Need to Know: January 25, 2021


You might have heard: Most Americans support the right to have some personal info removed from online searches (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Boston Globe launches ‘Fresh Start’ initiative, allowing people to request that past coverage about them be reviewed (The Boston Globe)

As part of an effort to rethink its criminal justice coverage, The Boston Globe is launching a program that will allow people to request that the paper “update or anonymize past coverage of them online.” The goal is to address the impact that a small misstep, like an embarrassing incident or minor crime, can have on a person’s life when coverage of that event lives forever online. The paper’s editor, Brian McGrory, said that small stories like this are more likely to affect people of color, given the inequalities in the criminal justice system. The paper said it will consider all requests, but will set a high bar for serious crimes or stories about public officials. The initiative will be advertised via social media and “sustained community outreach.”

+ Earlier: The Cleveland Plain Dealer rolls out process to remove mug shots, names from dated stories about minor crimes (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

+ Noted: Kathleen Kingsbury named New York Times Opinion Editor (The New York Times Company)


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Local news publishers need to dig deeper for a better advertising model (Editor and Publisher)

Programmatic online advertising is dominated by the big tech companies like Facebook and Google, making it difficult for local news publishers to compete. Matt DeRienzo of the Center for Public Integrity writes that local news should take a sharp turn away from the current model of digital advertising, which is focused more on quantity over quality. As more outlets invest in attracting loyal paying subscribers, that audience is now more valuable to high-quality advertisers who are also interested in helping customers, rather than spreading misinformation. By building relationships on the ad side, publishers can ensure that they’re fighting misinformation on all fronts while also developing a more secure revenue stream.


How two Dutch news outlets experimented with standalone audio platforms (Twipe)

In the fall, two Dutch news outlets — the website De Correspondent and the newspaper NRC — released standalone audio platforms. While both were created to share their own podcasts, they differed in style. De Correspondent’s app focused on bringing content directly to members, rather than having to deal with an outside podcast catcher. It also allowed the site to present its content in a high-quality, well-designed app. NRC, on the other hand, mixed original content with international podcasts, while also focusing on a clean user experience. The paper originally released all podcasts for free; now, it is experimenting with subscriber-only audio content.


An evaluation of online security guides for journalists, and how they can be improved (Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity)

With attacks on journalists on the rise worldwide, researcher Kristin Berdan has analyzed 33 online security guides that are geared toward journalists. She finds that the advice is often difficult for journalists to fully comprehend and put into practice, and that most guides don’t account for “journalists’ busy schedules and time-pressured work cycles.” She recommends that security guides help journalists assess the risk of their story or beat, in order to understand the best tools or practices for that particular situation, and that security practices should be able to fit into a journalist’s everyday workflow. Berdan also suggests highlighting the competitive advantage of being able to securely explore darker parts of the internet, and integrating security training into journalism education.


Congress should authorize the creation of a National Commission on Information Integrity (Foreign Policy)

In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, Vera Zakem and Moira Whelan argue that the federal government should form a commission to study misinformation, styled after the post-9/11 Commission that investigated the roots of the attacks, both at home and abroad. They suggest that a National Commission on Information Integrity “would focus on disinformation, online extremism, hate speech, and the media landscape and its impact on American democracy.” A bipartisan commission with a broad mandate to investigate American experiences with information consumption could help identify how to protect citizens from the effects of misinformation and introduce a counter-disinformation strategy for both the government and public-private partnerships.


Slow vaccine distribution and disappearing local news are crises with a common solution (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

News outlets have been hit hard during the pandemic, and Steven Waldman and Susan Coffin argue that the lack of high-quality local news is partly why some are still hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. They posit that the solution to both problems is “a massive government public health advertising effort” that will both further public health goals, while also channelling money to local news media. Polling shows that Americans are more likely to trust local news than national news, which means they could play a key role in convincing vaccine-skeptic groups to receive the shots. Public health campaigns are most likely to succeed if they have a clear national message, combined with customized information for specific communities.

+ Related: This vaccine education toolkit includes sample messaging and suggested tactics to help local journalists craft vaccine education messages that will best resonate with their audiences (National Association of Broadcasters)