Need to Know: Feb. 11, 2020


You might have heard: Publishers prepare for new California law that puts limits on freelance journalists (CNN)

But did you know: Exception will be made for freelancers after pushback on California bill (CNN)

California Assembly Bill 5, which went into effect on Jan. 1, sought to regulate the work of independent contractors. One of its stipulations was an annual limit on the number of stories freelance writers could file with media outlets. After fierce opposition from organized bodies like the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association, lawmakers are now considering removing the 35-article limit. “We have to ensure the language of the amendment is clear and precise and does no unintentional harm to freelancers, then get the amendment fast-tracked,” said Alisha Grauso, co-leader of California Freelance Writers United. “People can’t wait until January 1, 2021 for relief from a bill that is hurting them right now.”

+ Noted: Online Journalism Awards recognized as first major awards program to honor collaborations and partnerships (OJA); First 24-hour news channel “by and for” African Americans set to launch during Black History Month (NBC News)


Strategies for truth-telling in a time of misinformation and polarization

A local politician is attacking your coverage. Rumors about a disaster in your community are spreading on social media. Your comments section is a petri dish of polarization. These issues — media attacks, misinformation and polarization — all reinforce one another. Our report looks at some basic strategies for combating them.


Journalists never write about … Shhh! Yes they do, and this tool can show you (Poynter)

A new tool from MuckRack called Trends lets users search news articles to see how a certain topic is being covered. Like Google Trends, it shows how coverage on a certain topic waxes and wanes over time, as well as the news outlets and individual journalists who are writing about it the most. The tool is useful in helping journalists contextualize a story, as well as determining whether a story idea has legs. It can also reveal whether an issue is being ignored. “There’s a real hole in the market right now to just be able to get this data really easy to journalists,” said Gregory Galant, co-founder and CEO of MuckRack. “We want to make it really easy to see what’s being written about one topic at a time.”


Australia’s fires point to another inferno: the state of the country’s media (Splice)

The Murdoch-owned News Corp newspapers have heavily shaped debate around Australia’s highly-politicized wildfires, with critics accusing the company of basing some of its reporting on conspiracy theories and false information instead of testimony from scientists and local fire officials. The dangerous consequences of such reporting need to be addressed in the face of disasters like the wildfires, writes Emily Cook. “There are no answers yet in how we rebuild an Australia which pays more attention to faceless science reporters and less to overpaid self-interested Murdoch columnists,” she says. “But we need to collectively work that out before there’s nothing left to burn.”


The era of antisocial social media (Harvard Business Review)

Recent studies have found that social media usage among Americans ages 12 to 34 is waning, as young people are turning to chat apps and other private or semi-private platforms to communicate only with their friends or users with similar interests. One survey found, for example, that 38% of people under 30 only use Facebook for the private messenger function. Meanwhile, participation in semi-closed platforms that encourage gathering around specific topics of interest, like Discord and Slack, is on the rise.


With Kobe Bryant, journalists are paying for their sins of the past (Poynter)

“You know all that angst over how to talk about Kobe and what happened in Colorado? If journalists had covered that better in 2003, it wouldn’t be so bad now,” tweeted Poynter media ethicist Kelly McBride. In a column for Poynter, McBride argues that journalists’ agony over how — or if — to bring up Bryant’s 2003 felony rape charge after his death on Jan. 26 is “self-inflicted” after not appropriately covering the incident at the time. “The sports journalism world was complicit, along with the rest of the star athlete industrial complex, in letting that episode fade into obscurity,” writes McBride. “The only option now is try and do better with other athletes.”


‘Losing friends’ over how she covers the New Hampshire primary (New York Times)

Lauren Chooljian is a reporter for New Hampshire Public Radio and co-host of the podcast “Stranglehold,” which, as its name suggests, takes a not-always-flattering look at the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. The primary is “protected and upheld by powerful people who stand to benefit from its survival,” Chooljian said in one episode. “And so reporting that doesn’t interrogate that institution, well, it seems to apply a different standard to the primary than to other important political forces.” While the podcast has been criticized as biased and a “hatchet job” by other New Hampshire journalists, the show’s irreverent approach has helped NHPR stand out in the media “din” surrounding the election.

+ Related: Ahead of today’s New Hampshire primary, the Concord Monitor tells readers that its editorial board would not issue endorsements, as the “tremendous investment” of meeting face-to-face with individual candidates was too much for the paper’s editors (Nieman Lab)