Need to Know: January 20, 2022


You might have heard: For local newsrooms, philanthropy isn’t charity—it’s revenue (Inside Philanthropy)

But did you know: Philanthropists investing over $20 million to launch new Houston newsroom (Axios)

Three philanthropic groups are joining forces to launch an independent, nonprofit newsroom in Houston. The organization, which follows two years of research by the American Journalism Project, aims to help Houston residents, particularly minority communities, make sense of the city’s government and culture. More than $20 million is being invested in the newsroom, which will launch with about 40 people in about one year. The outlet plans to build a financial model that is not entirely dependent on philanthropy.

+ Noted: Axios Pro newsletters launch, starting at $599 annually (AdWeek); The Poynter Institute’s MediaWise, Noticias Telemundo and Google News Initiative join forces to help Spanish speakers separate fact from fiction online (Poynter); NBC won’t send sports announcing teams to 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to COVID-19 (USA Today); The Democracy SOS fellowship is designed to help newsrooms improve their politics and election coverage (NiemanLab)


Apply now to serve as API’s 2022 Inclusion and Audience Growth Intern

API is hiring a paid summer intern to support our efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within news media and to help us research and share best practices in diversity, inclusion and community engagement in journalism. Learn more and apply by Jan. 31.


Working group will help NPR develop new standards and ethics handbook (Current)

NPR has chosen a dozen journalists from member stations across the country to create a new “standards and ethics handbook” to complement the network’s existing guidance. The goal is to provide consistent answers to editorial questions that all member stations face, such as language to describe an active shooter or the rules of social media for non-public-facing employees. The handbook will also provide more specific guidance for individual stations’ needs on issues such as the editorial independence of stations owned by educational institutions and how journalists can approach sources from marginalized groups in their community.

+ Meet the Ecosystem Builders: A unique group of leaders transforming local news (Local News Lab)


This journalist says Canada saved him. Now he’s saving a 136-year-old Ontario newspaper (CBC)

When Mohsin Abbas, a Pakistani journalist who moved to Canada as a refugee in the early 2000s, heard that the Tilbury Times was going to shut down after 136 years, he decided to act. He’s now the publisher of The Times, and is working to reinvent it for the modern era. Most of the stories will only be published online, but Abbas hopes to print a monthly paper for older residents who are not on the internet. Currently, Abbas is funding the paper himself, but he’s looking for local advertisers to support the outlet.


The case for a better way to poll (Grid News)

Opinion polling often shows a clear bias towards progressive ideas, writes Matthew Yglesias, but people continue to vote for convservative politicians. He argues that polls are often designed in ways that appear to show support for liberal policies, and that they fail to understand the importance of party trust. While more respondents may say that they support increased spending on education or Social Security than oppose it, they are more likely to say they trust Republicans in the area of government spending. “American public opinion is a conflicted jumble of progressive and conservative impulses with limited knowledge of the details of the issues, mixed feelings about the parties, and a preference for divided government and compromise,” Yglesias says.

+ Democrats unveil bill to ban online ‘surveillance advertising’ (The Verge)


A case for divorcing the terms “journalist” and “news” (Substack, Time Spent)

A recent study of American conservatives about the origins of their distrust in the news media found that often they were conflating journalists with other disliked groups such as politicians, academics or entertainers. That’s because their sense of what constitutes “news” is not related to whether or not the purveyor of that information is a “journalist,” writes Jihii Jolly. “[I]f we divorce the terms journalism and news, we have a chance at coming up with new, modern language and ethics for news-gathering, be it done by a news organization or not,” she writes. This would require determining a new “taxonomy of news value” for determining what does and does not qualify as news.


Newsrooms are unionizing pretty much “nonstop.” Here’s why (Nieman Reports)

In the face of layoffs and cutbacks, newsrooms all over the country are unionizing, writes Steven Greenhouse. The Newsguild has added 6,300 members since 2016, while the  Writers Guild of America, East, has organized 2,400 journalists in that same period. Many journalists working for publications that have been acquired by major chains have seen their colleagues unceremoniously laid off after years of service, prompting organizers to push for better pay and better severance. During the pandemic, union organizers have worked to ensure that employees have a say on safety procedures and requirements for returning to the office.

+ Related: Why media unions are demanding to participate in management’s return-to-office planning (Digiday)