Need to Know: July 20, 2021


You might have heard: The Justice Department announced it would stop subpoenaing reporters’ records during leak investigations (The Associated Press)

But did you know: Garland bars prosecutors from seizing reporters’ records (The Associated Press)

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that federal prosecutors will not be able to seize journalists’ records as part of leak investigations in most situations. The policy change comes after revelations that former President Trump obtained records belonging to journalists at several organizations as part of investigations into the leaking of government secrets. There are exceptions to the new policy; prosecutors can obtain records if journalists are thought to be working for foreign powers or if their information was believed to have been obtained through criminal means. Garland has also said that he supports federal protection laws for journalists.

+ Noted: Tiny News Collective announces the six news organizations joining the first cohort of the collective (Medium, Tiny News Collective); Paul Cheung has been named chief executive officer of the Center for Public Integrity (Center for Public Integrity); Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist, is weighing a bid for Oregon governor (The New York Times); CNN announces CNN+, a subscription streaming service that will launchearly next year (CNN)


Podcast: How a newsroom partnership benefits Charlotte’s Latino community (It’s All Journalism)

WFAE, the public radio station serving Charlotte, N.C., partnered with local Spanish-language newspaper La Noticia to better engage the region’s Latino population, which has grown dramatically in recent years. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Table Stakes newsroom training program. 

+ Earlier: More about how WFAE and La Noticia teamed up to hire a reporter to cover immigration issues affecting Charlotte’s Latino community (Better News)


How Slate doubled down on advice columns to drive paid memberships (Poynter)

Slate first launched its advice column, Dear Prudence, in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2018 that it came to realize how central the feature had become. Bill Carey, Slate’s senior director of strategy, said that the column created loyalty among its readers, who would come back regularly and participate in the broader community around the column. Slate went on to create four more advice columns, which have helped drive paid memberships. Like newsletters, advice columns create a sense of intimacy between the writer and reader, and Slate has found that the columns create “appointment viewing,” giving readers a reason to visit the site every day.


How Latin America’s first digital newspaper has thrived by focusing on investigative journalism (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

El Faro, a news outlet covering El Salvador and the surrounding region, was Latin America’s first digital newspaper back in 1998. The paper’s founders intended to someday move into print when resources allowed but never did, and now they credit their digital-first focus with helping them prioritize their hard-hitting journalism. Despite an increase in criticism and intervention from the Salvadoran government, El Faro has thrived due to its multi-year investigative projects, looking into complicated topics like the journey of migrants through Central America to the U.S. and the increased role of organized crime in the region. Once El Faro decides on an issue to pursue, it seeks out funding from philanthropic organizationsrelated to that topic.


YouTube to add labels to some health videos amid misinformation backlash (CNBC)

More than a year after misinformation about COVID-19 began spreading on its platform, YouTube has announced that it will begin promoting more credible health sources and adding labels to videos with misinformation. The video platform says that it will begin highlighting videos from authoritative sources and adding “information panels” that link to credible organizations. The decision comes after the U.S. Surgeon General specifically cited YouTube as a “hotbed for the spread of misinformation.”


Grand proclamations citing one reason or another for people hating the media are all but irrefutable (The Washington Post)

Over the weekend, author Michael Wolff accused CNN media critic Brian Stelter of being “one of the reasons people can’t stand the media.” Erik Wemple writes that it’s become a favorite pastime to blame particular incidents — a too favorable headline for a politician, the use of an elitist phrase — as “the reason” for distrust of the media. Wemple notes that many of these claims come from media outlets themselves; CNN and Fox News regularly swap insults, leading viewers of both to distrust the other. At the end of the day, Wemple writes, there’s no way to prove or refute most claims about media mistrust, but the mudslinging itself is not helping to increase trust.


How a Twitter thread sparked a lawsuit against Nieman Lab’s founder (Columbia Journalism Review)

In 2018, Nieman Lab founder Joshua Benton revealed the name of an anonymous commenter from Nieman’s website, linking her statements to noxious comments made on other websites. Using his administrative access to the commenting system, Benton identified the author of these posts as Temple University assistant professor Francesca Viola, who subsequently lost her job. Viola is now suing Benton and Nieman’s home, Harvard, for defamation, alleging that she did not write some of the comments attributed to her. The suit also criticizes Benton’s decision to publish back-end information that Viola would reasonably have assumed was private, given Nieman’s choice to use Disqus, an anonymous commenting system.