Need to Know: June 16, 2020


You might have heard: News media outlets have been ravaged by the pandemic (The New York Times)

But did you know: The non-profit, academic-focused the Conversation has thrived during COVID-19 (CJR)

The Conversation, a non-profit that focuses on bringing academic writing to a mainstream audience, has flourished during the pandemic as other news outlets have struggled. Funded originally in Australia by a combination of universities and government agencies, it has been shielded from the revenue collapses of other news outlets, while its Creative Commons license allows anyone to read and republish its work, which has meant its stories have spread far and wide. The site’s business model changes by country; in the US, 64 universities have joined. In exchange for writing about popular topics, academics receive training in translating research and academic ideas for the general public.

+ Noted: Top executives at VOA resign as Trump ally prepares to take over (NPR); The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is gutting its newsroom, laying off half of union staff (Honolulu Civil Beat); Data shows how and why people are paying for online news (Reuters Institute)


Podcast: How to forge new audiences of color (It’s All Journalism)

Like many newspapers across the country, the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, N.Y., had a primary audience that was old, white and dwindling. Emerging Audiences Editor C.J. Benjamin explains how the newsroom successfully developed a strategy to better engage a younger and more diverse audience in one of the most segregated communities in the country. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. 


3 ways large media companies are innovating during the COVID-19 pandemic (IJNet)

Innovation has been a buzzword in newsrooms for years, but the pandemic has pushed many media outlets to actually try new experiments. In a discussion about innovative approaches to COVID-19, hosted by ICFJ and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, panelists highlighted three big news organizations that shook things up during the pandemic, in ways that smaller newsrooms could emulate. The New York Times’s front page that humanized the number of COVID-19 deaths has become one of the paper’s most-read pieces in history, while Brazil’s Grupo RBS turned to solutions journalism and providing more accurate data than the government’s official statistics. The Wall Street Journal pivoted to interactive Q&As and community call-outs.

+ Earlier: Behind the New York Times’s front page tribute to COVID-19 victims (The New York Times)


Facebook rejects Australia demand on ad revenues, threatens to cut news content (Al Jazeera)

Following calls from the Australian government and news companies to share advertising revenue for news stories, Facebook has said that it would rather eliminate news content from the platform. In court documents, the tech giant said that news was “a very small fraction” of most Facebook users’ feeds, and therefore a lack of news content in Australia would not severely affect the user experience or the company’s revenue. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is set to announce the final regulations in July. Media companies in Australia are pushing for Google and Facebook to pay at least 10% of digital advertising revenue from news content to local publishers.

+ Earlier: Facebook and Google to be forced to share advertising revenue with Australian media companies (The Guardian)


Apple News algorithms pick more celeb stories than human editors, study finds (The Guardian)

Research from Northwestern University has found that when Apple News’s algorithms pick out stories to feature, those stories tend to be more celebrity-driven and from a narrower range of sources than when humans pick them. In verticals chosen by algorithms, more than half of the stories featured came from only four sources, while in the human-programmed verticals, 10 sources made up half of the stories. The stories programmed by algorithms tended to be “softer” news, while the humans were more likely to feature stories with harder news pegs.

+ A teenager’s guide to building the world’s best pandemic and protest trackers (MIT Technology Review)


Why micropayments will never be a thing in journalism (CJR)

Micropayments — the idea that readers could pay an incremental amount for each news story they read — has been debated and discussed online for years. But attempts to put it into practice have continually failed, in large part because newspapers are conceived of as packages, rather than a collection of individual articles, writes James Ball. And for the system to work smoothly, multiple outlets would need to sign up for a shared micropayment method, which would require more cooperation than many media outlets are willing to do.


More newsrooms are cutting mugshots galleries (Poynter)

More and more newsrooms around the country are ditching mugshot galleries on their websites. The executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times says that the galleries “lack context and further negative stereotypes.” Some of the newsrooms will continue to use mugshots in individual stories, while others, like WCPO in Cincinnati, have instituted a rule that mugshots should only be used if the suspect is on the loose or police suspect that there could be more victims.