Need to Know: January 31, 2023


You might have heard: Coverage of Biden has been slightly more negative than positive (Pew Research Center) 

But did you know: The economy keeps defying media expectations. It’s part of a pattern. (The Washington Post) 

Recent economic growth and drops in inflation were greeted with surprise by the media, writes Jennifer Rubin, despite ample evidence that good economic news was on the way. Rubin argues that on top of the media’s predilection towards negative news, mainstream news outlets are “deathly afraid of accusations of liberal bias,” leading them to parrot conservative talking points. She also says that the media tends to believe that past economic events can predict future conditions, even though the pandemic and its recovery has been an unprecedented event in modern history. One answer, she says, is more reporters with expertise in areas other than politics. 

+ Noted: Nykia Wright departs as Sun-Times CEO (Chicago Sun-Times); Bangor Daily News will go digital-only on Mondays to preserve our journalism (Bangor Daily News); HuffPost union members to Buzzfeed management: ‘We are prepared to strike’ (The Wrap) 


Take special care with coverage of police violence and protests (Trusting News)

The decisions that journalists make about documenting incidents of police brutality and resulting protests can have a big impact. In the wake of the killing of Tyre Nichols, newsrooms must make choices with thoughtfulness, integrity and transparency to show care for the community. Help your community navigate the news, but respect that you’re part of “the media.” Pay close attention to community criticism about your coverage and be clear and thoughtful about your language. Don’t shy away from diving into the complexities of the narrative, but explain what you don’t know rather than avoiding it.


At The Seattle Times, 70 percent of revenue now comes from readers (WAN-IFRA) 

The Seattle Times, the second largest newsroom in the western United States, began switching its business model away from advertising and towards reader revenue more than a decade ago. The paper implemented a metered paywall in 2013 and spent years tweaking its tech stack to improve response rates. The Times also doubled down on its homepage, since more than half of its existing subscribers start on the homepage when they visit the site. Instead of just marking articles as “new”, the paper created a “Latest” feed on the upper right of the homepage to showcase all of the most recent articles. 


BBC News review says journalists’ ‘lack of understanding of basic economics’ brings ‘high risk to impartiality’ (Deadline) 

A new report on the BBC’s coverage of “taxation, public spending, government borrowing and debt” found that while the organization did not display any partisan bias, many journalists “lack an understanding of basic economics.” This meant that many audience members, particularly from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, found coverage of economic policy difficult to understand. The report also stated that terminology that implies that policy choices are inevitable “can sound perilously close to policy endorsement.”


How we’re approaching AI-generated writing on Medium (Medium Blog) 

Going forward, all content posted on Medium that was created with AI assistance will need to be clearly labeled, according to Medium’s Vice President of Content Scott Lamb. Lamb writes that the platform wants to be open to the possibilities of AI-generated text while being transparent with readers. Any articles that Medium believes to be AI-produced that are not clearly labeled will not be distributed across the platform’s network. But, he notes, individual Medium publications can, and have, banned AI-written material if they choose. 

+ Related: Meta embraces AI as Facebook, Instagram help drive a rebound (The Wall Street Journal); BuzzFeed to use ChatGPT creator OpenAI to help create quizzes and other content (The Wall Street Journal)  


A photographer visited more than 100 newspapers in rural Kansas looking for signs of democracy (Poynter) 

In 2022, photographer and art professor Jeremiah Ariaz visited 115 newspapers in Kansas. What he found, in operating and recently closed newsrooms, was “almost like an archeological site — layers and layers of technology that had once played a part in newspaper production.” He found that rural newsrooms were happy to allow him to photograph, but that newspapers in bigger towns — which he says are run by people “far away and unconcerned with the communities they were supposed to be serving” — were less likely to let him in. He’s now working to share the photographs in a newspaper.