Need to Know: June 2, 2021


You might have heard: Substack wants to pay you to write about local news (Vox) 

But did you know: Substack announces winners of initiative to help independent writers start sustainable local news enterprises (Substack)

Substack has primarily been known as a platform for opinion and personality-based newsletters, but the company is now seeking to support local reporting through its Substack Local initiative. The initiative has dedicated $1 million to help independent writers create local news enterprises. The first 12 recipients of the funding were announced Monday. In the United States, winners include The Examiner News in Mount Kisco, New York; The Atlanta Objective; The Food Section in Charleston, South Carolina; The Border Chronicle in Tucson, Arizona; Arizona News; and The Goldenrod in Kentucky. Other winners hail from Romania, Nigeria, Brazil, the U.K., Taiwan, and Australia. 

+ Noted: U.S. Postal Service announces postage rate increases for periodicals (News Media Alliance); Local Media Consortium and Google News Initiative announce publication of Digital Advertising Revenue Playbook for small and midsize publications (Local Media Consortium) 


API launches ‘Local News Ideas-to-Action Series’ to support accountability and government reporting 

The Local News Ideas-to-Action Series will support accountability and government reporting that better prioritizes the needs of local communities. Through discussion, peer learning and small project funds, the effort will help newsrooms consider why and how journalists prioritize audience information needs through community engagement and service-oriented reporting, and deepen relationships with communities to ensure local accountability and governance reporting has impact and remains salient and sustainable. The Series will begin with an introductory event on Thursday, June 17. For more information and to participate, sign up here.

+ Trust Tip: Work with customer service teams to build audience trust (Trusting News) 


Washington Post announces the launch of Voices Across America (The Washington Post) 

The Washington Post’s Opinion section has launched Voices Across America, a platform showcasing writers across the country who provide “on-the-ground” points of view. In a press release, the platform says that contributors will discuss timely issues and “major debates of the day” that affect their region and the nation as a whole. The editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, said that developing a “more diverse contributor base — geographically, demographically and ideologically” is a top priority for The Post’s opinion page. 


Why Surviving Hate is crowdsourcing stories about racism (J-Source) 

Surviving Hate, a new collaboration between Humber College’s StoryLab and the University of Toronto’s Investigative Journalism Bureau, aims to build a database of hate crimes across Canada. Modeled on ProPublica’s Documenting Hate, the project seeks to be a place where victims of hate crimes can share their stories without facing the bureaucracy of government agencies that document hate crimes and discrimination. This is particularly crucial when such discrimination is actually perpetrated by government agencies. The collaboration, which includes several academic and media partners across the country, will include a team consisting of journalists, students and academics. 


Twitter teams with climate vet to launch local weather news service (Axios) 

Twitter is launching “Tomorrow,” a local weather news service, with the help of local meteorologists. The program is being overseen by Eric Holthaus, a veteran climate journalist and meteorologist, and will feature 18 meteorologists from 16 cities across North America. With the help of a part-time editorial staff, the team will produce newsletters, long-form content, ticketed live-audio sessions and audience Q&As. The Q&As will allow paying members to directly ask experts questions during breaking-news weather events. Membership will start at $10/month, and Holthaus says they hope to be in most major media markets by the end of the year. 


There’s no such thing as a former journalist (Poynter) 

Amidst the many problems facing journalism today — the financial instability of the industry, accusations of bias and malice — it’s no surprise that many top reporters take their skills into other fields. Journalists who choose to leave the field are often discussed “as if the journalist has abandoned a priesthood, is no longer a member of the tribe, has gone over to the Dark Side,” writes Roy Peter Clark. Clark writes that this attitude, which clings to the notion that journalists are the only ones with pure motivations, is counterproductive. Instead, journalists should view those who transferred their skills to other jobs as “public writers,” continuing to serve the public good via a different path. 


What if the future of media is only newsletters and podcasts? Axios seems to think that’s right. (What’s New in Publishing) 

News products like newsletters and podcasts are increasingly seen as the best path for new media ventures, but established news outlets like Axios are also betting big on the future of these products as revenue generators. So far, Axios has focused on expanding its free audience, most recently with the expansion of Axios Local. By focusing on building products like newsletters that can create value and easily scale, the outlet now has more traction for introducing paid options. Similarly, podcasts are free, subscribable content that encourages users to build news consumption habits, and now, with the launch of paid podcasts by both Apple and Spotify, they are more likely to be monetized. 

+ Related: How The Dallas Morning News expanded its hyperlocal journalism through a web hub and newsletter initiative (Better News)