Need to Know: July 14, 2020


You might have heard: Critical in a public health crisis, local newsrooms have been hit hard by COVID-19 effects (Brookings)

But did you know: Hundreds of hyperpartisan sites are masquerading as local news (Nieman Lab)

With local newspapers shrinking and shuttering around the country, partisan media outlets have sprung up at the state and local level, often masquerading as straight news. A new study from Duke University finds that these outlets often appear in swing states, with left-leaning sites focusing on statewide reporting and right-leaning covering more local news. The vast majority are conservative, with only 24 of the 445 sites mapped in the project considered liberal. It’s possible that some of these sites are not actually producing news locally, but using outside content to target specific readers.

+ Noted: Washington Post’s adtech platform Zeus Performance to be used by broadcaster Graham Media Group (The Washington Post); Report for America opens newsroom applications, expands opportunity to hire more journalists (The Ground Truth Project); CBS sets representation target number for people of color in writers rooms (Deadline); SiriusXM is buying Stitcher podcast network in deal worth up to $325 million (Variety); CNN launches “new and expanded” team to cover race, systemic racism (The Wrap)


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.  


Ensuring newsroom diversity by supporting journalists of color, using the right freelancers and appreciating specialization (Medium, Damian Radcliffe)

Bringing diversity into a newsroom isn’t just about making new hires, writes Damian Radcliffe. Reaching out to freelancers of color and sources from underserved communities is an important way to bring a variety of experiences into a newsroom. And when new hires of color do come on board, newsroom leaders must ensure that they’re not pigeon-holded into covering issues related to their race and ethnicity. Offering them the chance to develop different skills — from shooting video to coding to leading engagement projects — gives journalists the ability to grow and expand their opportunities.

+ Major news organizations and platforms are partnering to alert each other about disinformation and stop its spread (Variety)


Autocrats are cracking down on independent journalism around the world (The New York Times)

Journalists around the world are facing shutdowns and even imprisonment as autocratic governments use the cover of the pandemic to censor media seen as critical. Alongside the famous case of Maria Ressa in the Philippines, there are journalists like Steven Gan, the co-founder and editor of a major independent news site in Malaysia, who faced charges of contempt of court because his site briefly hosted comments that were considered insulting to the judiciary. President Trump’s anti-press rhetoric has made leaders around the world more comfortable about cracking down on their own negative media, writes Ben Smith, because they know that the U.S. will not criticize the moves.

+ Earlier: Maria Ressa’s conviction and the Philippines’ dire information climate (CJR)

+ Northern Irish court finds that there are legal protections of journalistic sources (International Federation of Journalists)


Fox News got a big boost on YouTube from an algorithm change (Bloomberg)

After much criticism for an algorithm that some said could lead viewers towards extremism, YouTube adjusted its recommendations to promote more “authoritative news” from established sources. In doing so, Fox News has become the biggest news star on the platform, doubling the number of views for the network in the past 12 months. This has worried some, who argue that the cable news network promotes conspiracy theories and dangerous disinformation, particularly regarding the coronavirus. Meanwhile, YouTube-based journalists say they’re being pushed aside for corporate-owned media.

+ After a government-imposed data blackout of official COVID-19 figures, Brazilian software developers decided to build alternative tallies (Rest of World)


New Jersey reporter sues police, municipalities over arrest while covering Black Lives Matter protest (Asbury Park Press)

Gustavo Martínez Contreras, a reporter for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, filed a federal lawsuit that claimed that his arrest while covering a Black Lives Matter protest violated his First Amendment rights. The suit names local governments as well as individual police officers. Martínez Contreras says that, despite wearing press credentials and identifying himself as a member of the media, he was tackled and arrested by police and held for several hours. Last week, county officials cleared the officers involved in the case of any wrongdoing, saying they didn’t know Martínez Contreras was a reporter.


If newsrooms want to make progress with diversity, we must consider the humanity, complexity and goals of individuals (Poynter)

Following moves towards increased racial diversity in newsrooms, Priska Neely, a producer and reporter in public radio, writes, “I want to make one thing crystal clear: We are not your unicorns.” In discussing the serious stories related to race that she’s covered in her career, Neely writes that writers of color need to be treated as individuals with their own goals and complexity, rather than as tokens to achieving diversity.