Need to Know: August 3, 2022

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: How Axios is tackling local news: newsletters from small teams, in more markets (Digiday) 

But did you know: As newspapers shutter, Axios, City Cast and other organizations attempt to fill a void. Whether they are is in dispute (Poynter) 

As local newspapers have struggled to survive, nationally funded products like Axios Local and City Cast are attempting to “create a universal model that can be tweaked to different local markets,” writes Elizabeth Djinis. While some see the addition of any local news products as a net benefit for a region, others say that the one-size-fits-all model, which relies heavily on aggregation, doesn’t show a true investment in the community. And it’s telling that national brands aren’t entering news deserts; they’re picking media markets that have an existing media ecosystem. 

+ Noted: The Markup names Sisi Wei as editor-in-chief (The Markup); Celebrating 5 years since launch of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker (Freedom of the Press Foundation) 

API UPDATE 

API launches Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund

The American Press Institute is launching a small grants initiative to help newsrooms improve and deepen their relationships with their communities in this year’s elections. The grants will be awarded as part of API’s Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund, a program aimed at empowering news organizations to implement community listening in their elections coverage between now and November. News organizations that have ideas for ways to forge stronger community relationships through deep listening and engaged reporting may apply for these grants of $1,500 to $5,000 per newsroom through August 17.

Trust Tip: Navigate abortion coverage with these strategies (Trusting News) 

When it comes to coverage of a complicated, polarizing topic like abortion, people trust journalism they think understands their views and communicates them accurately and respectfully. With that in mind, Trusting News has collected some strategies to keep in mind as you report on abortion and the issues surrounding it. That means avoiding easy labels, minding ​​adjectives and descriptions, being proactive with transparency, asking for input and guidance, and staying aware of the big picture of coverage. 

TRY THIS AT HOME

How New York’s City Limits compiled more complete data on homelessness than the city itself (The New Yorker) 

When David Brand began covering homelessness in New York City for the local nonprofit City Limits, he quickly realized that the government’s statistics didn’t actually cover everyone in the city’s sprawling shelter system. In January, the outlet launched the NYC Shelter Count 2022, which is updated every day with data covering the entire system, with numbers that are about 20% higher than those reported by the Department of Homeless Services. City Limits has a full-time staff of only seven people, compared to the thousands employed in city government. “There’s no practical reason that the news outlet should be able to produce a more useful and comprehensive shelter census than the city,” writes Eric Lach. 

OFFSHORE

How Rwanda’s New Times triples digital subscriptions with e-paper (International News Media Association)

New Times, the only English-language newspaper in Rwanda, began distributing an e-paper at the beginning of the pandemic. Created as a response to COVID-19 restrictions, the paper gained a fan base among Rwandans living overseas. Subscriptions to the paper tripled after the digital edition was released, helping the newspaper to stay afloat, said Moses Kirui, the paper’s sales and marketing director. The paper has also found success with a job board and podcasts, and has begun providing video production for outside clients. 

OFFBEAT

A 26-year-old entrepreneur takes a fresh shot at selling news one story at a time (Poynter)

Zette is a new start-up attempting to create a “pass” to allow internet users to read articles online without bumping into paywalls. The company’s founder, Yehong Zhu, says the product will work as a browser extension. Users will buy a bundle of articles — Zhu envisions it will ultimately be $9.99 for 30 articles, but it will launch in beta this fall at a much lower price — and then “spend” them when they hit upon a paywalled article. Once you’ve accessed an article, it’s yours to keep and share with friends. So far, McClatchy’s 29 regional newspapers have signed on, as well as Forbes and Haaretz. 

UP FOR DEBATE

How the news business’s economics altered the news itself (The Washington Post) 

When advertising was the primary source of income for newspapers, it was in the advertiser’s best interests for a paper to avoid seeming to have a political agenda, argues George Will. Citing an essay from media scholar Andrey Mir, Will writes that the shift to subscription-based profits led to an increase in pieces “driven by anger and fear, the fertilizers of polarization.” Mir argues that in appealing to a particular base of young, urban, college-educated readers, mainstream news outlets supply not news but “news validation.” This has led to increased readership for the authoritative, flagship outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post while hurting local outlets. 

SHAREABLE

Family newspaper with a storied past seeks to create a more certain future (The Daily Yonder) 

The Canadian Record, in Canadian, Texas, has served its community for 132 years. Now, editor Laurie Ezzell Brown is looking to retire, but she can’t find someone to take over her role, which includes reporting, writing, and photography alongside publishing the paper. She says she’s invested heavily in the paper since taking it over from her father, and she’s disappointed that a successor has not emerged. “It never occurred to me that there would come a time when nobody wanted to own a community newspaper that was in great shape,” said Brown.