Need to Know: July 25, 2022


You might have heard: Researchers suggest leaving the term ‘climate change’ out of some news coverage (The Journalist’s Resource) 

But did you know: Research finds ‘bothsidesism’ undermines science in climate coverage (Northwestern University) 

Researchers from Northwestern University have found that “false balance”  — giving both sides of an issue equal weight even when one side is more credible — can make people doubt the scientific consensus on climate change and even make them wonder if it’s a serious issue. “When both sides of an argument are presented, people tend to have lower estimates about scientific consensus and seem to be less likely to believe climate change is something to worry about,” said David Rapp, a co-author of the study. But the researchers also found that even when both sides are presented, stories emphasizing the broad consensus of experts on climate change reduced the weight that study participants gave to climate change deniers. “If you can remind people about the consensus view, they take that up and they use it,” Rapp said. 

+ Related: The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change (BBC); WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on his climate commitment, and telling relatable stories (Columbia Journalism Review); Learn to cover climate change and combat disinformation in a new Knight Center course (University of Texas at Austin)


+ Noted: Laura Castellanos (Mexico) and Daniel Matamala (Chile) are among recipients of 2022 Maria Moors ​​Cabot Prizes (LatAm Journalism Review); Recurrent Ventures lays off entire Mel Magazine staff (Adweek) 


API’s executive director on why journalists must work together to protect democracy (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)

People in the media often forget that much of our journalism doesn’t reflect the perspectives, sensibilities and realities of many communities, API’s CEO and executive director Michael Bolden told journalists who gathered last week to discuss the crisis facing American democracy. People in these communities end up being indifferent, and they write off the roles of democracy and the media in their lives, he said. “But we can’t write them off, and we can’t write off our responsibility to them and to try to maintain our great experiment,” Bolden said. Read his full comments, and find out more about the Democracy Day initiative.  


We went hard on election coverage in a midterm primary — and it paid off (Medium, Engagement at KPCC) 

In developing its voter guide for Los Angeles’ June 6 primary elections, KPCC and LAist steered away from the journalistic convention of focusing on high-profile, competitive races that everyone is already watching. Instead, the newsroom sought to cover as many races as it could, including lesser-known positions like county assessor, about which people might have a harder time finding information. The strategy was a success, reports Brianna Lee, the newsroom’s engagement producer for civics & democracy. She says voters also appreciated that they explained the responsibility of these elective offices.


Billionaire ‘French Murdoch’ is building his own right-wing media empire (Bloomberg News)

Billionaire Vincent Bollore’s CNews TV channel has veered sharply to the right, earning him the nickname the “French Murdoch.” Benoit Berthelot writes that Bollore’s media conglomerate is adding operations in news, magazines, television, cinema and broadcast. And that while he says his strategy is based on business metrics, “many see a deeply conservative ideological agenda.” In France’s presidential election in April, Bollore’s media machine boosted Eric Zemmour, an ultra-right politician who has touted the “great replacement” theory. Zemmour came in fourth, but has gained airtime in France thanks to Bollore’s outlets. 


Comics that read top to bottom are bringing in new readers (The New York Times)

Gen Z and Millennial women are driving a surge in popularity of web comics in recent years, write George Gene Gustines and Matt Stevens. It’s also big business. The comic platform Webtoon had almost $900 million in on-platform sales in 2021. Half of its 82 million monthly users are women. Most of its revenue is from advertising and selling fans early access to their favorite series. Gustines and Stevens also write that traditional publishers are taking notice: Comics companies like Marvel have struck deals with Webtoon to produce original stories.


Opining about opinion pages (Substack, Second Rough Draft) 

Amid the debate over news organizations’ decisions to cut back on their opinion pages, Dick Tofel puts forth a suggestion for local news outlets: They should recast their opinion pages toward local issues, as Gannett’s Des Moines Register has done. “It makes sense for local publications to more tightly focus on local readers and local concerns,” he writes. “It does not serve us well for them to do so out of fear of offending people because national issues are so polarizing.” He also agrees with people who say candidate endorsements should be consigned to the dustbin of history.


Newsrooms, your edit test is where being inclusive starts (Poynter) 

At last month’s SRCCON conference, Kathy Lu had a conversation with freelancer Daric L. Cottingham about what potential employers are asking of applicants in their editing tests. From that talk, seven ideas emerged for ways to make the process more transparent, less frustrating for applicants, more inclusive and more reflective of the actual job at hand. One of the red flags they saw: Testing for skills that aren’t specified in the job description. That looks to applicants like the job description is off, the organization does not communicate well or doesn’t know what it wants, Lu writes.