Need to Know: July 22, 2021


You might have heard: Journalists are burning out (WNYC) 

But did you know: How COVID-19 compounded journalism’s mental health crisis (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

As pandemic restrictions begin to lift around the world, journalists are beginning to face the mental health consequences of the past year. Psychologist Esther Perel says journalists are “in a state of collective trauma” from covering such a difficult news story while personally suffering the consequences of the isolation and fear imposed by the pandemic. Some blame the “macho culture” of journalism, which rewards bravado and danger and fails to help workers cope with the stress and trauma of the job. For some journalists, the marathon of covering disasters — from climate events to protests to COVID-19 — brought on post-traumatic stress disorder, but they feel unsupported by their newsrooms. 

+ Noted: The Knight Foundation announces funding for interventions that mitigate the impacts of disinformation and targeted online manipulation of communities of color (Knight Foundation); Reuters launches fact-checking effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in Hispanic communities (Reuters); Clubhouse is no longer invite-only (The Verge); Dallas Morning News taps Katrice Hardy as its next newsroom leader (The Dallas Morning News) 


How local news organizations are taking steps to recover from a year of trauma

Our report examines several distinct challenges news organizations are facing as they attempt to rebound after 2020 — from retaining those “Covid readers” to making up for diminished staff and resources — and offers concrete tips and replicable solutions from a range of news outlets.


How VTDigger launched sponsored virtual events (Institute for Nonprofit News) 

In the midst of the pandemic, VTDigger in Vermont increased revenue from sponsorships and underwriting by more than 10%. The trick was streamlining its advertising and packaging process, and landing one big sponsor to cover all of its fall and winter virtual events. Streamlining the ad packages meant requiring newsletter advertisers to buy out the whole newsletter, rather than one individual spot, and raising rates for each ad. When it came to selling sponsorships, the site focused on the “perishability” of events, which created a sense of urgency. The site’s sponsor received prominent screen time in all Zoom events, and saw hundreds of click-throughs over the course of the season. 


How a Canadian reporting lab is pioneering academic-journalist collaboration (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

Toronto Star reporter Rob Cribb teamed up with University of Sheffield professor Genevieve LeBaron for a 10-month investigation into how the pandemic affected the rights of garment workers around the world. The results were a three-part series of stories as well as a peer-reviewed academic study, drawn from Cribb’s reporting and more than a thousand surveys conducted by LeBaron’s team. The project was funded by the Global Reporting Centre at the University of British Columbia, which focuses on how academics and journalists can collaborate on investigative stories. The partnerships deepen the research capabilities of the journalistic outlet, while expanding the reach of the academic work. 


How addicted are people to social media? We found a way to measure it. (The Washington Post) 

The average person with internet access spends two and a half hours on social media every day, and studies have shown that many people feel they spend too much time on both social media and their smartphones. A new study has found that there are two causes for social media overuse — the formation of social media habits, and a lack of self-control. The study tested the first by offering financial incentives for people to use social media less. Not only did these participants reduce their social media usage while they were being paid to do so, they continued to use it less after the incentive was removed, which suggests that their habits had changed. To increase self-control, participants found that they preferred being able to set hard limits for their usage in advance. 


Newspapers are dying; long live local news (LION Publishers)

As newspapers across the country go under or face severe cutbacks, Chris Krewson at LION Publishers writes that the loss of the papers themselves is not the problem. Communities suffer when they lose accountability journalism and community coverage, but newsprint is not a requirement for good journalism. The new digital-first newsrooms that are popping up can better reflect their communities and grow beyond the limitations of traditional papers. “They’re not replacing the newspaper,” Krewson writes. “They don’t need to.” Instead of trying to be all the things that a newspaper once was to a community, the future is in local news outlets that have a more narrow focus. 

+ Related: Newspaper paid digital-only subscriptions claims and audited numbers are not in sync, muddying the picture of where the digital sites of publications stand now and where they are headed (Poynter) 


Journalism classes are helping revive community coverage (Poynter) 

The next generation of journalists are already filling the gap in news deserts, writes Kristen Hare. A new study explores how journalism students at the University of Kansas, Duquesne University and Northeastern University are leading the way on covering local communities. The schools have found that it’s important for student journalists to find a niche inside the existing media ecosystem, where they can provide nuanced, necessary coverage, sometimes in partnership with larger outlets. Simple, granular community coverage is both helpful for locals and good exercise for budding journalists; class assignments can also fill news holes. One obstacle that remains is funding; the student news outlets cut back or go dark entirely during the summer, and many have found it difficult to secure grant money for “routine” neighborhood coverage.