Need to Know: July 7, 2020


You might have heard: In 2016, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proposed a bill that would pull legal ads from newspapers (

But did you know: Defying forecasts, newspapers have retained public notices — and they’ve grown ever more critical to small papers’ survival (Poynter)

A decade ago, it seemed almost inevitable that government-required paid public notices, which provided a steady stream of income to local newspapers, would fade away, replaced by government-run websites. But in general, that hasn’t happened, much to the relief of community newspapers that increasingly rely on the funds brought in by the notices. Public notices, which range from government-funded announcements like zoning changes to commercial declarations like the dissolution of corporations, have become a topic of lobbying by news outlets, who argue that dozens of newspapers would fold if these funds were cut off.

+ Noted: McClatchy, a family newspaper business, heads toward hedge-fund ownership (The New York Times); Medill selects Jeremy Gilbert of Washington Post as Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy (Northwestern University); Boston Globe launches criminal justice beat, reframes internship program to diversity program (Media Nation); The list of PPP loans is now available, includes media companies (Twitter, @kerrymflynn); SiriusXM to buy Stitcher podcasting unit from Scripps (WSJ)


API announces 2020 Table Stakes cohort

Six news organizations from across the country will participate in the 2020 Major Market Table Stakes program, a yearlong innovative learning program facilitated by API that helps news organizations transform their journalism and business through intensive change-management training for news leaders. This year’s cohort includes the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio, the Tennessean in Nashville, The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, The San Diego Union-Tribune and CalMatters.


How a simple trick improved coronavirus maps at The New York Times (Twitter, @abhishekn)

Maps showing the spread of coronavirus and other pandemic-related issues have been used to great effect in the last few months. On Twitter, Abhishek Nagaraj points out that one small change in the New York Times’ maps go a long way toward clearer data visualization. When showing county-by-county data, The Times no longer shades “parts of a county with a population density lower than 10 people per square mile.” What that means is that if part of a county is largely uninhabited — say, containing a national or state park — it will no longer be colored one way or the other, making maps less alarming and the data more accurate.


New Zealand’s Stuff newspaper group joins Facebook boycott as ‘experiment’ (The Guardian)

New Zealand’s largest news media website, Stuff, has temporarily quit Facebook to align with the global boycott against the social media platform. The website has instructed journalists to stop posting news to Facebook and Instagram as an “experiment” that will be “closely monitored.” An editor at Stuff said that they did not want to contribute financially to a platform that profits from hate speech and fake news, and wanted to ensure that the site exists in an environment that fosters trust for its readers.

+ Earlier: Stuff CEO Sinead Boucher buys the company, announces “great new era” (


Quibi may have money and stars, but they haven’t figured out how to appeal to their target audience (Vulture)

Quibi, the “quick bites” video app that carries original, short-form television shows, launched in April with $1.75 billion in funding and a slew of celebrities, and was almost immediately deemed a flop. One major reason was that the platform, aimed at millennials and Gen Z-ers, was led by executives with little understanding of how young people consume and share content, writes Benjamin Wallace. For instance, a feature that disabled screenshots meant that images couldn’t be meme-ified and shared on social media, choking off the possibility of organic buzz around a show. Meanwhile, advertising focused on the “novelty” of the product, rather than the quality of the content.

+ The United States is “looking at” banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps, Pompeo says (CNN)


News organizations have struggled to understand — and cover — the ‘defund the police’ movement (CJR)

Since the mass protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in late May, “defund the police” has become a buzzy catchphrase across the mainstream media. But, Jack Herrera writes, it’s not a new idea at all, and it’s often poorly explained, with news outlets focusing on the semantics and the politics of the phrase above the true meaning. The idea dates back to the 1970s, and has grown steadily over the past few years as the Black Lives Matter movement has focused the nation’s attention on police brutality. Now the mainstream press is trying to play catch up to a movement that has thoughtfully argued for police abolition for decades.


‘I don’t ever get the benefit of the doubt’: Blavity founder Morgan DeBaun on running a Black media business in 2020 (Digiday)

It would seem that Blavity, a Black media site that covers social justice issues for a young audience, should be thriving right now, but CEO Morgan DeBaun says that advertisers who are wary of running ads alongside anything controversial are hindering her ability to capitalize on the moment. By keyword-blocking terms like “African American” and “brutality”, advertisers basically ensured that none of Blavity’s articles could be paired with ads. She also says that her attempts to raise money for the site in Silicon Valley were dogged by a systemic racism that doubted her ability to build an organic audience for the site.