Need to Know: December 16, 2020


You might have heard: How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships (American Press Institute) 

But did you know: Tiny News Collective is launching to help people build sustainable, representative local news organizations (Medium, News Catalyst)

The Tiny News Collective, a partnership between News Catalyst and LION Publishers, aims to help launch sustainable local news organizations that “reflect and serve” their communities. The group plans to launch 500 local news outlets in the next three years, at least half in underserved communities by founders who are underrepresented in the industry. By centralizing platforms and other support, the collective can launch newsrooms quickly, then spin them off into independent ventures. The group will share everything from libel insurance to an open-source CMS, with news outlets expected to pay about $100 per month for all the services.

+ Noted: Media coalition pushes back on George Floyd prosecution, asks to livestream trial (Star Tribune); Google News Initiative’s next 33 projects tackle diversity in local news (Google); Vogue’s Anna Wintour promoted to chief content officer for Condé Nast (Wall Street Journal); Rolling Stone, Billboard and Vibe merge business sides amid DOJ probe (Axios); Facebook is developing a tool to summarize news articles so users won’t have to read them (Buzzfeed News)


Journalists, let’s talk about the 90% of Republicans who don’t trust us (Trusting News)

Republicans’ trust in news has been declining for years, hitting a new low in 2020, according to Gallup’s latest research. But when journalists talk about this phenomenon, they tend to focus on the people in comment sections who choose conspiracy theories over facts and think journalists are the enemy of the people. But all Republicans don’t fall into that camp, writes Joy Mayer — and failure to recognize that is a failure to address the trust chasm between conservatives and the media. Mayer asks news organizations to consider questions like how conservatives perceive bias in news coverage, and how diversity of thought (or lack of it) in the newsroom is impacting their coverage. Journalists interested in following or getting involved with Trusting News’ work on “reengaging the right” can sign up here.

+ API’s Trusted Elections Network will host a discussion Thursday, December 17 at 2 p.m. ET with journalists who led innovative, voter-centered election coverage. The discussion will focus on how they tackled challenges like translation workflows, engaging audiences and addressing false information. Register here.


New collaboration is building open-source content audit tools for local newsrooms (Lenfest Institute)

The Lenfest Local Lab, the Brown Institute and The Philadelphia Inquirer are building several open-source content audit and analysis tools, with funding from the Google News Initiative. The aim is to make it easier for local newsrooms to perform content audits, which analyze and assess content to reveal strengths and weaknesses, particularly involving diversity, equity and inclusion. News organizations could use the tool to see, for example, which neighborhoods they aren’t covering adequately. These audits have traditionally been done manually, but these new tools use machine learning and natural language processing technologies to speed up the process. One goal of the tools is to allow newsrooms to move beyond one-off audits and incorporate continuous accountability in their reporting.


How a Romanian magazine doubled its community in six weeks (Medium, DoR)

Romania’s DoR (Decât o Revistă) began as a quarterly magazine in 2019, but has grown to include podcasts, newsletters and live events alongside a popular website. When the pandemic destroyed the opportunity for in-person events, the team focused on increasing the number of paying subscribers. The magazine’s editors carefully planned a six-week strategy, with an initial focus on endorsers and ambassadors who would promote the publication. In the middle weeks, the campaign focused on promoting the human-centric stories that are the focus of the publication, before launching a final countdown to the subscription goal. In the end, the publication’s subscribers doubled from 2,250 to 4,500.


Apps that cater to independent and niche creators thrived in 2020 (Axios)

Apps focused on content creators have seen a huge boom in 2020. Newsletter darling Substack now has more than 250,000 paid subscribers, while Patreon now has 6 million people paying creators worldwide. Cameo and OnlyFans both expect to make more than $100 million in profit this year, while Twitch has doubled its users during the pandemic. Smaller apps like Webtoon, Caffeine and Bigo Live have also seen major growth. But the biggest winner has been TikTok, which has become so popular that other companies like Facebook, Reddit and Snapchat have rushed to create competing mobile video products.


If the political press wants to prove its toughness during a Biden administration, insist on transparency (Salon)

After a contentious four years, political reporters in Washington will be adjusting to a different type of White House in January. Dan Froomkin writes that those “easily-bored” reporters should focus their efforts on pushing for radical government transparency. From insisting on on-the-record discussions with top officials to pushing for more federal documents to be automatically released to the public, reporters have the chance to impact how the incoming administration treats the press. Offering a list of questions for reporters to ask administration officials, Froomkin writes, “The only way a public that has lost faith in government can learn to trust it again will be by being able to truly see how it works — and by seeing it held accountable.”


A contentious local election revealed an information gap. High school reporters stepped up to fill it. (Poynter) 

When journalist Lin Yang moved back to his hometown of Sammamish, Washington, he realized that the town’s lack of a local newspaper had led to a proliferation of misinformation on Facebook. With encouragement from a local city councilor, he launched the community-driven, all-volunteer Sammamish Independent in June. While the editors of the paper are adults, the reporters are high school journalism students. Yang gave his nine reporters a four-week crash course in journalism, and he says the progress that the students made was “astronomical.”