Need to Know: July 1, 2021


You might have heard: Americans see skepticism of news media as healthy (Pew Research Center) 

But did you know: Study finds that Americans of all political persuasions agree that the news media is fundamentally untrustworthy (Columbia Journalism Review) 

In a new study, researchers Jacob L. Nelson and Seth C. Lewis interviewed 60 American adults in the spring of 2020 to gauge their relationship with the news. They found that regardless of political affiliation or news routine, interviewees were deeply skeptical of the news. Many said that all news sources are biased in some way, even news outlets that they felt had a similar bias to themselves. In order to make sense of current events, respondents said they trusted their own critical thinking and research skills, with some saying they would independently verify facts that they read or saw in news pieces. Several people said that they were more likely to believe information if it was repeated, but when two sources disagreed on a fact, they assumed “the truth was somewhere in the middle.” 

+ Noted: The Knight Foundation announces the 26 newsrooms that will receive its Sustainable Publishing Solutions grant (News Revenue Hub); The Appeal is shutting down its news site, but also handing it over to its staff (Nieman Lab); Congressional leaders urge FCC to perform equity audit (Associated Press); UNC Board of Trustees votes 9-4 to approve Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure application (The Daily Tar Heel)   


How the Los Angeles Times built a compelling series of virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic (Better News) 

When the pandemic hit, editors at the Los Angeles Times knew that people were sitting at home, doom-scrolling and looking to connect with others in a non-scary way. The organization sprinted to put on as many events as it could handle with existing staff and a little elbow grease. It moved its popular community book club, for example, to a virtual platform and made it easy for readers to join discussions with authors such as Viet Thanh Nguyen, Brit Bennett, Alice Waters and, recently, Barack Obama. 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. 

+ Earlier: How Scalawag is using virtual events to attract Black audiences and grow its membership (Better News)


In rural North Carolina, an investigative center supports local print news (Columbia Journalism Review) 

In an effort to address gaps in coverage in southeast North Carolina, Les High, publisher of the local News Reporter, established the Border Belt Reporting Center. The nonprofit finances investigative journalism that is shared for free with local outlets. Many residents in the area don’t have internet access, so sharing stories with local newspapers is a crucial step for increasing reach. The center, which launched in March, plans to continue expanding its team and conduct listening sessions in local communities, particularly with residents of color. 


Why German newspaper Bild is looking to venture into TV news ( 

Bild Group, Germany’s leading print and digital brand, is considering moving into television news as a way to increase its revenue streams. Bild has already expanded beyond news content; the brand includes an e-commerce business, a sports betting platform and several content licensing and syndication deals. Now, the group is planning to launch a live, free-to-air television news channel before the country’s federal election in September. At a recent media summit, Bild Group’s managing director said that the move to television seemed like a natural fit, as videos, such as documentaries and livestreams, make up most of the publication’s most popular content. 


New York Times tech workers plan to ride the media union wave right onto a bigger wave of tech organizing (In These Times) 

In April, hundreds of tech workers at The New York Times announced their intention to unionize with the NewsGuild. Hamilton Nolan writes that these workers may represent a future wave of tech unionization. As unionization has spread among editorial media workers across the country, tech workers at those same outlets have generally been left out of these efforts. Now, they see the opportunity to organize in existing union shops, pushing for issues like pay equity, better benefits and improved career development. 


UFOs, once consigned to conspiracy theories, have landed in mainstream American journalism (Poynter) 

Last week, the U.S. government released a report on unidentified aerial phenomena, also known as UFOs. For decades, stories surrounding UFOs and aliens have been the realm of conspiracy theories, but now mainstream journalists are beginning to cover the matter more seriously. Some reporters say that editors are now finally taking discussions around aerial phenomena seriously, while some media critics argue that the press is merely repeating talking points that push a government narrative. The new report has driven a wave of UFO reporting not seen in decades, which some reporters attribute to a desire for distracting news following the pandemic. 


Leading with empathy when writing about displaced people (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

Writing about displaced people sometimes requires leading with empathy over the desire to tell a compelling story. For Jessica Goudeau, who wrote a book about two displaced women living in the U.S., leading with empathy meant giving her subjects pseudonyms and leaving out critical details of their stories so that their families would stay safe. In an interview, Goudeau says that thinking beyond the tropes that surround refugees — that they’re needy and eternally grateful for their time in the west, that their journey was full of unbearable hardship — is necessary to tell the full human stories of displaced people. When talking to displaced people, she says she starts by asking them what story they want to tell, and builds from there.