Need to Know: June 18, 2021


You might have heard: Online attacks on female journalists are increasingly spilling into the “real world” (The Conversation) 

But did you know: Newsroom leaders still don’t understand the complex dynamics of social media (Substack, Galaxy Brain) 

Journalists are increasingly the victims of networked harassment campaigns, but many newsrooms don’t know how to protect their journalists from these attacks. These campaigns generally take place when an amplifier — a high-profile or heavily-followed social media account — highlights a specific person and encourages their followers, directly or indirectly, to target that person online. For newsrooms, this dynamic becomes difficult, writes Charlie Warzel, because legacy newsroom leaders don’t understand the coordinated, deliberately destructive nature of these attacks. Instead, they are susceptible to viewing these campaigns as legitimate complaints, leading them to “make decisions that play into the hands of their worst faith critics.” 

+ Related: Our creaky social media policies are no match for today’s trolls (Columbia Journalism Review) 

+ Noted: New Yorker union reaches deal with Condé Nast (The Hill); Janet Malcolm, provocative journalist with a piercing eye, dies at 86 (The New York Times); MSNBC news writers and producers unionize with WGA East (Deadline); Today is the final day to apply for LION’s News Revenue Fellowship (LION Publisher); Alden’s buyout offer coincides with the 3rd anniversary of the Capital Gazette shooting (Poynter); CNN to sell NFTs of its historic news coverage (The Hollywood Reporter) 


How newsrooms can do less work — but have more impact

Most news organizations have a fraction of the staff and resources they once had, and burnout remains a major problem across the industry. So newsrooms need to get smarter about prioritizing the work that really matters — and letting go of the rest. Here’s a simple framework for cutting back on stories and other types of work that aren’t serving audiences or driving revenue.


How the pandemic prepared public media to build an audience-centered culture (Current) 

The pandemic pushed public media outlets towards a more audience-centric model; which has been a change for the better, writes Joyce MacDonald. Forced by the circumstances to adapt to the new needs of the audience, public media pursued innovative ideas like COVID-19 “help desks” and virtual, accessible events. The need for constant change over the past year was uncomfortable and at times challenging, but that is exactly the type of environment where audience-centric work thrives, MacDonald writes. As a result, news organizations experimented with new ideas, encouraged cross-collaboration, moved away from hierarchical decision making, sought out community data, and surfaced underlying biases that could be addressed. 

+ Earlier: How KPCC-LAist’s COVID-19 help desk drove newsletter subscriptions — and memberships (Better News)


Guatemalan journalists fight threats and lack of transparency to do investigative and community journalism (LatAm Journalism Review) 

Guatemala’s press has come under increasing threats from its government in recent years, but small journalism outlets are still providing crucial journalism. Agencia Ocote, founded in 2019, is a digital media outlet focusing on in-depth coverage of topics like women and diversity, press freedom, culture, the environment, and “historical memory and justice.” The outlet’s multidisciplinary approach means collaborating with people working in the social sciences and the arts to explore creative ways of presenting content. Agencia Prensa Comunitaria Kilómetro 169, a community outlet, covers Indigenous peoples, and finances its operations by selling consultancy and communication services. And Digital outlet No-Ficción focuses on narrative, investigation and data to tell larger stories about the country. 


Toxic work environments shouldn’t be a rite of passage (Teen Vogue) 

Many young people find themselves in abusive and toxic workplaces, writes Rainesford Stauffer, and often are told that it is simply part of “paying your dues.” Young workers in “progressive” workplaces like political campaigns are often overworked and underpaid regardless of the rhetoric of the candidate, while teachers and caregivers say they’re told “the fulfillment they get from their work should be payment enough.” Increasingly, young people are turning to unions to fight for better workplace conditions, while others simply quit jobs that they find intolerable. 


Journalism is ableist, down to its language (Substack, The Objective)

The Associated Press has recently updated its guidance on disability coverage, but much more is needed for the journalism industry to become less ableist, Jen Ramos writes. Ramos argues that the AP’s advice to be more specific about a disability and its symptoms perpetuates the idea that certain disabilities present in particular ways, thus reinforcing existing stereotypes. This policy also requires that disabled people “keep explaining their symptoms or disabilities to be taken seriously.” She also says that journalists need to always ask a disabled person how they would like to be described — for instance, either in person-first or identity-first language — to make sure they are more comfortable. 


How the public views deletion of offensive comments (Center for Media Engagement) 

A new study from the Center for Media Engagement, funded by Facebook, has found that readers are more in favor of deleting comments that contain hate speech than those that contain profanity. The study, done in partnership with universities in the Netherlands and Portugal, found that users thought of deleting hate speech as “more fair and legitimate.” In Portugal, comments deleted by human moderators were considered more fair than those deleted by algorithmic moderators, although in the U.S. and the Netherlands, users made no distinction. Across the board, users felt that comment deleters — either a social media platform or news organization — were being more transparent if they explained in detail why a specific comment was removed. 

+ Related: How to reclaim your comment section from bullies and trolls (Better News)


+ The lessons of Squash, the first automated fact-checking platform (Poynter) 

+ Why journalists in autocracies should report as if they’re in a democracy (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

+ The newsletters business is booming, but one big thing still stands between writers and their readers: Google and its mysterious Gmail inbox filter (The Los Angeles Times) 

+ Ken Doctor: “Six months after launching a local news company (in an Alden market), here’s what I’ve learned” (Nieman Lab)