Need to Know: July 13, 2021


You might have heard: U.S. newsrooms lost a record 16,160 jobs in 2020 (The Wrap) 

But did you know: During the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists at small market newspapers worked long hours and felt more insecure about their jobs (Medium, Damian Radcliffe) 

A new survey of small-scale local newsrooms in the U.S. has found that the vast majority of employees said they worked more than 40 hours per week. Half of the respondents said they worked 40 to 50 hours per week, and 37% said they worked 50 to 60 hours per week. The survey, conducted late last summer, found that 43% percent of employees felt less secure in their jobs than at the beginning of the pandemic, while 11% said they felt more secure. Nearly half (49%) of respondents said that, in the past three years, the number of stories that they personally produce in a week has grown. And 61% of respondents said they held a negative view of the prospects for small market newspapers. 

+ Noted: Report for America opens newsroom applications, expands opportunity to hire more journalists (Report for America); Oklahoma City television news channel News9 has purchased the offices of The Oklahoman newspaper; newsrooms will now share office space (Twitter, @StormeJones); $1.4 million grant to Missouri School of Journalism helps create network of journalists focused on Mississippi River Basin (University of Missouri)  


A new way of looking at trust in media: Do Americans share journalism’s core values?

Many Americans are skeptical of what journalists consider their core mission, and the argument over media trust often has the feel of people talking past each other. But we found that the trust crisis may be better understood through people’s moral values than their politics. A new study by API and AP-NORC explores how people’s moral values relate to their perception of core journalism values, as well as news stories. And it points to simple changes journalists can make to their reporting that could help increase trust with journalism skeptics and supporters alike.

+ How has your newsroom experimented with telling complex stories in a more digestible and accessible way on social media? Reply to this email to let us know. A sampling of responses will be published in Friday’s newsletter. 


Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editor says ignoring false statements and stunts by politicians is working well (Cleveland Plain Dealer) 

In March, Chris Quinn of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that the paper would no longer cover politicians who make “false, irresponsible and potentially dangerous statements.” In the last four months, Quinn writes that the experiment has been a success, and that readers have mostly responded well. He cites two recent examples — a rally by former President Trump in the area, where he repeated election lies, and a political stunt by mayoral candidate Dennis Kucinich — that the paper declined to cover, in favor of more substantial reporting on local politicians and issues. “Covering stunts serves only to beget more stunts,” he concludes, adding that the paper will stick with its new policy. 


Colombian media outlet creates a ‘cycle of conversations’ with readers and calls on them to act (LatAm Journalism Review)

The founders of Mutante, a Colombian media outlet, wanted to bring the media and public closer together and rebuild trust in the press. Describing themselves as a “digital movement of citizen conversation,” they are focused on audience feedback and crowdsourcing. Each conversation cycle begins with the outlet identifying an issue and encouraging the audience to respond to questions about their own experiences and thoughts on it. Journalists then turn to specialists to explain the causes or consequences of a particular problem. Finally, Mutante develops some sort of resource that addresses the issue. In a conversation about sexual violence against girls, the reporting included a manual on how women and girls can file a criminal complaint against an aggressor, as well as guides to help both judges and citizens understand gender bias. 


The FTC may abolish non-compete clauses for journalists and everyone else (Poynter) 

In a recent executive order, President Biden aimed to make it harder for employers to enforce noncompete clauses “that may unfairly limit worker mobility.” These clauses are increasingly common in journalism, particularly for on-air broadcasters and other high-profile journalism. Non-compete clauses both stop workers from changing jobs, but also limit their ability to negotiate salary in their current job because their employer knows their options elsewhere are limited. One report found that 40% of people bound by non-competes said that the agreement played a role in their decision to down another job offer. 


‘White audiences who will pay’ is still metro newspapers’ survival strategy (Nieman Lab) 

As newsrooms struggle to stay viable, Nikki Usher writes that many regional newspapers have both implicitly and explicitly targeted their work at white audiences who will pay for a subscription. Some of this is based in unavoidable metrics; in many cities, white families have a higher net wealth than non-white families, making it easier for them to subscribe. But it also is a symptom of the newsrooms themselves, which tend to be much whiter than the populations they cover. Usher argues that, in order for local and regional newsrooms to survive, they must focus on covering the diversity in their own city to attract non-white readers and subscribers. 


Not just a wave, but a movement: Journalists unionize at record numbers (Poynter) 

Over the last decade, workers at more than 200 media outlets have organized union drives, with more than 90% of them successfully forming a union. It’s part of a growing movement in media, which many say started with Gawker’s unionization in 2015. Journalists unionize for the same reasons as other workers, such as better pay and benefits, but also for industry-specific needs, such as the need for digital news outlets to have clearer hierarchies and a clear separation between editorial and advertising work such as sponsored content. Many are also using unionization to address inequality in the newsroom with the goal of increasing diversity and lessening pay inequity.