Need to Know: December 14, 2020

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


You might have heard: Journalists have relied on live-streamed hearings during the pandemic, but critics have argued the public’s court access is suffering (The Marshall Project)

But did you know: Three North Carolina newspapers seek courtroom access (The Washington Post)

After a District Court in Alamance County, N.C. blocked reporters from a hearing with no explanation, last week the News and Observer, Triad City Beat and Alamance News filed a motion seeking access to an upcoming hearing. Despite the motion, journalists still couldn’t access the court, and Alamance News publisher Tom Boney Jr. was removed from a courtroom in handcuffs. During the pandemic, some journalists have had trouble getting into courtrooms, although many courts have turned to virtual hearings or provided recordings afterward.

+ Noted: After layoffs, Vox Media is restoring budgets for raises and bonuses (Vanity Fair); Unions for Gimlet, The Ringer and Parcast, which are owned by Spotify, had a work stoppage on Friday while asking for better workplace conditions (Vice)


Best practices for journalists covering crises on Twitter

A study examining how journalists cover crises on Twitter found that audiences value objective, “instructing” information during a crisis, and are most likely to retweet that information — possibly out of a desire to help. It also offers three priorities for journalists who are using Twitter as a reporting tool during a crisis. This article is part of API’s Research Review series, which highlights academic research that could be relevant and useful to the news industry.


Axios and other outlets are building revenue with software products (Digiday)

In February, Axios plans to release AxiosHQ, internally-developed software that helps users create and improve company memos. The platform scores content on how brief and clear it is and includes analytics like open rates for memos after they go out to a listserv. In recent years, publishers have turned to software development as a way to diversify revenue. The Washington Post, Vox Media and Minute Media all have developed and sell access to software geared toward publishers. The content management system from Minute Media accounts for half of the company’s annual revenue.

+ Related: Patch is developing a local newsletter platform for independent journalists and small newsrooms (Axios) 

+ Editors from NPR compiled climate science facts that reporters can lean on to add context to stories about extreme weather and other environmental topics (NPR Training)


Could streaming services provide public service news? (Press Gazette)

A recent report from British media regulator Ofcom notes that public broadcasters like the BBC are having a difficult time reaching audiences that have transitioned from broadcast TV and radio to streaming. For instance, research from Ofcom found that some young people find content from public broadcasters through streaming platforms and other places online, rather than traditional sources. The regulator argued for tax relief and other measures to give streaming platforms incentives to produce public service content.

+ Earlier: BBC News is the U.K.’s most popular news site, but young people are less likely to engage with the site or watch news on BBC channels (Press Gazette)

+ China authorities detain Bloomberg News Beijing staff member (Bloomberg)


Facebook workers say ads on the network are vulnerable to scams and disinformation (BuzzFeed)

A BuzzFeed investigation reported that scams and disinformation are flooding Facebook’s advertising system without robust intervention from the company, which stands to make $80 billion from ads this year. Facebook users have lost money to investment scams and fake products sold through the Facebook Marketplace, but current and former Facebook employees said that the social network has told moderators to ignore suspicious behavior unless it would lead to a financial loss for the company. However, last year Facebook began suing companies that run deceptive or scam ads.

+ YouTube will allow users to restrict ads they see on alcohol and gambling (Google)


How a culture of anonymity has flourished in national political journalism (The Washington Post)

Political reporters say they have been hard-pressed to find Republicans willing to speak on the record about scandals involving Trump, including efforts to subvert last month’s election results. Bill Grueskin, a Columbia University journalism professor, argues that anonymous quotes from Republicans offer dubious news value, but they have been pervasive in national political news. Local journalists could not get away with such frequent use of anonymous sourcing, former Seattle Times executive editor David Boardman said, adding: “The result of that has been a whisper culture in which politicians and bureaucrats have been allowed to publicly cover their own rear ends while privately stabbing others in the back.”

+ The Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board apologized for endorsing a congressman who signaled support for throwing out election results (Orlando Sentinel); Why the open podcasting ecosystem could become a thing of the past (Media Voices Podcast)


Tacos can support journalism and other lessons from local food writers (Poynter)

With local media in flux and culture changes from Instagram and other online worlds, local food coverage remains popular but has changed in some key ways. In one shift, Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald says that readers have stopped seeking out recipes in his paper, instead turning to the internet and national outlets with a cooking focus. L.A. Taco editor Javier Cabral said coverage is moving away from portraying just food itself and toward the diverse people who make it, as well as issues connected to race, class, labor and immigration.