Need to Know: June 18, 2020


You might have heard: Newspapers, weeklies and alt-weeklies have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic (Poynter) 

But did you know: Public radio is not immune to the financial fallout of the coronavirus (WBUR)

Boston’s public radio station WBUR announced yesterday that it would lay off more than 10% of staff and drop “Only a Game,” a nationally syndicated sports program. It will also drop its “Kind World” podcast, co-hosted by two women of color. WBUR joins two other public media organizations, Chicago Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio, in announcing layoffs this week. “The [number] of radio journalists out of a job is likely higher than the reported staff positions eliminated, from permatemps whose contracts won’t be renewed,” tweeted Emily Sullivan, city hall reporter for WYPR, Baltimore’s public radio station.


+ Noted: How to support the Fund for Black Journalism — “I can’t breathe” campaign (Local Media Association); ProPublica seeks public broadcasting partners for its Local Reporting Network (ProPublica); Medill awarded $1 million by McCormick Foundation to help improve local news in Chicago (Medill School of Journalism); The heads of four organizations overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media were dismissed Wednesday night, in a move seen as political power play by the Trump administration (CNN)


Prepare your newsroom for the 2020 elections

Covering how the pandemic is changing the voting process — often at the last minute — and navigating a polarized discussion on voter suppression and secure elections are major challenges confronting journalists. API’s Trusted Elections Network brings together newsroom leaders, civic organizations, academic institutions and elections experts to share advice and lessons learned in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. Learn more about how to join.


Using TikTok to engage a younger audience with local news (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

The biggest journalism success story on TikTok is probably The Washington Post, which deploys mostly humorous videos that riff on social media trends or offer a behind-the-scenes look at the newsroom. But local news outlets are also experimenting with TikTok, and their videos often cover actual news. That can include profiles of local people, photo or video slideshows to promote a particular story, reporters on the scene covering a story, or animated graphics explaining a data-heavy topic. “You will get out of it what you put into it, so set a plan for your newsroom to post and engage on TikTok regularly,” writes Caroline Watkins. “At the end of the day, the more active you are on TikTok, the more TikTok’s algorithm will play to your favor.”

+ A helpful graphic for measuring audience engagement (Twitter, @tknakagawa)


Maria Ressa’s conviction, and the Philippines’ dire information climate (CJR)

Maria Ressa, the crusading Filipina journalist who founded the independent news site Rappler, was convicted Monday along with a former colleague, on charges of cyber-libel for an article that linked a prominent Filipino businessman to the human-trafficking and drug trades. The conviction tops years of multiple legal challenges brought against Rappler, which has been highly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime. Duterte has waged an all-out war on the press since before coming into office, in which Facebook has become the battleground. Thanks in part to subsidies that Facebook itself paid, it’s easier and cheaper for Filipinos to access than independent news sites. But the disinformation that Duterte’s administration has pumped onto the platform, made more prominent by Facebook’s algorithms, means that the information climate in the country is broadly tipped in the administration’s favor.


The danger of ‘paying your dues’ (National Press Club)

When it comes to hiring and promotions, managers often think of what they did to get to their current position — maybe they had to move halfway across the country to get their start, or they worked on their days off and never put in for overtime. Then they may apply those same “paying my dues” yardsticks to people they’re considering hiring or promoting. In fact, research has shown that managers tend to hire people who remind them of themselves. But the implications of this for diversity, especially in newsrooms, are troubling. It’s time for a “candid, critical look at what ‘paying your dues’ really means on your watch,” writes Jill Geisler. “What’s dated? What’s damaging to people? What’s built on a heaping pile of privilege?”


‘My bad news judgment hurt Buffalo’s black community. Ten years later, the lessons linger.’ (The Washington Post)

In 2010, when Margaret Sullivan was editor of the Buffalo News, the paper covered a mass shooting in which all the victims were black. In trying to piece together what had happened, Sullivan writes, one article delved into the criminal past of some of the victims. The outrage from Buffalo’s black community was such that Sullivan called a prominent pastor on Buffalo’s largely black East Side, who had officiated at some of the victims’ funerals, to suggest that she come to his church and sit down with some of the community members. About 700 people showed up for an emotionally-charged meeting that lasted for hours. It turned into a “healing moment,” writes Sullivan, which initiated changes at the Buffalo News including launching a community advisory board, putting key reporters and editors through sensitivity training, and covering the East side in more thorough and considerate ways.

+ Capitalizing the “B” in Black is nice, but actually hiring Black people in your newsroom is nicer (The Root)


Pandemic lessons we can’t afford to forget (RTDNA)

Savvy news leaders are already asking themselves which crisis-forced innovations should stick around long after the pandemic is over. They’re also taking a hard look at old newsroom chestnuts that need to change — chestnuts like “if it bleeds, it leads.” During the pandemic, many newsrooms have doubled down on the real information needs of their communities, and audiences are responding — proving that news doesn’t need to be sensationalized to attract an audience, writes Frank Mungeam. “Let’s hope our editorial meetings never revert to a rote review of the day file, scanners, and ‘what’s trending.’”