Need to Know: January 8, 2021


You might have heard: Newsrooms wrestle with how to describe Trump supporters who stormed Capitol (Washingtonian) 

But did you know: How to message the January 6 Capitol events to your audiences (Medium, We Are Hearken) 

Jennifer Brandel at Hearken has compiled advice on how to contextualize election-related violence without fanning the flames, given the likelihood of more violent protests leading up to Inauguration Day. With a focus on supporting peace, she writes, “Do not use or amplify militarized language which positions U.S. residents as enemies against one another in battle” and asks journalists to focus their coverage on the violence itself, not the actors. Be careful, she adds, not to lump all supporters of President Trump with the small minority that attacked the Capitol, and make clear that Trump is not a lone actor but a part of a larger system that supports and enables him. And be sure to view these events in the context of a long history; some may object to the use of “un-American,” given the country’s past of violence towards people of color, so “un-Democratic” is a better choice.

+ Here are more resources for journalists covering the attacks on the U.S. Capitol and around the country (Solution Set, The Lenfest Institute)

+ Noted: The Courier Journal will be printed remotely with the closing of its downtown presses (Louisville Courier Journal); RadioLab apologizes after former staffer is accused of harassment (WNYC); LION Publishers releases 2020 annual report (LION Publishers); Neil Sheehan, Times reporter who obtained the Pentagon Papers, dies at 84 — and his story of how he uncovered the papers is finally told (The New York Times); Toledo NewsGuild begins byline strike over Toledo Blade’s coverage of Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol (Twitter, @BladeGuild)


Trust-building tips for covering attacks on democracy (Trusting News)

In the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, Mollie Muchna explains how news outlets can demonstrate their credibility in ongoing coverage. One thing to do is explain your word choices — why are you using the term “insurrection” versus “protest,” for example? Here’s a good example from WCPO.

+ Related: Does your audience fully understand the meanings behind words like coup, treason, traitor, sedition? Here are their backgrounds and, in some cases, legal definitions (Twitter, @wearehearken)


How two Texas news outlets are taking collaboration to the next level (News Media Alliance)

In 2019, Jamie Hancock, the North Texas editor at The Dallas Morning News, reached out to Cheryl Smith, the publisher of Texas Metro News. The Morning News lacked coverage of South Dallas, a predominantly African-Amercan neighborhood, and turned to the Black-owned Metro News as a way to bring underrepresented voices into the paper through content-sharing and reporting collaboration. Both Hancock and Smith were clear that, despite the size difference of the publications, this was a collaboration of equals. The partnership began with staff training for reporters from both publications, which focused on finding sources and covering fast-moving current events, and led to thoughtful conversations about coverage of the city. The two outlets have also held community events, including a diverse and wide-reaching voter registration drive.

+ Earlier: How ethnic and mainstream media can collaborate in changing communities (American Press Institute)


How Britain’s first black female TV reporter was forced off screens (The Guardian)

In 1968, Barbara Blake-Hannah became the first Black on-air reporter on British television. She reported for Thames Television five days a week for nine months, before producers told her they weren’t renewing her contract due to an onslaught of complaints about the presence of a Black person on TV. Born and raised in Jamaica, she moved to the U.K. in the mid-60s and struggled with the ingrained racism of the era. After she was fired from Thames, she was hired by a regional station, but couldn’t find anyone in the smaller city to rent to her, so she commuted a multiple-hour journey from London everyday. She eventually returned to Jamaica and went on to serve in the Jamaican parliament.

+ Indian media watchdog offers a 6-month free subscription for those who donate to blanket donation drive (Uday Foundation)


Teachers on TV? Schools try creative strategy to narrow digital divide (The New York Times)

When schools around the country moved to remote learning in the spring, students who lacked reliable internet access were often left behind. So educators teamed up with local public television stations to air teacher-led broadcasts aimed at helping kids keep up with the curriculum. Some are focused on basic skills for younger children, while others are targeted at high school students. By seeing the same teacher on screen over and over again, kids are able to build relationships with the educator. And without the technological frustrations that come with interactive web calls, students are able to focus on lessons more easily.


NPR had the leaked Trump tape, too. Here’s what the newsroom did with it (NPR)

Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported on a phone call in which President Trump urged Georgia officials to change the results of the November election. But NPR’s public editor, Kelly McBride, writes that a local Georgia Public Broadcasting reporter, Stephen Fowler, also received the leaked call over the weekend. While NPR covered the call on Sunday afternoon, the network declined to air the audio in full. Editors debated whether to publish any part of the call at all, since it would involve amplifying Trump’s lies about election fraud, before deciding to only air “the substance and the tenor” of the call. McBride argues that the network should have aired more of the president’s “intimidating and unhinged behavior” and statements from the members of his staff who were encouraging him.


A streamlined unpublishing process is as important as thoughtful policy (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Most newsrooms don’t have a system in place for tracking unpublishing requests, writes Deborah Dwyer; nor a formal request mechanism like an online form. Without a standardized process for submitting and tracking requests, it is difficult for a newsroom to establish a consistent and transparent policy about when and how changes are made, potentially opening that organization up to charges of bias. In partnership with The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dwyer is developing a form that news sites can use to solicit unpublishing requests and track decisions.


+ What types of messages, pricing, and perks motivate #ThisIsTucson super users to become paying members (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ A bad op-ed is more than just a bad take: A lack of accountability for editorial staff fosters misinformation and polarization (Substack, The Objective)

+ After a year of media layoffs and closures, there’s still a lot we don’t know about who has left the industry (Poynter)

+ Government guidelines have made it difficult for journalists to get inside hospitals to document COVID-19 cases (Poynter)