Need to Know: January 10, 2022

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: Fewer journalists are covering state governments (The Washington Post)

But did you know: Republican leadership bars journalists from Iowa Senate floor (The Washington Post)

Last week, Republican leaders in the Iowa state Senate told journalists that for the first time in more than 140 years, journalists won’t be allowed to work from the chamber floor when the legislative session begins today, prompting concerns from press freedom and open government advocates. Reporters will have space in an upper-level gallery open to the public and will be unable to use press benches that are near senators’ desks, which allowed journalists to more easily view the Senate floor and get their questions answered quickly. A spokesperson for Senate Republicans said the change stemmed from difficulty defining media outlets, but members of the Iowa Capitol Press Association suggested it was a response to unflattering coverage.

+ Noted: Of the 50 most popular podcasts, only a few are less than two years old (Bloomberg); Freelance writer Ruth Shalit Barrett sues The Atlantic, alleging it defamed her in retracting a 2020 story (Politico)


Sincerely, Leaders of Color: How to help dual managers and caretakers (Source)

In this guest essay, Kyndell Harkness of the Minneapolis Star Tribunes explores ways people can help their colleagues who are balancing obligations at home and work by understanding how their experience may be different than yours, giving them flexibility, checking in and generally recognizing their work. Sincerely, Leaders of Color, hosted at Source from OpenNews, is written for those who care about creating a more supportive environment for journalists of color to do their best work. The column’s guest writers budget is sponsored by the American Press Institute.


Engaging Hispanic audiences: What newsrooms can learn from museums (OIGO, Substack)

In a piece examining the impact of Los Angeles public radio station KPCC’s initiative to reach Hispanic listeners, first launched 10 years ago, Ernesto Aguilar offers tips on how to engage Latino audiences. Drawing on strategies from the Latino Network of the American Alliance of Museums, he first suggests newsrooms fully examine data on demographics and how much Spanish or other languages are spoken in their community. Aguilar also recommends considering who would be responsible for the outreach work, how leadership would be involved, and if this is a “special” project or one that is part of the organization’s mission.


How The Local hit 50,000 paying members through audience engagement (What’s New in Publishing)

When The Local, an English-language publisher that serves nine European countries, moved to a subscription model in 2018, the newsroom changed its journalism focus from growing its audience reach to meeting the needs of the people it served. The team bases coverage decisions on what matters to The Local’s members, which is informed through tips, questions, and feedback from readers. In addition to increasing subscriptions, the approach has reduced the publication’s churn rate, which is less than 4% per month.


Americans agree free speech is important but are split on high-profile speech events (Knight Foundation)

A survey from the Knight Foundation and the polling firm Ipsos found that most Americans value First Amendment rights, with 91% of respondents saying freedom of speech is either extremely or very important to them. However, their views on high-profile speech events that have taken place since 2020 reflect a partisan split. Overall, 22% of those surveyed believe last year’s Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was a legitimate expression of First Amendment rights, compared to 33% of Republicans and 12% of Democrats. Republicans were more likely to view sharing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation as legitimate free speech, while Democrats were more likely to consider 2020 racial justice protests an expression of free speech.


The Athletic: Good for the Times, a potential disaster for local news (Memium, Aron Pilhofer)

Last week, The New York Times announced it would buy The Athletic for $550 million, a purchase that places the newspaper in direct competition with local news organizations in the sports publisher’s 47 local markets, Aron Pilhofer writes. The Times will gain The Athletic’s 1.2 million subscribers, but the sports news outlet has lost $160 million since 2019. To make the acquisition profitable, Pilhofer says, the Times must build subscriber revenue, “And that means fighting toe-to-toe, tooth-and-nail with local news. There’s just no way around it.”

+ More news outlets are focusing on voting rights and defining democracy as a core coverage area (The Washington Post)


The Devil Strip will not be resurrected, board members say (Akron Beacon Journal)

After laying off its staff in October, the Akron, Ohio news co-op The Devil Strip won’t resume publication and will return donations meant to fund a relaunch, its board members announced on Friday. The board members, who are resigning, said the co-op has bylaws that require a majority of dues-paying members — 356 people — to reach a quorum and make business decisions, and two previous efforts to reach a quorum using online voting didn’t work. Unable to reach a quorum, the board members wrote, the organization “can’t approve a new board, lower quorum to a more reasonable number, adjust the debt limit in the bylaws (now set at $60,000), or even file for bankruptcy.”