Need to Know: December 6, 2021

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


You might have heard: Publisher Lee Enterprises received an unsolicited bid from hedge fund Alden Global Capital two weeks ago (Lee Enterprises)

But did you know: Lee says no to Alden’s attempt to nominate directors (Poynter)

On Friday, Lee Enterprises rejected an attempt from Alden to nominate three board directors, saying the nominations didn’t follow Lee’s bylaws. Rick Edmonds writes that this move suggests Lee, the publisher of 77 dailies including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, plans to fight Alden’s efforts toward a hostile takeover. Lee also has prepared a shareholder’s rights plan that would block Alden from owning more than 10% of its shares during the next 12 months. Alden owned about 6% of Lee’s stock as of November.

+ Noted: CNN fired Chris Cuomo amid an inquiry into his efforts to aid his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (The New York Times); The data from the Pandora Papers investigation will be available today (Twitter, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)


API is hiring an editorial associate — applications due today

We’re looking for an editorial associate to contribute to and further develop API’s editorial content, including this newsletter. The ideal candidate already closely follows the news industry or digital media — trends, innovations, experiments, emerging business models and more. Candidates will benefit from a working knowledge of those topics and a bottomless hunger for learning and spreading new ideas. Applications are due today.

+ Today @ 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT: Join a demo of Source Matters, API’s source-auditing tool launched earlier this year to streamline data collection and drive changes in reporting practices


How The New York Times’ Headway project is creating a dialogue with readers about progress (Twitter, @terryparrisjr)

In the first story for a New York Times initiative called Headway, the team included a note at the top that shared the project’s mission, a brief description of the story, and how it ties into the big-picture issue of “making urgent decisions in a democracy.” The note invites readers to share their thoughts on inclusion, expertise, and problem-solving in their own communities, a prompt that also appears in the comment module and midway through the story. Terry Parris Jr., an editor on the project, writes: “At every point, we invite people in, ask them to help us think about this work and how we might shape it.”

+ Related: Headway lead editor Matt Thompson wrote an essay outlining goals for the initiative and inviting readers to join its Public Square, a cross-platform dialogue about progress (The New York Times)


Canada’s news industry expects windfall from Australia-style big tech crackdown (Press Gazette)

In a regulation approach similar to that adopted by Australia, Canada plans to pursue a policy that would give publishers the ability to negotiate agreements with Google and Facebook. In exchange for the use of publishers’ content, technology companies could owe publishers an estimated 100 to 150 million Canadian dollars each year under the yet-to-be-introduced legislation. Based on figures outlined in agreements from Australia, Canadian publishers believe Google and Facebook could pay almost a third of their annual newsroom costs if a similar law were to go into effect.

+ Half of Canadian newsrooms only have white people on staff, survey finds (Nieman Lab); How reporters around the world broke into investigative journalism (Global Investigative Journalism Network)


MIT Technology Review built a database to understand the U.S. Government’s China Initiative. Then the government changed its records. (MIT Technology Review)

In a recent investigation, MIT Tech Review examined the Justice Department’s little-understood China Initiative, which is intended to counter Chinese espionage and threats to national security. The reporting team built a database on defendants linked to the initiative, including their names, charges, and other information about their cases, by scraping data from its website, press releases, and federal court records. Two days after MIT Technology Review approached the Department of Justice with questions about the program, the agency revised its site for the China Initiative, making extensive changes that “didn’t really clear up much of the confusion around the initiative. In fact, in some ways they made it worse,” the team writes. The journalists found the DOJ had removed 17 cases and 39 defendants from the website, while adding two cases.


Social media policies leave women and BIPOC journalists ‘walking a Twitter tightrope’ (Columbia Journalism Review)

A recent report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism found that journalists feel their newsroom’s social media policies are ambiguous and enforced unequally. The journalists told researchers that the policies reflect a focus on how their news outlets are perceived and offer little guidance or support for journalists who are harassed on social media. Women journalists and journalists of color, who are more likely to face online harassment, said they don’t feel protected from abuse, and they also have felt unfairly singled out for social media use that their managers viewed as a threat to their newsroom’s image as an objective journalism organization.

+ Why Quartz is updating its guidance on when journalists talk to sources off the record or on background (Twitter, @HeatherLandy)


How to cover the Omicron variant better (Second Rough Draft)

In a piece on how to cover Omicron effectively, Richard J. Tofel writes that the biggest issues for journalists to focus on are whether or not serious cases of COVID-19 increase and how the virus responds to new treatments. The former ProPublica president urges journalists to be wary of assumptions about Omicron and to avoid oversimplifying complex information, which can lead to inaccuracies. He encourages journalists to practice skepticism when reporting on officials’ actions and comments on the variant, including those of vaccine manufacturers and other business leaders.

+ How Atlanta’s oldest Black newspaper covered the Ahmaud Arbery trial (NBCU Academy)