Need to Know: January 29, 2021


You might have heard: Among local media, conversions to nonprofit ownership accelerate (Nonprofit Quarterly)

But did you know: New Jersey media group signs letter of intent to convert to non-profit status (Twitter, @StefanieMurray)

The New Jersey Hills Media Group has said that it intends to transfer ownership of its 14 weekly newspapers to a new nonprofit, the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media. The Corporation says that it is the “first conversion of an established weekly newspaper group to non-profit ownership in the nation.” The group is hoping to raise $500,000 in a community fundraising drive to cover the conversion. By converting the chain to nonprofit, the papers will retain local ownership, allowing it to be more responsive to the communities it covers. In a statement, the Hills Media Group said that the staff from the papers would remain on after the transition.

+ Noted: Today is the deadline for nominations for the 2020 John P. Murray Award for Excellence in Audience Development (News Media Alliance); Applications for the National Association of Science Writers’ “Science in Society” awards are open, and NASW is encouraging journalists who don’t typically consider their reporting as “science writing” to apply — submission fees are waived for members of AAJA and other journalism organizations (NASW)


How The Journal News reinvented its coverage of Yonkers, N.Y., rebuilt trust and grew subscriptions (Better News)

As The Journal News, a paper in the suburbs just north of New York City, began transitioning to a subscriber-based revenue model, it realized it needed to evolve the newsroom culture to one that reports more holistically about the Lower Hudson Valley — with a particular sensitivity to people and communities most affected by the country’s legacy of discrimination. By appointing a new Yonkers-focused reporter, the paper was able to tell important stories for a community that had previously been overlooked. 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 to do great journalism on polarizing issues instead of making things worse (Medium, The Whole Story)

The idea behind Complicating the Narratives, a new training program from the Solutions Journalism Network, is to use conflict resolution strategies to help journalists report more effectively on contentious issues. The goal is to produce journalism “that generates curiosity and understanding without causing further divides.” The practice is based on four pillars: listen differently, in ways that help you acknowledge your biases; go beneath the problem to get to the core of a person’s beliefs or values; embrace complexity by adding historical and geographical context; and counter confirmation bias in ourselves and our audience by thoughtfully presenting alternate sides of an issue. The project’s manager, Hélène Biandudi Hofer, writes that her training in CTN even helped her be more open-minded in her personal life, leading her to leave a big city for a small town she would have previously shunned.

+ Related: 5 questions journalists can ask in interviews that “complicate the narrative” (Medium, The Whole Story)


Rival titles unite across North England to launch campaign to get kids online during lockdown (Medium, Behind Local News)

Dozens of print and digital news outlets in the North of England have started a campaign to buy internet-enabled dongles for low-income students as the country returns to lockdown. The devices will be available to families who are using a single cellphone hotspot as an internet source for multiple family members. The 40 outlets are hoping to raise £1.2 million ($1.65 million). The campaign generated more than £10,000 ($13,700) in the first 24 hours and has been endorsed by local politicians and brands.


Publishers push plans to reopen offices until summer, but employees expect delays until 2022 (Digiday)

Many media companies had planned to open their offices up again in January, but have now pushed that target back to the summer. The New York Times and Thomson Reuters are extending their work-from-home policies until July, while Vox and BuzzFeed said they are unlikely to require employees to return before September. In interviews, employees said that they missed the newsroom environment, but didn’t want to return to the office before the science indicated that it was safe. Despite the company’s targeted dates of summer or early fall, some employees don’t expect to be back in the office until 2022. And many workers said that the idea of the entire workforce returning to the office at any point seems unlikely.


Nonprofit or for-profit — which model is right for your news organization? (Medium, LION Publishers)

From the outside, nonprofit and for-profit news outlets often look very similar — mission-driven organizations with diverse revenue streams and a business model for sustainability. Jo Ellen Green Kaiser breaks down the benefits and drawbacks of both for anyone looking to start a news organization. While nonprofit status offers tempting tax exemptions, founders exercise much less control over a not-for-profit business than a for-profit. Receiving money through grants or donors is generally easier for a nonprofit, while raising investment money is easier for a for-profit. Nonprofit news outlets also cannot legally endorse a specific candidate for office, a traditional role for many newsrooms.

+ Earlier: Choosing the best business model for your community news organization (Center for Journalism & Liberty)


News outlets have apologized for past racism. That should only be the start. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Newspapers throughout America have been part of a system that has supported white supremacy for centuries, writes Alexandria Neason. And while more papers are starting to acknowledge their role in stoking racism in the past, Neason writes that more needs to be done. Newsrooms need to focus on their ongoing complicity in systemic racism, and funders need to think about how resources could be distributed to encourage equity. She highlights the work of Media 2070, a group focused on how media reparations could bring racial equity into the newsrooms of the future.


+ “I don’t see the last four years as this journalistic anomaly”: New York Times national political reporter Astead W. Herndon on covering Trump (Slate)

+ A fake story about the secretary of defense stole my real byline (Defense News)

+ Inside the Caliphate debacle, and exactly who is allowed to fail (Jezebel)

+ For local nonprofit news, 2020 was a very good year, and 2021 will be even better (Poynter)

+ “I left my career in prestige media because of the shitty men in charge and they are still in charge” (Medium, Jennifer Barnett)