Need to Know: July 22, 2020


You might have heard: Confusion about what’s news and what’s opinion is a big problem 

But did you know: WSJ journalists ask publisher to make clearer distinction between news and opinion content (Wall Street Journal)

A letter signed by more than 280 staffers at the Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones outlets called on the paper’s new publisher, Almar Latour, to establish a more obvious distinction between news and opinion pieces online. Citing recent examples of opinion pieces, such as a piece by Vice President Mike Pence that downplayed coronavirus fears, the paper’s journalists accused the opinion section of lacking fact-checking and having an “apparent disregard for evidence.” The letter suggested more prominently labeling opinion pieces, including a line that states that opinion pieces are “independent” from the newsroom, and not mixing news and opinion pieces in lists of “most popular articles.”

+ Noted: The Los Angeles Times’ Latino employees have come together as the Latino Caucus under the L.A. Times Guild (L.A. Times Guild); WAMU in DC reorganizes newsroom amid staff turmoil (Washingtonian); The New York Times’ special section on disability is available in Braille and audio and has its own style guide (Nieman Lab)


Apply to improve your 2020 elections coverage with API’s Metrics for News

We have reopened the application process for free access to our election analytics dashboard, which can help your newsroom understand how audiences are engaging with your election coverage. We’ll be hosting a demo and information session today at 2 p.m. ET. Sign up for the demo here.The application deadline is Aug. 3.

+ Trust tip: Take extra care when covering conspiracy theories — and tell your audience (Trusting News)  


Stop drowning alone, start sailing together: 16 steps for innovative newsrooms (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)

The key to building a better future for newsrooms and their communities is treating your audiences as partners, write Linda Shaw of the Solutions Journalism Network and Bridget Thoreson of Hearken. In times of need, engagement is more important than ever — in order to give people information that they need, newsrooms must ask audiences what they need. In a 16-part checklist, they address how to invite feedback from audience members and how to use solutions journalism to move your community forward.


Powering up geographic-data journalism for investigative environmental reporting (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism, a South African-based publication focusing on environmental issues across Southern Africa, uses data to expose wrongdoing and hold perpetrators accountable. By looking through permit violations and parliamentary records, Oxpeckers found that the South African government had allowed mining to continue even after complaints were lodged against companies, leading to contaminated drinking water and toxic waste piles. Oxpeckers is known for using public data and then curating it into datasets that are available for readers, such as #MineAlert, a geo-spatial data analytics tool that tracks mining applications and licenses. Most of Oxpeckers’ funding comes from donors, with the rest coming from collaborative projects with third-party media outlets.


Spotify launches video podcasts worldwide, starting with select creators (TechCrunch)

Spotify announced Tuesday that it will be rolling out video podcasts worldwide, allowing both paid and free users to watch video content from a select group of creators. Unlike YouTube, all Spotify users on mobile will be able to keep playing videos in the background while they use other apps. The video option will always be an additional element, rather than a replacement for an audio version. The option is particularly appealing for podcasters who already create video for YouTube to integrate their products into one podcast-focused platform.


Colorado Congressional race offers a cautionary tale for national political reporters (CJR)

Last month, Colorado Republican Congressman Scott Tipton was defeated in his primary by Lauren Boebert, a gun enthusiast whose campaign included an ad that lumped Tipton in with Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In an opinion piece for CJR, Bill Grueskin argues that journalists let Boebert thrive on the Trump playbook of media-catching attention tactics, and neglected to thoroughly examine her policy stances. Now the state’s press corps — though over-stretched and under-resourced — has the opportunity to cover her in the general election with more rigor.

+ Related: Local newsrooms should talk about how to cover politicians who promote conspiracy theories like QAnon. Here are five items to put on the agenda for that discussion.


Climate-specific reasons help propel journalism collaborations (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)

A new report from the Center for Cooperative Media shows that climate-change focused collaborations in journalism are on the rise. One reason is that by banding together, news outlets can fight climate change denial by pooling both resources and credibility. That, in turn, leads to a broader range of expertise, with publications each bringing in their unique talents — from community-grounded reporting to data visualization. Scaling the reporting across multiple channels calls more attention to the issue, and working with other journalists across boundaries and borders allows reporters to tell more complete stories.