Need to Know: December 22, 2020


You might have heard: False political news in Spanish pitted Latino voters against Black Lives Matter (The New York Times)

But did you know: Fake news is hatching in many immigrant communities (The New York Times)

Right-wing conspiracy theories are spreading through American immigrant communities, particularly Asian and Latino. Older immigrants in particular, who rarely consume English-language media, are seeing disinformation on social media messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp and KakaoTalk, as well as Facebook and YouTube. It’s impossible to trace the origins of the rumors, especially because they move on and offline. These conspiracy theories are also used to provoke or buttress anti-Black prejudices, and play off fears of socialism and communism.

+ Noted: U.S. Congress agrees to expand payroll assistance to local news outlets (Reuters); The Washington Post announces newsroom expansion including new foreign bureaus, breaking news hubs in Europe and Asia (The Washington Post); LION Publishers, in partnership with the Google News Initiative, is launching a six-month “startup lab” for independent digital publishers to put them on the path to sustainability (Medium, LION Publishers)


Do more reporting that is based on audience needs

In our report “How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships,” we explore ways newsrooms are listening to their communities — particularly marginalized or misrepresented groups — and responding to their information needs. See how you can adapt their listening strategies for your own audience.


Kansas City Star apologizes for past coverage of the Black community (Kansas City Star)

In an open letter, the editor of The Kansas City Star has apologized for past coverage of the Black community in the region. Over the past 140 years, Mike Fannin writes, the paper has shaped Kansas City while disenfranchising Black residents “through sins of both commission and omission.” In a six-page package, the paper compared the past coverage of the Star (and its now-defunct sister paper, The Kansas City Times) with contemporaneous accounts from Black newspapers, and talked to people who were directly affected by events that were downplayed or misrepresented in the papers. All the reporting from the project will be available for free. The Star is also launching an advisory board to hear from local residents about key issues going forward.


Radio New Zealand looks back at the year in its guide to the summer of 2020-21 (RNZ)

Radio New Zealand has combined its 2020 wrap-up with a guide to enjoying the Southern Hemisphere’s summer in a colorful, cartoony package. The multimedia package combines reminiscences about the year, like end-of-year lists and profiles of newsmakers in 2020, with suggestions for navigating and enjoying the upcoming summer with Christmas finance tips and music from New Zealand. It’s a creative way of resurfacing the best content from the year alongside service journalism pieces for the holiday season.


As legal betting booms, journalists jump from sports page to sportsbook (The Washington Post)

As local newspapers have downsized, journalists have had to look elsewhere for work. For some sports journalists, that’s meant moving over to online sports gambling sites, which are booming after a Supreme Court decision allowed sports gambling to spread nationwide. Media outlets are forming partnerships and investing in sports gambling companies, and Fox Sports has launched its own, FoxBet. For sportswriters, the beat is different, with a heavier focus on picks, but it’s based on the same highly-sourced reporting and careful analysis as traditional sports journalism.


The lawsuit that could push right-wing media to stop peddling conspiracy theories (The New York Times)

Since the election, supporters of President Trump have been pushing false rumors about rigged voting machines on Fox News, Newsmax and OAN. Now, Antonio Mugica, the owner of one of the voting machine companies, Smartmatic, has threatened legal action against the networks. He insisted that the channels clear his company’s name, as well as retain any relevant documents for a defamation lawsuit to come. In response, both Fox News and Newsmax have run segments debunking their own coverage and “clarifying” that Smartmatic and Dominion, another voting machine maker, weren’t working together to rig the election. The lawsuit could potentially have a chilling effect on the networks going forward.


The COVID Tracking Project and nine other excellent collaborative journalism projects of 2020 (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)

The Center for Cooperative Media has rounded up examples of collaborative journalism projects from 2020 that show “what’s possible when news organizations reach across company lines and work together in the public interest.” On the list are: The COVID Tracking Project, spearheaded by The Atlantic and used by dozens of news outlets; Word in Black, a solutions journalism-oriented collaboration between 10 Black publishers; The Circuit, a Chicago-based project focused on the Cook County Circuit Court; and The Cartel Project, a global coalition of 60 journalists from 25 organizations that set out to finish the work of murdered Mexican journalist Regina Martínez.