Need to Know: January 27, 2022


You might have heard: The federal government could help save local news by getting creative with advertising spending (Poynter)

But did you know: Ad Lab experiment in New Jersey benefits independent local news organizations (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)

Over the past few years, The Center for Cooperative Media worked to put together Ad Lab, a shared advertising network for independent news organizations in New Jersey that helps organizations too small to have a dedicated ad sales team. The program included training in ad sales for all outlets that participated, and a shared sales professional who sold $9,000 worth of ads across 16 publishers in the last quarter of 2021. Stefanie Murray, director of the center, writes that, despite limitations, the Ad Lab was proof of concept for local publishers across the country, estimating that a full-year investment in the program could return a 10-15% profit for the network.

+ Noted: Guild says New York Times excludes union staff from Juneteenth, guild says (Bloomberg); Colorado Media Project announces nearly $1 million in new grants to strengthen and advance equity in local news (Colorado Media Project); Unbias the News launches Sinking Cities project to help local journalists from cities affected by flooding and rising sea levels cover climate change (Twitter, @unbiasthenews)


Protect your staff from online abuse with a formal policy and a response plan (Better News)

Online abuse is one of the largest threats that journalists face. To protect its staff, The Seattle Times created a clear policy to deal with incidents of online abuse, with help from the International Women’s Media Foundation. The newspaper developed a clear plan to respond to incidents of abuse, which details the roles that various staffers will take so that targeted journalists can focus on their own safety. The Times also created a centralized folder where employees could document the abuse, which simplified the process of gathering evidence and allowed the paper to monitor repeat offenders. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole. 


How URL Media has supported Black and Brown newsrooms in its first year (Poynter)

Last January, S. Mitra Kalita and Sara Lomax-Reese set out to create URL Media, “a decentralized, multi-platform network” that supports media organizations run by people of color. In the past year, the network has grown, producing a monthly roundtable, “Meet the BIPOC Press,” on public television stations across the country and securing spots on Apple News for all of their newsrooms. The success of URL’s partner newsrooms is due to the service-oriented nature of the outlets, says Lomax-Reese. “This is a relatively new trend in mainstream journalism right now, but this is fundamental and foundational for our BIPOC media organizations,” she added.


U.K.’s Tortoise has raised millions from investors to expand audio, events and membership (Press Gazette)

British “slow news” organization Tortoise has raised 10 million pounds in new funding, which will allow the organization to expand its audio journalism, events and a membership model. The outlet originally launched in 2018 with 710,000 pounds from crowdfunding, but has relied mostly on investor funding. Tortoise plans to use the funding largely to grow its membership and the Tortoise Community Network, which co-founder Katie Vanneck-Smith calls “a place where people come together to understand things better together.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, 37,000 people have attended Tortoise ThinkIns, open news meetings that can be attended by any member of the public.


Substack’s founders say they will will stick to their ‘hands-off approach to content moderation’ (Substack, On Substack)

Substack has come under increasing pressure to rein in misinformation that has spread via its newsletters, but the platform’s co-founders — Hamish McKenzie, Chris Best and Jairaj Sethi —say that they don’t plan to “censor” any content published via the platform. In the latest edition of their newsletter about Substack, they argue that the way to fight misinformation is not to silence individuals, but to build “trust in the information ecosystem as a whole” by allowing all voices to be heard. “To put it plainly: censorship of bad ideas makes people less likely, not more likely, to trust good ideas,” they write, saying Substack hopes to focus on building relationships and developing a healthy information economy.

Related: Newsletter company Substack is making millions off anti-vaccine content, according to estimates (The Washington Post)


The long history of asking presidents idiotic questions (The New Republic)

Earlier this week, President Biden was caught insulting Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocy on a hot mic. Biden’s remark came in response to a question about inflation which, Timothy Noah writes, Doocy asked solely to embarrass Biden. He writes that it was part of a long tradition of White House correspondents using their time with the president “to perform rather than inquire.” These questions are designed more to make the questioner seem clever than to extract any interesting information from the president. Such questions, Noah theorizes, come from a desire by reporters to dominate a news cycle, keep real scoops close to the vest and look good on television with an eye towards future punditry gigs.


Young Indian Americans say misinformation on social media in India is causing tension among families (Teen Vogue)

Facebook and WhatsApp have allowed anti-Muslim rhetoric and COVID misinformation to proliferate in India, writes Siri Chilukuri, and Indian Americans stateside are struggling with the ramifications. Young members of the Indian diaspora say they face backlash from relatives when discussing issues like Islamophobia, casteism, and homophobia online. Social media has allowed people to remain closer to long-distance relatives, but has also “normalized” Islamophobia in both countries through off-hand jokes and messages with misinformation that are forwarded dozens of times.