Need to Know: January 5, 2021


You might have heard: If the US Postal Service fails, rural America will suffer the most (Vox)

But did you know: USPS delays are threatening small-town newspapers. So is a postage price increase. (The Washington Post)

With the Post Office overburdened and understaffed over the holidays due to coronavirus, small publishers have been struggling to distribute their newspapers on time. In mid-December, only 54% of periodicals were delivered on time, down from nearly 80% over the summer. These mailed publications are especially crucial in remote and rural areas, where community papers are often the only source of local news. When their papers aren’t delivered, these publications lose ad revenue and subscription income, all while facing an increase in shipping costs over the next few years. Currently, periodicals pay between 22 to 36 cents for each copy shipped, but prices may rise as much as 9% in 2022 and in the years after.

+ Noted: Politico alums are launching Punchbowl, a inside-the-Beltway publication, with a $300/year subscription rate (The New York Times); The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership expands to include WAN-IFRA and Aspen Institute (The Washington Post); Despite pandemic, 60 new print magazines launched in 2020 (The New York Post)


How the press and public can find common purpose

Journalism’s future depends on how Americans view its contribution to democracy and their communities. Our survey, conducted in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago, examined several data points around this issue, including how Americans feel about the accountability role of the press and their own ability to question political leaders and improve their communities.


The Oklahoman will start signing its editorials to acknowledge single writer (The Oklahoman)

In an open letter to readers, Owen Canfield, opinion page editor of The Oklahoman, has announced that the paper will begin signing its editorials in “a nod to the ever-evolving changes within the industry.” The paper hasn’t had a true editorial board since 2018, and Canfield has written most of the editorials himself over the past 20 months. He says that although his editorials have been in line with the paper’s traditional editorial stance, Canfield wants to ensure that they are clearly marked as his own opinion, to ensure that accusations of bias are not hurled at the paper overall, or at the reporters on the news side.


Global journalism collective finds safety in collaboration (Voice of America)

Laurent Richard founded the global journalism collective Forbidden Stories to continue the work of journalists who have been killed, jailed or threatened. The goal, he says, is to make clear to enemies of the media that “even if you kill the messenger you will never kill the message.” The group is behind The Cartel Project, which recently explored the death of Mexican journalist Regina Martínez, who was killed while researching the disappearance of thousands of people in Veracruz. The group connects reporters for protection and support, and to demonstrate the connectedness of journalists from around the world.


Instagram, YouTube and TikTok are burning out their creators. Here’s how platforms can fix that. (Medium, Hunter Walk)

For independent producers on social media, algorithms that reward frequency and engagement can be stressful and exhausting. To help combat burnout for these creators, Hunter Walk suggests that product developers build in tools for social media apps and platforms that encourage healthy boundaries and wellness for producers. His ideas include built-in seasons that allow for “recuperating” off-seasons, incorporating posting limits into the DNA of a product and giving paid time off to producers who achieve certain levels of success.

+ Google workers publicly launch union open to all employees, including contractors (Vice)


The role of local news in covering Trump’s endgame (Columbia Journalism Review)

With several Republican members of Congress planning to challenge the certification of the election vote this week, Lauren Harris looks at how local media is covering these politicians. Some local news outlets, like the Baton Rouge Advocate and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, described the event while reiterating that there has been no proof of voter fraud. But other local outlets have not covered their senator’s choice at all, buried fact-checking information or failed to correct false quotes from politicians.


BuzzFeed recaps ‘the biggest secrets we pried from the government in 2020’ (Buzzfeed News)

According to a new academic study, BuzzFeed News filed more FOIA lawsuits during the Trump administration than any other news organization in the U.S. In a round-up, a reporter and lawyer for BuzzFeed go over the site’s ”aggressive legal campaign” to hold the executive branch accountable over the past year. The year began with uncovering documents related to President Trump’s impeachment, before segueing into requests related to the pandemic and federal law enforcement issue that dominated the news. Other lawsuits related to immigration and money laundering.