Need to Know: July 5, 2022


You might have heard: U.S. newspapers are continuing to die at rate of 2 each week (Associated Press)

But did you know:  ‘There is a model out there that works’: America’s grassroots local news renaissance (Press Gazette) 

Two local news startups — in San Jose, California and Johnson County, Kansas — are showing how local independent publishers can find a viable path to success, writes William Turvill. In Kansas, the Shawnee Mission Post and its sister publication, the Blue Valley Post, have about 6,000 paying readers, with its owners targeting 10,000 by 2025. In San Jose, the nonprofit newsroom Spotlight, which focuses intently on local news, saw revenue grow from $650,000 in 2020 to $944,000 last year. Chris Krewson, the executive director of LION, told Turvill in a related podcast that publishers who are most connected in their communities are finding ways to fill information needs ”while at the same time paying a living wage to themselves and other employees in their communities.”

+ Noted: The News Media Alliance and the Association of Magazine Media have merged, forming the now known as News/Media Alliance (News/Media Alliance); Black-owned media venture eyes big acquisitions, including Bustle parent (The Wall Street Journal); Gunfire that killed Palestinian-American journalist likely came from Israeli military positions, U.S. says (Politico) 


Follow our inclusion work in Pittsburgh

The American Press Institute last week announced a new initiative, the Inclusion Index, focused on creating better relationships with readers and fostering belonging in newsrooms. You can follow this work by signing up for updates on the project, which is being led by Letrell Deshan Crittenden, API’s director of inclusion and audience growth. In partnership with the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, API is starting this work in Pittsburgh by providing the Inclusion Index service to a cohort consisting of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh City Paper, PublicSource and Pitt News. The Pittsburgh initiative is funded by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. 


The Washington Post creates the Department of Data — ‘Where fun facts are serious business’ (The Washington Post) 

A self-described “huge nerd” at the Washington Post, Andrew Van Dam is heading up a new project called the Department of Data, “dedicated to exploring the weird and wondrous power of the data that defines our world.” The team published a piece last week inviting readers to send datasets that could be used for the project, providing a form for people to submit ideas. Van Dam also talked about the project in a Twitter thread. The team recently produced a piece on incomes in two majority-Black counties in Maryland and another on what genealogy has shown about the success of today’s immigrants. 


Winnipeg Free Press brings community together with virtual movie night (INMA)

Looking for engagement opportunities during COVID-19, the Winnipeg Free Press decided to launch a movie night showing locally made films. The first showing was a failure, writes Erin Lebar, the outlet’s manager of audience engagement for news, because the third-party site used to show the film proved to be a hurdle for viewers. Undaunted, the paper’s digital team created its own watch party page that shows films and also hosts live chats, in which local cast and crew members are invited to participate. Viewership has since been increasing. In March the site showed its first non-local movie, a documentary, and hosted a panel discussion with people featured in the film. The project will continue through the end of 2022.


Patrick Radden Keefe on why access in journalism is overrated (Literary Hub)

Sophisticated media players who are the subject of a story will often talk off the record, then ask the reporter to come back to them if they decide they want to use something, writes New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe. These arrangements are a reality in sensitive stories, Keefe writes, but they also give story subjects a lot of control. Instead of that, Keefe says, he’s a big advocate of what he calls the “writearound,” or “writing around the void” by gathering materials about the subjects and talking to people who know them. That approach, he says, forces deeper reporting and can result in a fuller picture in the end. 


Gannett reviews employee blowback to social media policy memo after Roe overturn (Digiday)

Gannett is one of the news publishers working through employees’ reactions to social media policies reiterated in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. After the decision, writes Sara Guaglione, Gannett sent an email reminding employees that journalists are barred from taking a public stance on the ruling. Guaglione spoke with employees who questioned the reach and timing of the policy. “Basic statements like ‘women deserve equal treatment under the law’ is not a political opinion. It’s a basic factual thing,” one Gannett employee told Guaglione. The employees were told to email Gannett’s vice president of standards with feedback, one said. 


Is Baltimore big enough for the two of them? (The New York Times) 

The launch of the Baltimore Banner represents a test of whether a digital-only local news model can sustain itself after an initial capital infusion from a philanthropist, writes Katie Robertson. The hotel magnate Stewart W. Bainum Jr. had wanted to buy The Baltimore Sun but lost out to the hedge fund Alden Global Capital. Now the Banner employs several people who used to work at The Sun.  One of them, the award-winning reporter Justin Fenton, told Robertson that he had watched The Sun decline and was excited to join a new venture. “Now we’re going head to head,” he said. “Can this town sustain two large news organizations?”