Need to Know: February 25, 2021

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: The bulk of funding dollars in journalism was not reaching news organizations led by people of color (Borealis Philanthropy)

But did you know: In 2020 and 2021, America’s Black press is enjoying a ‘renaissance’ (Report for America)

Following increased attention on racial inequality in the United States and a call for more news by and for African Americans, funders are beginning to focus their attention — and dollars — on helping to support the Black press, writes Alison Bethel McKenzie. “I see the support,” says Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of Black Voice News (and a board member of API). Black Voice News’ income has doubled in the past year, in large part due to new grant funding it has secured. Brown-Hinds says this is the most support she’s seen from funders, advertisers and the broader community in the four decades her family has owned the paper. Aaron Foley, director of the Black Media Initiative at the Center for Community Media at CUNY, says he’s also seeing a new wave of Black press startups led by young journalists who “understand the importance of identity and may not be able to get that in a mainstream newsroom. So, they are going out and starting their own thing.”

+ Noted: Journalists at 11 Alden-owned newspapers in Southern California announce their intention to unionize (Twitter, @Sulliview); Polk Awards honor pandemic reporters (The New York Times)

API UPDATE

The Arizona Republic considers killing ‘zombies’ a staple of its digital subscription strategy (Better News)

When analyzing its subscriber data, the Arizona Republic made an unnerving discovery: About 42% of digital-only subscribers were not visiting its site once a month, not even reading a single article. So it embarked on a strategy to “kill” these “zombies” by bringing them back to life as engaged subscribers. That involved pinpointing which stories were getting zombies’ attention, figuring out their commonalities and doing more of them. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole. 

TRY THIS AT HOME

Where state and local coverage are actually expanding (Poynter)

The States Newsroom, a network of local news outlets focused on statehouse coverage, is launching a free syndication service that will allow other news organizations to republish coverage from the network’s 20 newsrooms, Angela Fu reports. States Newsroom is also planning to launch five new outlets this year, in Idaho, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon and New Mexico. The nonprofit network has expanded rapidly since it launched in 2017, and currently has 17 affiliate newsrooms and 3 partner newsrooms. The new “Capital Connections” syndication service will formalize its process for republishing States Newsroom content. States Newsroom estimates that by the end of the year, roughly 25,000 articles will be made available through the service.

OFFSHORE

News site Stuff left Facebook. Seven months later, traffic is just fine and trust is higher. (Reuters Institute)

In July 2020, New Zealand’s biggest news site walked away from its audience of over 1 million followers on Facebook and Instagram. It had stopped advertising on both platforms a year before. While it’s still trying to gauge impact, the traffic dip has not been significant at all, says CEO Sinead Boucher — in fact, Stuff’s unique visitors are up by 5% year over year, and search traffic has gone up as well. Growing public trust is the publisher’s core mission, measured in part by public contributions (Stuff’s model is similar to the Guardian’s). Readers were vocally supportive of Stuff’s decision to leave Facebook, and donations spiked after it walked away. However, Boucher says, one question remains: What to do about audiences who may have been left behind on Facebook?

OFFBEAT

Inside the new $65 million push from progressives to compete with conservative media (Vox)

The Project for Good Information is run by Democratic strategist Tara McGowan, and aims to push progressive news to local audiences in the U.S. McGowan has spent the last few years doing similar work through her company Acronym, which she says is meant to counter the effects of far-right media. McGowan has fans among Democratic donors who say she is willing to “fight fire with fire,” but has also earned criticism from journalism groups who say that her advocacy efforts masquerade as unbiased media, writes Theodore Schliefer.

UP FOR DEBATE

National media are platforming domestic extremists, leaving local journalists to deal with the fall out. Here’s how we can do better. (100 Days in Appalachia)

Local journalists often have to deal with the downstream effects of national reporting — loss of trust and polarized communities being top among them. But they also have the ability to report on major stories in a way that actually helps people in their communities, writes Chris Jones. Violent extremism is one of those stories. Local news outlets should center their reporting not on extremists themselves, but on groups in their communities that are victimized by extremist violence and harassment. When covering extremists, focus more on their actions, not their rhetoric. Adding context through local reporting can also help defuse conflict and prevent further polarization within communities, avoiding the potential for violence, Jones adds.

SHAREABLE

This website shows how news organizations across the political spectrum are covering major stories (National Press Club Journalism Institute)

Ground News was recently launched by ex-NASA engineer Harleen Kaur. For each major story, the platform rounds up headlines from news organizations ranging from liberal to conservative, showing at a glance whether the story is getting more coverage from the right or left, and how news organizations are framing the stories with their headlines. In developing the tool, Kaur said one of the things that surprised her most was how stark news organizations can be in pushing a narrative. “One event can be sliced and diced to fit dozens of narratives,” she said. “While it is often subtle (which is more dangerous), it can often be very overt as well.” She also commented that many people — including journalists — refuse to acknowledge that they’re enveloped in a news filter bubble. That’s the first step journalists can take to identify biases that may be present in their own work, she said.