Need to Know: February 1, 2021

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


You might have heard: Last year, some journalists cut back on their Twitter use or stopped using it (Poynter)

But did you know: Survey shows divided views on journalists sharing opinions ons social media (The New York Times)

In a Morning Consult poll, most respondents said that journalists shouldn’t share their opinions publicly, “even on their personal social media.” About 40% of those surveyed said they would trust journalists more if their opinions were kept private, compared to 36% who believed their trust would increase if journalists were “open and honest” about their political views. The survey also asked respondents about an Inauguration Day tweet that led The New York Times to fire freelance editor Lauren Wolfe. Ben Smith writes that when shown an image of the tweet, those surveyed had a “muddled response” that suggested they weren’t as concerned as journalists about what happens on Twitter.

+ Noted: Along with Twitter, Facebook plans to add newsletter tools to its platform (The New York Times); For the first time since June, the U.S. Agency for Global Media approved visa applications for foreign journalists working for Voice of America (Voice of America)


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

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


How to cover climate change with a focus on equity (National Press Club Journalism Institute)

Journalist Antonia Juhasz recommends reporters approach climate change with a focus on justice and equity, as environmental damage like pollution is more likely to affect indigenous communities and people of color. She suggests journalists build a diverse pool of sources while identifying environmental issues and whom they impact most. “Always tell your story through those people on the front lines most impacted by these harms,” she says. “Treat them as the experts that they are.”

+ In Cincinnati, WCPO 9 shared the life cycle of a news story from the pitch to the fine-tuning that takes place before it goes on air or online (WCPO 9); What journalists should consider before publishing a personal essay (International Journalists’ Network)


How journalists can use the darknet to dodge mass surveillance (J-Source)

Around the world, journalists are using the darknet, online networks that are hidden from search engines, to increase access to their work in countries with repressive regimes and to protect sources. Some news organizations, including the BBC and ProPublica, have mirror sites on the darknet that allow users in China, Vietnam and Iran to consume reliable, uncensored news. The source of the Panama Papers, a cache of leaked documents detailing tax evasion and other crimes, used the darknet to provide the records to German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and some news outlets accept tips and material through the darknet tool SecureDrop.


First Facebook oversight board rulings mostly overturn the company’s moderation decisions (NBC News)

Last year, Facebook created an oversight board made up of journalists, lawyers, human rights experts and academics that allows users to appeal the company’s moderation decisions. Last week, the board ruled in five matters, overturning Facebook’s decision in four of the cases and asking the company to clarify its moderation policies for users. Dylan Byers writes that the rulings, including one overturning a decision related to hate speech, signal that the group will “err on the side of free speech.”


How Harrisburg, Pa.’s WITF is acknowledging lawmakers’ election-fraud actions (WITF)

In an attempt to hold lawmakers accountable for supporting false claims of election fraud, WITF plans to note in future coverage if a U.S. or state lawmaker played a role in rejecting election results. The station will disclose if a U.S. representative voted against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes or signed onto a Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate the election results. WITF also will acknowledge if a state lawmaker signed a letter asking Congress to object to or delay certification of the electoral vote. While going in this direction, the station plans to take into account how this information fits into the story and if the lawmaker has since “admitted their mistake.”

+ As Tom Brokaw retires, he tells journalists that TV news is “too wedded” to the east and west coasts, and they should invest time in covering other parts of the country (Associated Press)


How newsgathering tactics have adapted to the pandemic (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York)

Access to public information has been strained, as open records requests have been delayed during the turbulence of the pandemic, but the pandemic also has led some newsrooms to experiment with expanded audience engagement tactics to reach readers virtually. Losing manpower to layoffs, furloughs or hiring freezes, some news organizations are building deeper relationships with other outlets through pooled coverage or other partnerships. For instance, the Birmingham, Alabama, radio station WBHM lost its local government reporter, leading the station to rely on stories from news nonprofit Birmingham Watch. 

+ How newsrooms are changing police violence coverage to give less priority to law enforcement accounts (Nieman Reports)