Need to Know: February 2, 2021

OFF THE TOP 

You might have heard: It’s important to focus on the audience members who aren’t yelling at you (Trusting News) 

But did you know: The Philadelphia Inquirer explains why it is removing comments from most of its site (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Philadelphia Inquirer has announced that it will remove the comments from most sections of Inquirer.com. In an unsigned note, the paper says that the comments sections have been “hijacked by a small group of trolls” whose racism, misogyny and homophobia have affected the morale of both staffers and other readers. Over the past decade, the paper has tried several methods for improving the discourse in the comments sections, to no avail. The paper is leaving comments open for the sports section, where the discourse has become less toxic, and for live-streamed events. For readers hoping to interact with the newsroom, the note offers several modes of communication, and promises new features that will “emphasiz[e] community connection.”

+ Related: Advice for handling aggressive commenters, inviting meaningful comments that help your journalism, and more (Better News)

+ Noted: Membership Puzzle Project is issuing its final call for research proposals (The Membership Puzzle Project); The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic is shutting down (Twitter, @COVID19Tracking); Newsletter-first media company 6AM City to expand nationally in 2021 (PR Newswire); Deadline to nominate candidates for the John P. Murray Audience Development Award has been extended to February 19 (News Media Alliance)

API RESOURCES

People pay for news that reinforces their social identities

A 2019 study found that one of the biggest motivations for subscribing to news is the desire to “fit in socially.” Researchers found a strong, statistically significant relationship between survey respondents’ agreement with the statements that the news they consume “defines” and “promotes” their membership in the groups to which they belong, and their subscribing to both local and national newspapers. This article is part of API’s Research Review series, which highlights academic research that could be relevant and useful to the news industry.

TRY THIS AT HOME

Policy wonks built a free web app to help citizens, and journalists, follow government issues (Poynter)

When journalists at the Miami Herald began covering the candidates for mayor of Miami-Dade, they turned to CivicPro to look into two candidates’ histories as county commissioners. The app, which tracks public meetings and legislations, was designed to help citizens navigate local government. But with the Herald’s newsroom stretched thin, it became an important tool for local reporters as well. The app currently follows 10 local governments across two counties in Florida, unifying disparate record keeping into a single, searchable format. The Herald’s managing editor, Rick Hirsch, said they intend to keep using the app to explore differences in government policies across different beats.

OFFSHORE

Indian newspaper publishes cloth newspaper to mark 15 years in major textile city (Exchange4media)

National Indian newspaper Dainik Bhaskar began publishing in Bhilwara, known as the Textile City of India, 15 years ago. To celebrate the anniversary, Dainik Bhaskar published a 204-page edition of the paper — with the front page printed on fabric. The goal was to create a keepsake collectible for readers. Anniversary Mega Issues are a hallmark of Hindi-language Dainik Bhaskar, with several editions of more than 150 pages published in different regions to mark anniversaries.

OFFBEAT

West Virginia-based HD Media sues Google and Facebook (WCHS 8)

Newspaper operator HD Media, which owns several papers across West Virginia, is suing Google and Facebook for conspiring to “further their dominance of the digital advertising market.” HD Media says that it competes for revenue from digital advertising with other newspapers across the countries, but that Google and Facebook’s decision to not compete with each other in certain areas of online advertising violates antitrust law. The lawsuit also accuses Google of monopolizing the online advertising market by vertically integrating itself at every step of the marketplace.

+ Earlier: Google secretly gave Facebook perks, data in ad deal, U.S. states allege (Reuters)

UP FOR DEBATE

What the next generation of editors need to tell their political reporters (Press Watch)

With so many high-profile news editors retiring, Dan Froomkin writes that the next generation of newsroom leaders must take a new approach to political journalism. He suggested that politics reporters be rebranded as government reporters, focused more on how issues affect people rather than “which party is winning.” Newsroom editors also must recognize past mistakes — like placing too much trust in “official” government accounts — and learn from them. Froomkin writes that reporters need to move past the old-fashioned, space-constrained incremental style of writing and ensure that all articles include the context of larger issues, like racial inequity and climate change, in every piece.

SHAREABLE

Opinion editor at The Oklahoman steps down, says he’s ‘worn out’ (The Oklahoman)

In a letter to readers, opinion writer Owen Canfield III at The Oklahoman writes that he is leaving his job for his “emotional well-being.” Canfield, who was the sole opinion writer at the paper, said that he had been writing more than six editorials per week, a grind that had become “relentless.” He says the paper has changed greatly in his 18 years there — when he started, the Oklahoman was locally owned and the opinion section had three full-time writers, as well as a part-time writer and a cartoonist. Canfield also wrote that the “tenor of the times” had led to a place “where respectful disagreement is rare.”

+ Earlier: The Oklahoman will start signing its editorials to acknowledge single writer (The Oklahoman)

+ Related: How a small-town paper is applying conflict mediation skills to its opinion content (American Press Institute)