Need to Know: July 16, 2021


Critics say that the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to raise mailing rates could imperil community newspapers, which are already reeling from the steep advertising declines brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Rates on periodicals are due to increase by more than 8% as of August 29. “It is one of several nicks and slashes that can damage the bottom line, especially if you are an independent publisher who is operating at break even or in the low single digits of profitability. And most are,” said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a professor at Northwestern University who has done extensive research on news deserts. (AP)

Plus, yesterday the gunman who killed five people in a shooting spree at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., has been found criminally responsible. The jury rejected his mental illness defense. (NPR)


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week.

 How the white press wrote off Black America. Over the last several years, historically white newspapers in Southern states have apologized for their racist, dehumanizing coverage of African Americans over the century-long period from the post-Civil War Reconstruction era to the Vietnam War. The “apology movement” aimed at alienated Black audiences reflects a belated understanding that newspapers now “need every kind of reader to survive,” writes Brent Staples. (The New York Times)

A quick guide to converting a for-profit to a nonprofit news outlet. This new guide from the Institute for Nonprofit News helps publishers answer for themselves critical questions about going nonprofit, such as whether they could qualify as having a tax-exempt purpose, and whether their community landscape would support a news nonprofit. (Institute for Nonprofit News)

Chris Quinn: ‘Ignoring false statements and stunts by politicians is working well so far.’ and The Plain Dealer are sticking to a policy designed to guard against manipulation by politicians desperate for news coverage. Citing two incidents the newsroom declined to cover, a Trump rally where the former president repeated false election claims and a campaign stunt by a Democratic mayoral candidate, editor Chris Quinn writes, “Racing around covering candidates as they try to outdo each other with stunts and outrageous statements is not helpful for the Cleveland voter. We’re trying to produce content that might help people decide how to vote.” (


Apply for funding to support government and accountability reporting

Do you have ideas for new ways government and accountability journalism can reflect the needs of local communities? API is now accepting applications from local news organizations for small-project funding to do this kind of work. Eligible local news outlets can apply for funds through Aug. 6, 2021 in amounts from $2,500 up to $10,000.

+ This week we published a Q+A with journalist Amanda Ripley on how journalists can cover conflict without making it worse; plus, see our case study on how the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s streaming newscast grew audience and revenue (Better News)


+ The vast majority of news sites or apps are filled with flaws that make the experience painful. Many are easy to fix. (Monday Note)

+ How some European publishers are reducing their carbon footprint (Twipe)

+ Why can’t journalists audiotape court hearings? The Erik Wemple Blog searches for the rationale behind the rule and comes up empty-handed. (The Washington Post)