Need to Know: Friday, July 23, 2021


On Monday Attorney General Merrick Garland formally prohibited federal prosecutors from seizing journalists’ records in leak investigations, reversing a years-old policy. There are limited exceptions to the new rule, including if the reporters are suspected of working for a foreign power or terrorist organizations, if they are under investigation for unrelated activities, or if they obtained their information through criminal methods. (AP)

Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez is suing the newspaper, its former editor Marty Baron, and other senior leaders; alleging that she was subject to unlawful discrimination after publicly saying that she had been the victim of sexual assault. Sonmez said that she was prohibited from covering stories on sexual misconduct after she spoke out about being a sexual assault survivor. (CNN)


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week.

How a Twitter thread sparked a lawsuit against Nieman Lab’s founder. In 2018, Nieman Lab founder Joshua Benton exposed the identity of an anonymous commenter on Nieman’s site, a journalism professor at Temple University who had harshly criticized one of its articles. Benton also dug up controversial comments the professor had made (including one she claims she didn’t) on other websites, posting them all in the Twitter thread where he identified her. The professor lost her job as a result; now, she’s bringing a defamation lawsuit against Benton and Harvard University on the grounds that the commenting system Nieman Lab uses is supposed to guarantee anonymity.

Dear Abby, how have you stayed so popular for so long? Advice columns tend to attract the ideal reader in terms of loyalty — someone who makes a habit of engaging with the content and forms an active part of the community around it. For Slate, home of the long-running advice column “Dear Prudence,” advice is one of the biggest drivers of paid memberships. In addition to “Dear Prudence,” Slate now has advice columns focusing on parenting, finance, sexual wellness and pets.

How a Canadian reporting lab is pioneering academic-journalist collaboration. The Toronto Star and the University of Sheffield in England partnered on an investigation into garment workers’ rights, with the academic team conducting a peer-reviewed study on the subject that informed the Star’s reporting. Interviewees who spoke with Sheffield’s team could opt-in for interviews with the Star, allowing it to tell the human stories behind the data.


How to build a metrics-savvy newsroom (American Press Institute)

Our strategy study looks at how newsrooms can break down audience metrics into meaningful insights, and how journalists can apply those insights to their daily work.

+ API is accepting applications from local news organizations to fund audience-centered government and accountability reporting — learn more and apply by Aug. 6


+ America (and the media) is getting unvaccinated people all wrong — they’re not all anti-vaxxers, and treating them as such is making things worse. (The Atlantic)

+ The University of North Carolina’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media has developed a Local News Congressional Bill Tracker (CISLM)

+ ​​How news publishers are using augmented reality to cover the Olympic games in Tokyo (Digiday)