Need to Know: July 30, 2021


After decades of consolidation, more news outlets are going back to local ownership (Medill Local News Initiative). For chains and hedge fund owners like Alden Global Capital, selling off individual papers can make business sense at times, and for civic-minded investors looking to support local journalism, starting with an established, legacy brand is often easier than building a new name from scratch. Gannett, for example, has sold 23 newsrooms back to local owners (Poynter). 

Most big American newspaper newsrooms are now led by someone other than a white man. Of the 20 largest newspapers in America, 12 are led by a woman, a person of color or both, while seven are led by white men. (One role, at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, remains vacant.) The news comes after several high-profile hirings and promotions of Black women to leadership roles, including Katrice Hardy at The Dallas Morning News and Maria Reeve at The Houston Chronicle (Nieman Lab). 


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week. 

Nearly all major news outlets with a digital platform offer newsletters. The Pew Research Center has found that almost all major online news outlets (93%) offer some form of newsletter. It also found that three-quarters of these outlets offer podcasts, while only 39% offer users a way to comment on their articles. (Pew Research Center) 

What to avoid when making a pitch for philanthropic funding. In a new report, the Local Media Association recommends that funding pitches don’t focus solely on the need to save newsroom jobs, but do emphasize the importance of local journalism to a community. The report says that funders want newsrooms to share clear plans for audience engagement and reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. (Local Media Association)

Why ‘slow journalism’ thrived during the pandemic. Slow journalism sites like Tortoise in the U.K. put the brakes on journalism’s relentless news cycle by giving readers in-depth stories at a slower, more deliberate pace. Since launching in 2019, Tortoise has gained more than 110,000 members, who can attend “Think In” sessions that allow them to share opinions with the outlet’s “open newsroom” and make coverage suggestions. ( 


How the Dallas Morning News’ Instagram became a lifeline during a historic Texas winter storm (Better News)

In February 2021, a historic winter storm left thousands of Texans without power and water amid sub-freezing temperatures. To quickly respond to readers’ questions and encourage sharing of critical information, the Dallas Morning News turned to Instagram. Knowing many Texans had rarely experienced this kind of cold, let alone during widespread power outages, the audience team created several how-to posts for Instagram based on people’s questions, like how to drive in snow and conserve energy in cold weather. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ API is accepting applications from local news organizations to fund audience-centered government and accountability reporting — learn more and apply by Aug. 6.


+ Chuck Todd on why “Meet the Press” can’t survive on just one platform (The Verge) 

+ At Futuro Media, Maria Hinojosa is building a home for authentic Latino storytelling (Nieman Lab) 

+ BuzzFeed is going public. What now for Vice and Vox? (The New York Times)