Need to Know: January 4, 2022


You might have heard: Forty-five reporters and media workers around the world were killed in 2021, the lowest death toll since The International Federation of Journalists started tracking it 30 years ago (The Associated Press)

But did you know: Being a journalist in the U.S. may be becoming more dangerous (The Washington Post) 

Journalists in the U.S. are increasingly becoming the targets of violence, writes Jason Rezaian, arguing that members of the press “could start seeing an increase in the types of threats that many of our colleagues in many illiberal societies already face.” Rezaian writes that the news industry has accepted a certain amount of online harassment and abuse as part of the job, and that individual journalists are hesitant to discuss specific acts of violence against them because they do not want to become the stories themselves. Those targeting the press — whether they be political extremists or law enforcement — need to be held accountable, Rezaian writes, or else “we are bound to face more and better organized assaults on our democratic institutions. And that includes the free press.” 

+ Noted: Institute for Nonprofit News raises a record $12 million to support NewsMatch (INN); Univision’s ill-fated cable net Fusion ceases operations (Forbes); Border Patrol launches review of secretive division that targeted journalists (Yahoo News) 


Can journalism reduce perception gaps? Q & A with Noelle Malvar

“Perception gaps” are deeply distorted understandings people have of each other.  In politics, the most partisan and politically active Americans are often the most misguided on views of “the other side,” while those who are less engaged are as much as three times better in guessing the views of the opposing side. In a new Q &A, API asks researcher Noelle Malvar of the nonprofit More in Common about how journalism, or poor journalism, might worsen these gaps — and how journalism instead might use framing, context and other approaches to reduce them, wherever they occur. “Polarization begets polarization,” said Malvar, “Though perceptions of polarization have the same effect.”  

+ Earlier: Stanford study finds that correcting inaccurate perceptions of outpartisans’ support for partisan violence “significantly and durably reduced support for partisan violence” 


How the Oklahoma Media Center has collaborated to cover the biggest Native American court ruling in more than a century (Native News Online) 

Last year, the Oklahoma Media Center, a statewide news collaborative with more than 25 contributors, debuted Promised Land, a collaboration covering McGirt v. Oklahoma, a Supreme Court case about tribal sovereignty. As part of its coverage, OMC partnered with the Native American Journalists Association to provide training on ethics and best practices in covering Indigenous populations. OMC collaborators have shared 367 news stories on the case, covering its legal, public safety, and financial ramifications. In 2022, OMC is planning to conduct a content analysis to measure the impact of the Promised Land project. 


This Austrian newsroom retained independence and fought lawsuits with a membership model (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

After Austrian newsroom DOSSIER covered a controversial deal by OMV, the country’s largest oil and gas company, OMV sued the outlet for 130,000 euros ($145,000). The goal, says DOSSIER’s editor-in-chief, was clearly to shut down the small newsroom, which had a budget of only 300,000 euros at the time. But DOSSIER spun the legal challenges to its advantage, explaining the threat the lawsuits posed to the outlet as part of its first ever membership campaign. The campaign worked; DOSSIER pulled in 3,000 new members in less than three weeks, and OMV dropped its lawsuit following public pressure. Now DOSSIER finds itself in a stronger position than many other news outlets in Austria, which rely on government advertising to survive — and have struggled as the government has increasingly tied ad money to favorable coverage. 

+ Hong Kong’s Citizen News to close citing fears for staff safety (The Guardian)


Social media misinformation in 2022 is a practice for 2024 (CNET) 

Misinformation and conspiracy theories are expected to accelerate and expand in 2022, writes Oscar Gonzalez. Social media platforms have continued to act reactively, instead of proactively, to conspiracy theories like QAnon, which has spread for years on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Experts worry that the midterm elections in November will be seen as an important breeding ground for peddlers of misinformation, who hope to seed doubts about the legitimacy of the election. “The bigger thing that people in that [misinformation] universe are trying to do with 2022 is to win the narrative battle so that they are sitting in a much better place going into 2024,” said Mike Caulfield, a research scientist at the University of Washington. 

Related: Former Facebook executive pushes to open social media’s ‘black boxes’ (The New York Times) 


If American democracy is going to survive, the media must make this crucial shift (The Washington Post) 

Since the attack on the U.S. Capitol last January, news organizations have failed to make “democracy-under-siege” a primary focus of their work, writes Margaret Sullivan. While outlets have run stories about how local and state governments are making it easier for a future coup attempt to succeed, the pro-democracy messaging is not being “centered” by the mainstream media, Sullivan argues. She writes that news organizations should be up-front with their audiences about their pro-democracy stance by placing stories about the issue in front of paywalls and devoting teams of reporters and editors to covering its evolution. 


A local newspaper focused on the Black community is defying the odds. It’s growing. (The Washington Post) 

The Washington Informer, a weekly newspaper covering the Black community in the D.C. area, has doubled its readership in the last five years, and expanded its average paper from 36 pages to 56 pages. The paper’s owner and publisher, Denise Rolark Barnes, says its success is due to many factors, including an increase in philanthropic funding, collaboration with other Black newspapers and a growing demand in the Black community for trusted news sources. The family-run paper, founded in 1964, now includes a weekly podcast, a monthly TV show and a daily newsletter.