Need to Know: July 18, 2022


You might have heard: In publishing leaked video, Texas news outlets bring Uvalde police failures into sharp focus (Vanity Fair)

But did you know: Uvalde video shows raw feelings toward journalists linger (Associated Press)

For weeks, residents of Uvalde, Texas have sought transparency about police inaction during the elementary school shooting. But when the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV released a 77-minute surveillance video from the time of the shooting, the outlets were accused of insensitivity. “The community’s response reflects the raw feelings directed toward reporters who came to Uvalde to probe what happened, and the reality that journalism often steps on toes,” writes David Bauder. Poynter’s Kelly McBride told Bauder that the news outlets could have waited to publish the video, but in doing so they wouldn’t have been acting in the public’s best interest. 

+ Related: USA Today editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll writes about Gannett papers’ work on the Uvalde video and on the rape of a 10-year-old Ohio girl: “Three of our local newsrooms, all part of the USA TODAY Network, took on the hard truth this week.” (USA Today) 

+ Noted: OpenNews is inviting people to participate in a new survey designed to gather new data on how the field of journalism is evolving, as well as who makes up the news nerd community and other groups served by OpenNews (OpenNews); Nominations are now open for Editor & Publisher’s 15 over 50, people who’ve spent their career inspiring greatness, encouraging innovation, and striving for excellence (Editor & Publisher) 


What journalists can learn from people who work to bridge fractured communities

What are the many ways that polarization influences journalism — both how it’s done and how it’s perceived? In a series of four interviews with experts who study or work to bridge political and cultural divisions, API’s Kevin Loker explores how journalists can contend with polarization in their communities, and how they might help overcome these splits, or at least avoid feeding into them. These experts offer insights into the work of healing fractured communities to help promote more understanding, and how journalists might take that work into account in their reporting. 


How to report about the pandemic now (Substack, Second Rough Draft) 

The Covid-19 pandemic is an example of a story that “can get so big we, paradoxically, almost lose track of it,” writes Dick Tofel. He argues that journalists need to focus on the “forests” of change rather than on individual trees, citing potential big-picture stories about the degree to which Americans agree that getting the vaccine makes sense, or, on the dark side, how the pandemic has brought out rage, violence and despair that has led to deaths from guns or reckless driving. He also says there are still-unfolding stories that journalists should focus on, as well as stories that “call out the blips” — those that might have seemed like trends but didn’t last.  


Decoding Gen Z: Axel Springer shares changes needed to reach young readers (INMA)

The German publisher Axel Springer created the position of innovation catalyst for Bente Zerrahn after she voiced concerns about its ability to reach future generations. At a recent presentation about engaging young audiences, Zerrahn said one of publishers’ biggest challenges is reaching members of Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012), who she said “won’t read a morning newspaper over coffee or watch the evening news with dinner,” and instead use social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. INMA’s Paula Felps also captures Zerrahn’s insights on fact-checking and how an overwhelming amount of negative news leads to news avoidance. 


What I learned about good writing from Francis X. Clines (Poynter)

The death of New York Times writer Francis X. Clines last week has inspired reflections on his writing, which Roy Peter Clark says was “arguably unmatched in its range, energy and creativity.” Clark collects a sampling of Clines’ insights that had appeared in a volume of Best Newspaper Writing from 1988. In one of them, Clines talks about how he decided how many characters would be in a story, saying writers can let too many people in the story who all make the same point. “I always feel guilty when I interview a lot of people and then don’t use many of them,” Clines said. “But you’re interviewing them for your telling of the story and not for their telling of the story, unless they were in some unique position.”


Can taxing Big Tech save journalism? (The Markup) 

Lucia Walinchus, executive director at the local news nonprofit Eye on Ohio, is advocating for a tax on digital ads that would go toward supporting journalism. In an interview with Julia Angwin, Walinchus says her proposal would require a portion of digital ad revenue to fund journalists through a national nonprofit news utility. (Walinchus also wrote about this for Poynter last month). She argues that the proposal would be not only good for democracy but also makes economic sense. “Just as gas taxes go toward road maintenance, ad taxes should go toward journalism. Roads are a public good that provide us with the freedom to get where we need to be,” she said.

+ A legal shield for social media is showing cracks (Politico)


Journalists are also struggling in the aftermath of mass shootings (USA Today)

Christine Fernando, who has covered “too many” mass shootings even as an early-career journalist, says she and her colleagues are dealing with emotions like grief, anxiety and guilt that there isn’t more they can do. “I know what I’m experiencing pales in comparison to what victims’ loved ones feel as these deaths create a ripple effect of grief that spreads through communities,” she writes. “But I also know reading about and covering these shootings takes a toll on us all.” She also says that while she wants to offer some kind of advice to other young reporters, she’s not quite in a place to do that. ”I’m just now starting to figure out how to grapple with all this myself and to admit to myself the toll this reporting has had on me.”

+ Related: When journalists in conflict zones or natural disasters are expected to step outside their roles, it can have a damaging effect (New Statesman); Journalists are more inclined to talk about mental health issues and job stress now — and they’re the better for it (Editor & Publisher)