Need to Know: February 17, 2021


You might have heard: Baltimore Sun looks to nonprofit status to stay afloat (The Guardian) 

But did you know: Baltimore Sun Media to be acquired by nonprofit as part of Alden’s purchase of Tribune (The Baltimore Sun)

Alden Global Capital has announced that it plans to purchase Tribune Publishing, publisher of papers including the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News, in a deal valued at $630 million. As part of the deal, The Baltimore Sun and its affiliates will be acquired by the Sunlight for All Institute, a Maryland-based nonprofit “that would operate the media organization for the benefit of the community.” The nonprofit is owned by Stewart Bainum Jr., a hotelier, philanthropist and former state politician who has joined the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest to give most of their money to philanthropic causes. 

+ Noted: Targeting Big Tech, Maryland becomes the first state to tax digital advertising (CNN); Vox hires Swati Sharma away from The Atlantic as its next editor in chief (The New York Times); BuzzFeed finalizes deal for HuffPost (New York Post); News Leader Association announces new award for News Leader of the Year, nominations are due Friday (News Leaders Association)


Trust Tip: Bring clarity to your use of anonymous sources (Trusting News)

Anonymous sources should be used sparingly — only when a story cannot be told without their inclusion. Many readers don’t even understand what anonymous sources are, with many believing that the journalist herself is unaware of the source’s identity. Joy Mayer at Trusting News writes that news outlets should be very clear about their approach to anonymous sources by publishing their policy on it, mentioning that policy whenever it applies, and using the same criteria for wire or partner content. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.  


Block Club Chicago offers tips on where to turn for snow-shoveling services (Block Club Chicago) 

Chicago has been hit with more than 28 inches of snow in the past three weeks, with several more expected. Residents are responsible for shoveling their own sidewalks and walkways, but for those unable to clear the snow themselves, Block Club Chicago put together a ward-by-ward list of resources. The list includes citywide resources, as well as phone numbers or email addresses for local aldermans who are coordinating volunteer snow-shoveling efforts. And the city has noticed; co-founder Jen Sabella tweeted that the non-emergency city helpline 311 directed a caller to the news outlet’s website for more information. 


How journalism training is changing (and flourishing) in sub-Saharan Africa (Reuters Institute) 

In the last decade, journalism training has been thriving in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report from South African journalism professor Alan Finlay. He finds that the growth of journalism training coincides with an increased belief in the region that “the role of journalists in society is positive and that media is supporting democracy and adhering to the highest ethical standards.” Some training has been driven by endemic corruption across the region, which has led to courses on cross-border investigative journalism. The pandemic also saw training centers investing more in digital courses, which has led to some innovations in teaching while also highlighting inequality in internet access for journalists. He writes that, in the future, media training centers should work to train journalists in more indigenous languages. 


Reddit is America’s unofficial unemployment hotline (The New York Times) 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment benefits across the U.S. have been sporadic and, for many, confusing. In the spring, when state and federal unemployment systems were overwhelmed, many turned to Reddit’s r/Unemployment for advice. A forum that had fewer than 10 posts per day before the pandemic jumped to 1,000 daily posts in April and May of 2020. Since then, users have answered questions about the stopping and starting of state and federal benefits, how to file claims and navigate online portals, and tips for getting someone on the phone. Most of those answering the questions are not government employees, but people who have been through the process themselves and are willing to share their earned expertise. 


What the tech industry gets wrong about how journalism works (Substack, My New Band Is) 

There are many misconceptions about how journalism works, and some seem to thrive particularly in the tech industry, writes Elizabeth Spiers. Specifically, many in the tech world think that journalists often operate from a place of malice. She mentions the recent (and controversial) New York Times article about the blog Slate Star Codex and its author Scott Alexander, who wrote that the article was written to “punish him” for a past spat with the paper. Spiers writes that it’s common for subjects of a news article to dwell on and dislike negative elements that don’t fit with their own self-narrative, but that the tech industry insists that tech media is “overwhelmingly negative” because they believe journalism should act as an extension of their own public relations. 

+ Earlier: Silicon Valley elite discuss journalists having too much power in private app (Vice)


WCPN’s ‘Inside the Bricks’ podcast gives public housing residents a say in their future (Current)

In November, Cleveland’s WCPN 90.3 launched a six-part series featuring stories of people living in one of the city’s public housing developments, Woodhill Homes. Reporter Justin Glanville focused on telling the stories of the residents, from difficulties getting basic repairs to the after-school theater programs for resident kids. Local housing authorities have been planning for years to reimagine Woodhill Homes and the surrounding neighborhood, and Glanville was awarded a $200,000 grant from a private foundation to report on those efforts in 2017. That gave him time to build relationships with the residents, and time to solicit feedback from those residents after the stories were told. The station ended up hiring one of the residents as a co-host and partnering with a low-power community station that primarily serves local Black communities.