Need to Know: August 31, 2021


You might have heard: Trump era drove largest-ever party divide in media trust (Axios) 

But did you know: Partisan divides in media trust widen, driven by a decline among Republicans (Pew Research) 

The percentage of Republicans with at least some trust in the mainstream media has been cut in the last five years, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. In 2016, 70% of Republicans said that they had some or a lot of trust in national news organizations; in 2021, only 35% of Republicans agreed. Local news organizations have fared somewhat better; trust levels amongst Republicans in local news have dropped from 79% to 66%. Social media has seen a similar drop, with only 19% of Republicans saying they put trust in the platforms, down from 32% in 2016. Meanwhile, Democrats’ trust levels have remained more consistent — 83% trusted in national news organizations in 2016, and 78% currently do. 

+ Related: How local newsrooms can better connect with conservative and right-leaning audiences (Center for Media Engagement); A new network of local journalists is exploring how to earn trust with audiences across the political spectrum (Trusting News)

+ Noted: Sarah Bartlett to step down as Newmark journalism school dean (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism) 


How customer service can build trust and engagement with audiences 

Customer service representatives are on the front lines of audience engagement — audience members typically have far more contact with them than they do with journalists. In this report, we look at ways customer service can build audiences’ trust in your journalism, as well as how to tackle common problems with customer service departments at local news organizations.


Bloomberg walks readers through how it visualized the racial injustice of U.S. highways (Bloomberg) 

After the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill highlighted racial inequality in America’s highways, Bloomberg’s CityLab decided to build a “comprehensive visual story about the legacy and future” of highways. Graphics journalist Rachael Dottle explains to readers the step-by-step process that the team went through to gather information — collecting data from the U.S. Census, reaching out to local archivists and universities for stories in different cities, gathering maps and photos from the Library of Congress and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Explorer. Dottle’s newsletter focuses on the challenge and time commitment of the work, which led the team to focus on only a few neighborhoods as a stand-in for larger patterns. 


Latin American media seek to influence public debate and engage audience in U.S. by translating their journalism to English (LatAm Journalism Review) 

In 2020, Salvadoran media outlet El Faro began publishing a newsletter in English, with the hopes of informing English-language readers on the most important stories out of Central America. The newsletter is produced by journalists in both Washington, D.C. and El Salvador, and has grown as the outlet has translated more stories into English. El Faro’s English-language team then branched out, collaborating with other Latin American news outlets like Contracorriente in Honduras. For a modest fee, El Faro translated Contracorriente articles and allowed the Honduran site to grow its English-language audience, ultimately leading them to hire a full-time English-language reporter and an independent translator. 


You’ve built a racially diverse team. But have you built an inclusive culture?

Increasing racial diversity has become a priority for many companies, but simply having a diverse team is only the first step to a more inclusive workplace culture, writes Jill Perry-Smith. Leaders need to set aside the idea that “colorblindness” leads to more equal treatment, and instead acknowledge the differences of team members. Team members who feel comfortable sharing their own unique life experiences are more likely to contribute new ideas and participate actively in their department. And workplace leaders need to feel comfortable having difficult discussions around race, so that resentments and emotions don’t fester. 


Parents are desperate for useful info about Covid and schools. Local news isn’t really helping. (Nieman Lab) 

As students around the country return to school in person, parents are struggling to keep up with information about how local schools are handling the pandemic. John Zhu writes that, in the lead-up to the new school year, his local paper, the News & Observer in North Carolina, failed to write stories about teacher vaccination rates, ventilation or social distancing at local schools. Instead, much of the focus was on masks, and particularly the controversies surrounding mask mandates, in a he said-she said style. Zhu writes that coverage of other school issues was reactive — a school changed its policies on outdoor lunches — rather than proactive — why hasn’t this school posted its COVID-19 protocols online? — and that the paper has failed to “check off boxes on journalism’s ‘why you should pay good money for me’ brag list.” 


These students are making all the right journalism moves — so why do they feel so down? (Poynter) 

Student journalists, like those at the University of Alabama’s Crimson White newspaper, are covering how their colleges are handling COVID-19. Like many journalists, they’re facing apathy, a lack of cooperation, and even hostility from fellow students and the university itself. “What’s a young journalist to do when it feels like everything they’ve been taught just isn’t working — or worse, just doesn’t seem to matter to their audience?” writes Barbara Allen. She says she advised college students that journalists at all levels are struggling to cover both the politics and science of COVID-19, and that the only way forward is to focus on the building blocks of good journalism.