Need to Know: August 4, 2022


You might have heard: Substack’s growth spurt brings growing pains (The New York Times) 

But did you know: Newsletters aren’t news anymore. But they’re not going away. (Vox)

Newsletters aren’t quite as hot as they were in the past couple years, when writers began leaving big media to start their own Substack-based newsletters. But that doesn’t mean the format is fading away, writes Peter Kafka. “Newsletters, it turns out, are just like blogs and podcasts — they’re super simple for anyone to create. But turning them into something beyond a hobby — let alone turning them into a full-time job — requires talent and sustained effort,” he writes. Successful solo newsletter writers say the work can be a grind. But media executives are increasingly using the platform as a way to launch new publishing businesses.

+ Noted: New York Times pushes bundle subscriptions as ad sales face pressure (Bloomberg)


API welcomes Lilly Chapa as new editorial manager

The American Press Institute announced today that Lilly Chapa has joined our team as Editorial Manager. In this role, Chapa will work on developing an editorial strategy for all of API’s content and resources, including articles, newsletters, reports and videos. She will also set editorial guidelines, style and standards, help execute audience research and manage the Need to Know newsletter. Chapa is an award-winning journalist with more than nine years of editorial experience in both publishing and freelancing roles. In her most recent position as a managing editor at The Wyman Company, she led content and managed writers and freelancers for three quarterly association magazines.


Lessons that nine watchdog reporters learned from their mistakes (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

When the Global Investigative Journalism Network asked nine investigative reporters to share lessons from memorable mistakes they’ve made, there were some common themes. “What is striking about their responses is that most of these errors involved dealing with uncooperative human sources — and most of the takeaways emphasize the value of extra preparation before interacting with them,” writes Rowan Philp. Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, an investigative reporter at the Inhlase Centre for Investigative Journalism in Eswatini in southern Africa, says he once gave too much information about his investigation to a public relations officer — leading to an unfortunate outcome for his story. 


Pandemic-inspired parenting newsletter Lemon-Aid finds enduring success (Press Gazette)

A newsletter called Lemon-Aid, aimed at helping parents in the U.K. during the COVID-19 lockdowns, has evolved into an ongoing success. Lynda Moyo, who launched Lemon-Aid in 2020, says that when schools and nurseries closed that year, she realized that having kids at home while working a full-time job would be a “nightmare.” She envisioned Lemon-Aid as a service for those who were “desperate for content, advice and support to get through this unbelievable time.” Now the newsletter, which is on the Reach platform, has a core group of five writers and a subscriber base of 45,000 parents or caregivers of children. 


A former journalist’s nonprofit helps survivors of high-profile tragedies (Poynter) 

When people are grieving, dealing with media attention can be overwhelming. After doing pro bono work helping families in the wake of tragedy, Massachusetts communications advisor David Guarino was inspired to create Survivors Say, a nonprofit organization that provides free strategic communications and media support for survivors and their families, writes Amaris Castillo. “A lot of times, the families are left to their own devices. They’re in the middle of the worst moments of their lives and suddenly there’s reporters on their front lawn,” said Guarino, whose group has about 30 volunteers that include former journalists, PR professionals and victim advocates.


Fight over online political ads heats up ahead of midterms (Politico) 

New York University researchers who track digital ads are set for the next round in their battle with Meta over data about political ads on Facebook, reports Mark Scott. Facebook last year banned the researchers from getting the ad data, but NYU’s Cybersecurity for Democracy project has managed to get it from “other channels” and launched an update of their searchable database this week. Laura Edelson, a co-lead at the project, declined to identify those channels, but the new launch is expected to put the researchers “right back in the company’s crosshairs,” writes Scott. 

+ Related: Five things you can learn from Ad Observatory about digital political advertising (Medium, Cybersecurity for Democracy) 


The growing culture of censorship by PIO (Columbia Journalism Review) 

Public information officers (PIOs) have become omnipresent for reporters trying to get information out of government agencies, writes Kathryn Foxhall. Longtime reporters tell of days when they used to roam the halls and talk to staffers in agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration. Now queries and interview requests are almost always channeled through PIOs, with the PIO usually sitting in on the interview. “While insiders may sometimes defy the rules and talk without notifying PIOs, most contacts happen through official, mediated channels — leaving many reporters unaware of what control might be wielded over their access,” Foxhall writes.