Need to Know: December 7, 2021


You might have heard: The number of statehouse reporters in the U.S. has been declining for decades (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: One organization is trying to reverse the loss of state government coverage (The Washington Post)

States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit newsrooms covering state government across the country, is trying to fill a growing void in statehouse coverage. Yesterday it announced plans to nearly double its presence, from its current 25 states to about 40 over the next two and a half years. In addition to opening five new outlets in Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, South Carolina and Kentucky, States Newsroom is also launching “News from the States,” a new online clearinghouse to showcase all their affiliates’ reporting. News outlets outside the network can republish their reporting for free. “State government and politics and policy have the most impact on people’s lives and it’s covered the least,” said States Newsroom director and publisher Chris Fitzsimon. “That’s really why we exist.”

+ Noted: Indiegraf announces $1 million initiative help partner publishers achieve sustainability (Indiegraf)


How a small-town paper is applying conflict mediation skills to its opinion content

Concerned over the increasing animosity and polarization it was seeing in letters to the editor, The Laconia Daily Sun partnered with the Solutions Journalism Network to train its letter writers in mediation techniques that promote civil dialogue.


To keep its audience, this NJ-based Hungarian-language weekly is going digital (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)

The New Jersey-based newspaper Amerikai Népszava is facing a new challenge: preserving and sustaining its niche audience of Hungarian immigrants. In recent decades, Hungarian immigration to the United States has dwindled. As the number of Hungarian readers shrink, so does the revenue derived from local advertisers. The weekly’s publishers knew it had to go digital to reach a larger audience base, so in 2019 it ended its print edition and moved to establish itself as the flagship publication of the Hungarian-American community. It covers American politics as well as Hungarian news, and also translates some of its reporting into English. “One thing I have learned: digital is borderless, so it is the answer to shrinking audiences that most in-language ethnic media outlets are facing today,” says publisher and editor-in-chief Laszlo Bartus.

+ Earlier: How ethnic and mainstream media can collaborate in changing communities (American Press Institute)


How Scrolla is reimagining South African journalism (International Press Institute)

South African news outlet Scrolla Africa wants to make mobile access to news more equitable. Its mobile-first, “data-lite” format delivers its coverage to traditionally underserved audiences across South Africa, for whom the high cost of data serves as a barrier to quality news and information. It publishes an edition is free to readers thanks to a sponsorship from a mobile phone company, but it also distributes its content through data-free messaging platforms. “It’s pretty obscene what [South Africans] have to spend on data because the plans are mainly pay-as-you-go and some of the most expensive in the world,” says Scrolla Africa CEO Mungo Soggot. “We’ve designed a new data light site, which is incredibly lean. We’ve got a big mobile company, which is going to be sponsoring that, and it will be free to be on that site for anyone. That’s quite a big deal in a country where there’s tricky data costs.”


BuzzFeed’s a public company. Now what? (Vox)

BuzzFeed formally morphed from a private company to a public one on Dec. 6, but its transformation has been a rocky one. It has raised only $16 million instead of the $250 million it had hoped to raise earlier this year, and last Thursday, about 5% of its workforce walked off the job to protest the state of their negotiations for a union contract. Yet, “the fact that BuzzFeed is around at all — let alone publicly traded, with all of the financial transparency and investor expectations that come with that — is worth noting,” writes Peter Kafka. It has outlasted most of the other digital media darlings of the last decade, one of the few to survive a disastrous relationship with Facebook. BuzzFeed’s current ambitions are significantly scaled back, but CEO Jonah Peretti said he expects BuzzFeed’s lifestyle content to continue to subsidize its investigative reporting.

+ BuzzFeed tumbles in turbulent debut for digital media (Bloomberg)


LGBTQ+ adults are not proportionally represented in religion reporting (Poynter)

Despite the fact that nearly half of LGBTQ+ adults identify as religious, their stories are often not proportionally included in religion reporting, neither in religious nor mainstream publications. Religious publications could become more inclusive by hiring queer editors, suggests Sophie Hurwitz, an incoming intern at The Nation and former New Voices-Jewish Women’s Archive fellow. And while positive representation is important, publications should not exclude stories on how queer religious people have been harmed by their community.


Inside the L.A. Times’ plan to focus its podcasts (Digiday)

The Los Angeles Times wants its daily news podcast to serve as the “lens of the West Coast” — a West Coast alternative to The New York Times’ podcast The Daily. The key to achieving that will be “a tone and a vibe that isn’t so stressed and harried and so intense,” says Jazmín Aguilera, the new head of the L.A. Times’ audio department. Aguilera also plans to adapt the paper’s investigative reporting for podcast series. “There are so many good investigations coming out of the L.A. Times that are just ripe for audio storytelling,” she says. The Times had great success with the true-crime podcast series “Dirty John,” which went on to become a TV series.