Need to Know: August 9, 2021

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: Last month, Gannett’s USA Today placed a paywall on premium articles, becoming the last major national daily to require readers to pay to read news online (The New York Times)

But did you know: Gannett shows robust digital subscription growth but print circulation revenues are slipping (Poynter)

At Gannett, digital subscriptions grew by 145,000 during the second quarter, with 1.4 million across the entire newspaper company. At the same time, digital revenue isn’t making up for losses in print circulation, which fell 12% from last year. Gannett also aims to diversify its revenue in other ways, such as through its partnership with German firm Tipico, which will provide sports betting and iGaming services. Tipico has agreed to spend $90 million to promote the service to the publisher’s customer base.

+ Noted: Sewell Chan, editorial page editor for the Los Angeles Times, will become editor in chief of The Texas Tribune (The New York Times); A Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship project will research how local newsrooms can better support journalists of color (Reynolds Journalism Institute)


How one local news outlet created a topic-specific hotline for readers to call

Reporters at the nonprofit news site Block Club Chicago had written thousands of stories about the coronavirus in Chicago and live-tweeted countless press conferences about it. They were sharing all they knew on the usual channels. But they wanted a more direct way to match readers with the information they needed. So with funding from the Facebook Journalism Project, they launched a free hotline that readers could call, text or email, and get their questions resolved by the editorial staff. Several months in, they’ve answered hundreds of questions from Chicagoans about testing, vaccinations, housing, unemployment and more.


How newsrooms can use drone footage and satellite images in their reporting (

Since becoming a journalism trend about 10 years ago, the novelty of drones has waned, but newsrooms are still making use of the technology by pursuing drone footage from law enforcement, private companies and other sources. In Louisville, Kentucky, WFPL News obtained more than 11 hours of drone footage taken by state police during racial justice protests in 2020 to investigate how police surveilled and responded to demonstrators. Aside from making public information requests for drone footage, journalists can request satellite images and data to enhance stories. Quartz, for instance, used information from satellites to create about 100 charts on California’s drought.


How Will Media tailored its listening tour for rural and urban readers (

In a Reuters Institute survey, 40% of Italian respondents said they trust the news. In June, five reporters for the Milan-based publication Will Media started a tour of 20 rural and urban places to build trust with readers in different areas of Italy. During rural stops on the tour, Will Media is working with a polling agency, UTrend, to hold focus groups with readers and summarize insights from their conversations. The reporters use a different strategy in urban areas, where local activists help them plan events centered on issues affecting each community.

+ Related: Reader surveys led Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza to offer a new subscription package and make tweaks to its landing page (World Association of News Publishers)


Getting fired over a vaccine mandate may cost you unemployment aid (PolitiFact)

As more businesses begin requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations, this fact check delves into how a termination stemming from those policies could impact workers’ unemployment benefits. Although eligibility requirements vary from state to state, labor law experts said workers fired for vaccine refusal will most likely not qualify for the benefits. Many state laws allow workers to be denied benefits if they were fired for misconduct, which could include breaking workplace policies or endangering others’ safety.

+ Related: CNN fired three employees for violating its vaccination requirement (Reuters)

+ The Federal Trade Commission dismissed Facebook’s claim that it blocked researchers’ access to digital ad data to comply with a privacy agreement with the agency (The Washington Post)


Why independent documentary filmmakers want new and improved funding models (Current)

The biggest challenge for public television filmmakers is funding their documentary projects, a process that often requires self-financing or loans from family and friends. Grants, major gifts from donors and festival awards advance projects, but those funding sources are competitive and typically require the filmmaker to already have financial backing. Filmmakers have recently criticized PBS for funding and marketing inequities, and a group called Beyond Inclusion is urging the network to share information on its funding, including how much has been invested in projects from filmmakers of color.


How news organizations covered COVID-19 with automated news (Columbia Journalism Review)

The Columbia Journalism Review studied how nine news organizations used automated news during the pandemic, finding that each news outlet used the technology to provide statistics or deploy new workflows. But public datasets presented challenges for newsrooms, as national and local governments publish coronavirus information in different, inconsistent ways, making it difficult for journalists to compare and analyze. Newsrooms also had to make calls on what types of data to use. For instance, the Swiss media company Tamedia had to decide whether to include data on deaths in elderly care likely caused by COVID-19, rather than just lab-confirmed deaths.

+ Why Stacy-Marie Ishmael, who quit after a year as editorial director of The Texas Tribune due to burnout, doesn’t see leaving jobs as a failure (Poynter)