Need to Know: July 13, 2022

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Outlets hurt by dwindling public interest in news in 2021 (The Associated Press) 

But did you know: News engagement plummets as Americans tune out (Axios) 

Engagement with news content has plunged since last year, and in some cases dropped to pre-pandemic levels, report Neal Rothschild and Sara Fischer. Audiences for cable news, news apps and news websites are down across the board, and engagement with news articles on social media has dropped 50% since the first half of 2021. The social drop-off is likely linked to Facebook’s decision to de-emphasize its News Feed. In general, there is less interest in President Biden than there was in President Trump while he was in office, and data shows that Americans are tiring of “what feels like a never-ending cycle of bad news.”

+ Noted: Evan Williams is stepping down as C.E.O. of Medium (The New York Times); Reuters launches research subscriptions for individuals (Axios); The Information launching social network for subscribers (Axios)  

API UPDATE 

Trust Tip: Explain why you remove comments (or turn them off) (Trusting News) 

The Keene Sentinel ran into an issue with pandemic content — Facebook comments on stories related to COVID-19 were filled with insults and misinformation. Even with an active commenting policy in place, the newsroom didn’t have the staff time and bandwidth to effectively moderate all the comments. So editors decided it was time to disable comments on pandemic posts, and they published a column outlining the new policy and shared it on Facebook. While the newsroom did receive some pushback and criticism of the new policy, their audience’s response has seemed mostly neutral or positive. It hasn’t impacted the newsroom’s reach or engagement levels on Facebook. 

TRY THIS AT HOME

The Houston Chronicle’s executive editor wants you to read these stories while the paywall is down (The Houston Chronicle) 

For three days, the Houston Chronicle is dropping its paywall, and in a letter to readers, Executive Editor Maria Reeve highlights several articles — covering everything from abortion to billionaires to football — that she suggests non-subscribers peruse. “We are proud of the work we do covering the many pockets of our community,” Reeve wrote. “We hope this taste of our work will entice you to come back, stay awhile and become one of the many subscribers who make our work possible.” 

OFFSHORE

How exiled journalists are investigating in the Arab Gulf States (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

Omani journalist Mohammed Al-Fazari left the country in 2015, and restarted his news organization Muwatin from the U.K. Working with other exiled journalists, he is focusing on investigative stories in Oman that aren’t political exposés. He is trying to avoid the stigma of a “political dissenter” and focus on important stories that don’t demonize the country’s regime, an approach he hopes will bring credibility to the organization. Even though he is based overseas, he and his colleagues are aware of the danger for reporters and sources within the country; many journalists write under a pseudonym. 

OFFBEAT

When foreign markets resisted, Uber launched a media charm offensive (The Washington Post)

When Uber was trying to push its way into the German market, leaders suggested that the company enlist the help of German tabloid Bild to help push its agenda. Uber invited Bild’s owner to “claim a piece of its world-conquering vision as a $5 million strategic investor,” writes Sarah Ellison. It wasn’t the only time that Uber invited media owners to invest in the company, hoping these high-level connections would lead to more favorable news coverage — Uber also secured investment in India, the U.K., France and Italy. Former Uber executive Mark MacGann said that the company didn’t need these “strategic” investors. “[W]e believed we were doing them a favor by taking their money, because we wanted the top-level political access and influence that came with the money,” he said.

+ Related: Uber paid academics six-figure sums for research to feed to the media (The Guardian); Uber has its whistleblower moment — again (Columbia Journalism Review)  

UP FOR DEBATE

Mainstream media’s rightward lurch (Dame Magazine) 

Contrary to the popular perception that the mainstream media has a left-leaning tilt, Parker Molloy argues that media has moved — and continuous to move — to the right. After President Trump was elected, mainstream outlets felt the need to expand coverage of conservative movements, and this trend has only continued, despite the election of President Biden. Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali told Molloy that outlets “bend the knee to bad faith right-wing actors and complaints.” When media outlets accept conservative criticism that they are “biased” against Republicans and include more conservative voices, they inevitably move to the right themselves, without actually gaining any trust with right-wing viewers. 

SHAREABLE

How media co-ops foster democracy and accountability at independent publications (Indiegraf) 

More independent news outlets are turning to cooperative models, where the publication is owned by readers, members or workers and decisions are made collectively. Employees at these publications find that staffers are willing to make sacrifices for the company’s sake, writes Isabel Armiento. When decisions are made by beat reporters, or even readers themselves, editorial choices often better reflect a community or readership than when they are made by executives. One problem can be burnout; asking journalists to take on leadership positions alongside their everyday work can be draining.