Need to Know: February 10, 2021


You might have heard: How the Seattle Times used a breaking news approach on enterprise reporting (Better News) 

But did you know: The live post makes a comeback among news publishers (Digiday) 

Live blogs are regaining popularity on news sites, as publishers realize that they bring in new readers, drive subscriber conversions and help retain existing readers. In the early days of the pandemic, news sites turned to live formats for ongoing updates about the coronavirus, then resurrected those feeds for coverage of protests and the election. The managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Patrick Kerkstra, said that their website’s live update formula has a subscription conversion rate that is double the rate of traditional articles. The live format also has SEO benefits; since a live blog only has one URL, users can be directed to the same landing page but receive new information throughout the day. 

+ Noted: Bloomberg Media expects 9-figure consumer subscription biz (Axios)


Trust Tip: If you’re committed to fair coverage, be specific about what that means (Trusting News)

Fairness is an important but often vague concept for newsrooms. To address that, the San Diego Union-Tribune has posted a fairness checklist on its website, which lays out key standards that the paper sets for its coverage. Examples include “Ensure that our word choices and the overall tone of stories are fair and neutral” and “Give subjects ample time to respond.” Reporters often link back to this fairness checklist in stories to explain certain decisions or to highlight the care that went into the piece. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 


Turn your spreadsheets into hyperlocal audio news (WBUR)

Boston-based public radio station WBUR has been tracking COVID-19 data in Massachusetts and turning it into interactive maps that allow users to explore health data at the state, county and city level. But the station also wanted to turn that data into useful, hyperlocal audio news as part of its Project CITRUS, which focuses on the future of on-demand audio. Using a text-to-speech tool and a Python script, the station created pre-roll promos that were targeted to specific zip codes. These were then added to the beginning of the station’s daily coronavirus microcast online. 


China will soon award media accreditation based on social media history (DW)

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan, key information about the spread and severity of the virus was shared by “citizen journalists” on social media. But now the Chinese government will be evaluating all social media posts made by journalists or prospective journalists to determine whether that person can be an accredited member of the press. The regulation affects broadcast, print and digital media; organizations that hire unaccredited journalists face severe repercussions. Several citizen journalists have been arrested, and one jailed, for self-publishing articles critical of the Chinese government’s handling of COVID-19.


Media companies are figuring out how news fits into the streaming future (CNBC) 

Nearly every major media company has launched a streaming service, but it’s unclear if and how news will fit into these platforms in the long run. Television news has traditionally benefited from cable bundle packages, where they earn money from both retransmission fees and advertisements. But as millions move away from cable, the future of TV news is unclear. Audiences for news tend to be much smaller than for entertainment, but since news is generally consumed live, commercials aired during news can be more valuable. Some television news networks are hoping to offer standalone streaming news products, while some may opt to bundle services with print publications. 


Note to reporters: If surveillance data shouldn’t exist, then don’t use it (Medium, One Zero) 

Last week, The New York Times published an article that mapped the movement of several rioters at the Capitol on January 6. The article’s point was that smartphone location data is an invasion of privacy and should not be collected. But Chris Gilliard and Albert Fox Cahn argue that if a news outlet wants to make the point that this type of data collection is unethical, it shouldn’t then turn around and use that data in a story. They make the case that journalists who receive hacked or leaked data should not benefit from its use, and that the industry needs to take a stand against using geolocation data collected on the general public.


The Wall Street Journal says it wants to help readers identify opinion pieces (Nieman Lab)

The tension between the business-focused newsroom and the right-leaning opinion section at The Wall Street Journal has come to a fore in the past year, as reporters on the news side have argued that misleading opinion pieces undermine their credibility. In an effort to make the line between news and opinion unmistakable, the paper has teamed up with the News Literacy Project to launch The Wall Street Journal News Literacy Initiative. The campaign shows how news and opinion pieces are displayed in different colors with different mastheads and bylines. Suzi Watford, the chief marketing officer for the paper, says that the goal is to make it as clear to digital-only subscribers which section they’re reading as it would be to a print reader who can choose between two physical sections. 

+ Earlier: Confusion about what’s news and what’s opinion is a big problem, but journalists can help solve it with things like clear labeling, distinct designs and clear explanations (American Press Institute)