Need to Know: June 14, 2022

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Newspapers keep eliminating print days (The Washington Post) 

But did you know: Soaring newsprint prices worsen local journalism crisis (Seattle Times) 

Inflation is hitting newsprint production, forcing newsrooms to cut back on distribution, streamline their print product and sometimes even lay off staff, writes Brier Dudley. The price of newsprint rose more than 30% in the last two years, partly because mills have either closed or shifted to producing packaging materials for e-commerce. Until recently, Washington state had three newsprint mills; one closed in 2020 while another has cut back its newsprint business. The Spokesman-Review in Spokane may add a gas surcharge to print customers to cover the increased cost. 

+ Noted: Page Six’s Emily Smith quietly removed after internal probe (The Daily Beast); Family says bodies found in search for British journalist and colleague in Brazil (The Washington Post); WSJ debuts new commerce site ‘Buy Side’ (Axios); Journalist Yashar Ali files defamation suit against Los Angeles Magazine (The Los Angeles Times)   

API UPDATE 

Develop audience-centric election coverage with support from Hearken 

API is again fiscally sponsoring the Election SOS initiative helmed by Hearken. Election SOS is offering a 4-week cohort training program to help newsrooms craft engagement strategies that address audience information needs ahead of the midterm elections. A few slots remain available for the July training. It’s pay-what-you-can thanks to grant support. Interested news organizations can get more details and inquire about participating by emailing info@wearehearken.com.

+ API will host an open Zoom discussion on Monday, June 27, at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) to discuss what local news organizations are learning about modern service journalism.

TRY THIS AT HOME

How The Conversation used audiences-informed commissioning to increase reach and engagement (LinkedIn) 

Earlier this year, the U.K.-based team at The Conversation decided to start commissioning articles with a specific target audience in mind. After a discovery phase, the outlet decided to focus on young, U.K.-based professionals, with a cross-functional team dedicated to understanding and serving that audience. The team conducted research with the target audience and built a dashboard to measure completions (percentage of people who scroll down at least 70% of the way) and staying rate (percentage of readers who go on to another page on the site). The end result, Quarter Life, earned a greater share of U.K.-based readers, greater completions and greater pageviews than the site’s other articles. Khalil A. Cassimally of The Conversation writes that the goal is to expand these findings into other audience-focused series. 

OFFSHORE

Five lessons we learned from running the campaign to save Ukraine’s media (The Fix) 

In the last four months, The Fix and its partners have raised more than 3 million euros for Ukrainian media, helping news outlets there with operations, safety and security. Among the lessons that the team learned from running a campaign in extreme circumstances is the importance of logistics. Often, that has meant trusting that people on the ground can help coordinate things themselves. “In these hard times, you need to rely on others, and they usually don’t let you down,” the team said. Other lessons include the importance of gathering data before an emergency, the flexibility of decentralized decision making, the necessity of prioritization and the need to avoid doomscrolling. 

OFFBEAT

Texas police want Uvalde bodycam footage suppressed because it could expose law enforcement ‘weakness’ (Vice) 

After Vice’s Motherboard filed a public records request asking for photos, videos and audio files from the Uvalde police’s body cameras, the Texas Department of Public Safety asked the state’s Office of the Attorney General to refrain from releasing the footage. The Department argues that the footage “could be used by other shooters to determine ‘weaknesses’ in police response to crimes,” writes Jason Koebler. A request for footage from the Customs and Border Patrol was denied since the body camera footage is part of an active investigation; requests made to the Uvalde Police and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District have not been acknowledged. 

UP FOR DEBATE

Every newsroom needs to update its social media policies (Poynter)

Updating social media policies in newsrooms is “tedious, tense, time-consuming and tricky,” writes Kelly McBride, but ultimately necessary. She offers four tips for newsrooms embarking on the process, beginning with “the why.” Newsrooms should think clearly about the purpose of social media, both for corporate accounts and for individual staffers. Next, newsrooms need to create a specific process for how employees are expected to use social media, then explore the real-world implications of these processes. Then, create a committee tasked with maintaining and updating social media guidelines in the future. 

SHAREABLE

American democracy is under threat — and newsrooms are mobilizing to cover it (Nieman Reports)

Threats to American democracy will not all look like the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Instead, many will be small decisions made at the local and municipal level, writes Celeste Katz Marston. “But connecting the dots between what’s going on in disparate communities and menaces on a greater scale takes vigilance — and a willingness to look beyond both traditional horse race coverage and bothsidesism,” she writes. News outlets across the country are adding desks or beats devoted to democracy, “a formal acknowledgment that the media should see defending democracy as a full-time job.”