Need to Know: August 6, 2021


Social media isn’t the only place where misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is spreading. A New York Times investigation found that local news outlets have been featuring certain superspreaders of anti-vaccine information, a group that the Center for Countering Digital Hate calls the “Disinformation Dozen.” Allowing these people a platform could be particularly damaging since Americans are more likely to trust local news outlets than national organizations. (The New York Times) 

Small publishers are struggling to retain the audiences they gained in 2020, with many behind where they were in 2019 in terms of page views. The drop is due in large part to fewer social media referrals, which might not be entirely bad news. According to Kelsey Arendt of the analytics site, “Fewer visitors might mean more valuable, more engaged ones, as well as just healthier relationships with advertising, with Facebook.” (Digiday)


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week. 

The push for a ‘PBS for the internet.’ A new paper published by the German Marshall Fund argues that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting should fund digital platforms and other content producers such as local governments and educational institutions. The idea is to expand the availability of local civic information via digital distributions that are not subject to the business and algorithmic needs of the social media platforms. (Axios) 

How to make social media accessible. Newsrooms can and should make their work as inclusive as possible by ensuring images and audio in social media are more accessible to people with disabilities. Social media managers can make posts more accessible to screen readers by creating captions and alt text, avoiding acronyms and excessive emojis, and putting hashtags in camelcase by capitalizing the first letter of each word. (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

The media is making missteps in covering COVID. As the delta variant has risen across the U.S., much of the coverage has focused on “horror stories” and worst-case-scenarios that lack context, nuance and sometimes even facts, writes Tom Jones. One government official called the coverage “hyperbolic and frankly irresponsible in a way that hardens vaccine hesitancy.” (Poynter) 


​​Apply today for funding to support government and accountability reporting

API is accepting applications through today — Friday, Aug. 6 — from local news organizations interested in making their government and accountability reporting more audience-centered. We will award grants of up to $10,000 for project proposals that aim to promote greater community engagement and participation in the reporting process on issues related to government and public accountability. For project ideas and inspiration, see our resources page. Here are the application details and the form to apply.


+ A deputy news production editor at the Guardian speaks to colleagues about how cutting and correcting copy has evolved over decades (The Guardian) 

+ How Germany’s robust investment in public media has helped it reduce political divisions (The Atlantic) 

+ How social media became a deadly trap for a minority group in Pakistan (Rest of World)