Need to Know: January 19, 2021


You might have heard: In November, a coalition organized a day of action to fix public media’s workplace culture (Current) 

But did you know: Hundreds of public radio employees demand anti-racist future for the industry (Twitter, @CelesteHeadlee)

In an open letter entitled “An Anti-Racist Future: A Vision and Plan for the Transformation of Public Media,” hundreds of current and former employees of public radio are demanding reform in their field. In a Twitter thread, journalist Celeste Headlee says the letter comes “out of our deep love for public media” and offers solutions to making the industry more just, equitable and inclusive. The letter, which Headlee says could be used as a roadmap to anti-racism for leaders in all industries, offers specific suggestions like reckoning with past racist history, offering reparations for BIPOC employees and making pay structures transparent for everyone.

+ Noted: Gannett is aiming for 10 million digital subscriptions within five years (USA Today); Conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts is launching a national news outlet “without a political slant” (Omaha World-Herald)


What Americans and the news media do — and don’t — understand about each other

As part of the Media Insight Project, a joint effort between API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, in 2018 we surveyed journalists and members of the public to understand the miscommunication that often occurs between the two. See the most common misassumptions journalists make about their audiences, and vice versa — and how they could be hurting your newsroom.


Raleigh Convergence is launching a membership program (Raleigh Convergence)

Raleigh Convergence, a North Carolina-based “modern local journalism publication,” is launching Raleigh Convergence Community, a membership program. In a letter to readers, editor and publisher Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen writes that the membership will help the publication grow while helping members deepen their connections in the city. The core offerings of the outlet — newsletters, digital content and community events — will remain free for all, while members will have access to virtual events, editor’s emails and member “shoutouts.”


New publication aims to serve as powerful new platform for Black, Indigenous, and writers of color in Canada (J-Source)

After years of struggling with racism and homophobia in newsrooms, Matthew DiMera is setting out to create a new platform for voices of color in Canada. The Resolve, which has begun as a weekly newsletter and plans to expand later in the year, will focus on writers and editors of color. As the audience grows, DiMera says he’ll be reaching out to the community about stories and issues that they want to see covered by the platform. He says the site is “not a vanity project” but a place for important stories to be told that are not often included in the mainstream media cycle.


Google admits to removing local news content in Australian ‘experiment’ (The Sydney Morning Herald)

In Australia, where Google and Facebook face a proposed government bill that would require them to pay for news content featured on their platforms, Google has blocked some news sites as part of an “experiment.” Users in Australia reported last week that local news sites were disappearing from Google’s search function, which Google said was a trial “to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other.” A spokesperson for the government said that the proposed code would require 14-day notice for that type of  algorithm change, so that news outlets aren’t surprised by the platforms’ changes.

+ Misinformation dropped dramatically the week after Twitter banned Trump and some allies (The Washington Post)


Three ways the media can vanquish the Big Lie that will linger even after Trump is gone (The Washington Post)

Misinformation surrounding the 2020 presidential election is likely to linger long into President Biden’s first term. Margaret Sullivan writes that news outlets must carefully think about how they will handle what she calls “The Big Lie.” One idea is to stop relying on shorthand — like saying that voter fraud claims are “baseless” — and instead make a point of explaining, in greater detail, why these claims are false. Another suggestion is to apply an “honesty” litmus test to ensure that people who are deliberately perpetuating myths around voter fraud aren’t given platforms to spread this misinformation. And finally, news outlets should learn more about the science of how people absorb information, and use that to begin to counter propaganda.


Covering the COVID-19 crisis in the Navajo Nation (The New Yorker)

The Navajo Times in Arizona is the only newspaper covering Navajo Nation, a community of 170,000 where many lack internet access. For much of last year, the reservation had the highest per-capita COVID-19 rate in the country, and the paper has responded by diligently covering infection rates and deaths even as several staffers were infected. The weekly paper has also suffered from a loss of sales during the pandemic, but the news it provides is still vital; its publisher, Tommy Arviso, Jr., says that each copy likely reaches five or six people. Arviso says that stories about people in remote areas struggling to get basic supplies have spurred readers to give water, food, firewood and equipment to those in need. Like many local papers, The Times is struggling with rising costs, but one of its biggest challenges is finding young reporters, particularly those who can speak Navajo.