. All work produced as part of the series is republished by the participating news outlets, extending the reporting’s reach and impact. ​​“The power of the series is in its focus on solutions — that all communities can learn from — at a time when the challenges seem so overwhelming and daunting,” said Sarah Carr, project manager for the collaborative.

+ The three basic principles of “solidarity reporting” (Twitter, @EngagingNews)


How Brazilian news outlets are monetizing news in São Paulo’s favelas (LatAm Journalism Review)

Four news outlets are collaborating on an initiative that gets news out to low-income communities in São Paulo and brings in advertising revenue. They’ve installed 25 digital screens at strategic points around the city that display news headlines and advertisements. Users can access the full news stories through QR codes shown on the screens. The Território da Notícias initiative was funded by Google in 2019, allowing the news outlets to hire a technology team that developed the publishing system for the screens. Commercial manager Ronaldo Matos expects Território da Notícias to become fully sustainable. “Anyone who graduates from college in five years’ time will be able to create a journalism site in their neighborhood with TN’s far-reaching network,” he predicted. “It will also be able to monetize its content, as an alternative to social networks, meeting ethical and editorial principles of journalistic quality.”

+ How Mexico helped The New York Times get its journalists out of Afghanistan (New York Times)


Should you turn your ‘read next’ links into a game? There’s a widget for that. (Nieman Lab)

A handful of publishers are testing out a gamification widget called the Knowledge Tracker that encourages visitors to news websites to stay a while and read more articles. When a user first arrives to view an article, they’re presented with an initial score that is based on their reading history on the site. Then they’re shown more articles as well as the number points they would earn if they read them. “The more an article contains elements that you have never read before, the higher its score,” says Barak Ronen, co-creator of the Knowledge Tracker. “What happens there is essentially rewarding the user — and choosing the articles — based on bursting your filter bubble.”


What the Pfizer-approval story says about our media ecosystem (Columbia Journalism Review)

The FDA’s approval last week of the Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines absorbed the mainstream media’s attention, taking precedence over the war in Afghanistan. Journalists largely predicted that it would assuage the concerns of vaccine skeptics and make way for more vaccine mandates. But that view of the story shows that journalists aren’t taking into account the distrust of institutions harbored by many Americans, writes Jon Allsop. Much of mainstream media is reaching audiences who are already vaccinated and tend to have a higher trust in institutions, which would have rendered the story less important; the rosy predictions around the FDA approval helping overcome vaccine hesitancy may not turn out the way the media seems to expect, says Allsop.


This newspaper revived the evening edition it closed 29 years ago (Poynter)

The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review brought back its evening edition, The Spokesman Chronicle, as an eight-page e-edition for subscribers. The evening Chronicle — produced by the Spokesman-Review’s current staff — is meant to help the newspaper hang onto its subscribers as their subscription fees creep ever upward. So far, so good: Since launching the evening e-edition, the paper has attracted 41% more overall page views, digital subscriptions have increased 2.5%, and there’s been a 4.5% increase in activation of digital subscriptions. E-editions have attracted new subscribers and engaged existing ones for more than just the Spokesman-Review, writes Kristen Hare — they’re a key part of the Tampa Bay Times and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s business strategy, for example.

+ Earlier: To retain subscribers, The State (Columbia, S.C.) sees the e-edition as a key product to increase loyalty (Better News)