Need to Know: January 13, 2021


You might have heard: Reporters covering the Capitol attack were used to harassment and heckling. But Wednesday was different. (Poynter)

But did you know: Federal prosecutors investigate threats, assaults on journalists covering US Capitol riot (The Washington Post)

Prosecutors in D.C. say they will begin investigating violence and threats against journalists who were covering the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. The U.S. Attorney’s office is asking journalists — including reporters, photographers and videographers — who were victims of such attacks to contact their office. Michael R. Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the district, said in a statement that “Such violence will not be tolerated. “We are resolutely committed to upholding the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, including speech, peaceful assembly, and press, and we will investigate, prosecute and hold accountable anyone who attempts to obstruct or curtail these freedoms through violence or intimidation.”

+ Noted: Chalkbeat expands its coverage to include voting at the local level until 2022 (Axios); Google is giving $3 million to news orgs to fact-check vaccine misinformation (Nieman Lab); The New York Times restarts its Impeachment Briefing newsletter for President Trump’s second impeachment (The New York Times)


Trust Tip: Use caution with labels like ‘conservative’ and ‘Trump supporter’ (Trustings News)

In the wake of last week’s insurrection in D.C., journalists need to be aware that descriptions of the participants — which have ranged from protesters and rioters, to pro-Trump extremists, Trump loyalists and Trump supporters — each carry a set of assumptions and connotations. Using terms like “conservatives” and “Trump supporters” doesn’t delineate between people who voted for Trump but condemn the insurrectionists. It can also lead right-leaning audiences to think they are being lumped in with extremists and conspiracy believers. “We suggest you aim for specificity,” writes Trusting News director Joy Mayer. “It strengthens the story and combats feeding meta-perceptions for groups you don’t intend.” Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.

+ Trusting News is working with newsrooms that want to build trust with conservative audience members. Learn more and get involved. (Trusting News)


KPCC/LAist’s new community engagement reporter introduces herself to her audience (Medium, LAist/KPCC)

Carla Javier has begun as the new community engagement reporter at KPCC and LAist with a post explaining her background, and her outlook on the job. Javier describes how, as an education reporter at the beginning of the pandemic last spring, she found herself answering questions on Twitter from readers about school closures, free meals and remote learning. Now, she’s expanding her purview, asking readers and listeners to send in hard-to-answer questions. “I won’t have all the answers immediately, and may not be able to respond directly to everyone, but my promise is to read, look and listen to everything you send me, and apply it,” Javier writes. After listing her email, Twitter handle and a form for submitting questions, she writes, “You now have a friend who’s a reporter.”

+ Earlier: KPCC reporters write their own individual mission statements, which appear alongside their stories and on their staff bios (Medium, LAist/KPCC)


Half of Uganda’s newspapers have shuttered since the start of the pandemic (Global Press Journal)

As a result of plummeting newsstand sales during the pandemic, roughly half of newspapers in Uganda have at least temporarily closed since last spring. Those that have remained open are struggling to get by with smaller staffs, all while trying to fight against a torrent of disinformation that surrounds a presidential election on Thursday. The government is one of the country’s biggest advertisers, which Peter Mwesige of the African Centre for Media Excellence worries could lead to softer coverage by struggling news outlets. One study hinted that underpaid journalists may be more susceptible to bribery from sources. And with people struggling to earn money during an economic downswing, newspapers have become a luxury that many cannot afford.


Facebook stands out as a regular source of news for about a third of Americans (Pew Research Center)

In Pew’s latest study of news consumption on social media platforms, 53% of Americans say they get news from social media at least sometimes. Facebook is the most popular source by far, followed by YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Men were more likely to use YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and LinkedIn, while women were more likely to use Facebook and Instagram. White adults made up the majority of news consumers on all platforms except Instagram, where only 38% of news seekers were white, while 22% were Black, 27% were Hispanic, and 8% were Asian. Politically, Facebook was the most evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.


Taboola’s content chum boxes also spread disinformation (Vice)

Misinformation and disinformation are not only spread via social media, writes Josh Sternberg, but in the “all around the web” ads from companies like Taboola, Outbrain and RevContent. The ads, which appear on the bottom of some respected news sites, are an easy way for news organizations to make money. The ad companies and the publisher make money when a link is clicked, which is why the content tends towards the click-baity and divisive. Spreaders of misinformation can use these programmatic ads both to encourage the discovery of their false information, and then to profit from the inclusion of other disinformation in ads on their own sites.


Aaron Williams discusses the ceilings placed on digital-first journalists (Source)

As part of Source’s Exit Interviews series, which interviews people who are leaving the field of journalism, former Washington Post graphics and data reporter Aaron Williams discusses his choice to leave journalism for a role at Netflix. Williams says his role as a data journalist left him with less opportunity for growth than a traditional beat reporter, because “digital” journalists aren’t considered versatile enough to handle different types of stories. “Rarely do we see the talented data and graphics reporters who are key to these big, groundbreaking stories given the same career paths that their counterparts in national or political news have,” Williams said. He recommends that journalism institutions broaden their recruitment strategies, pay more competitive salaries and offer more growth opportunities to staff.