Need to Know: June 21, 2022


You might have heard: Are media coops the business model of the future? (Columbia Journalism Review) 

But did you know: A Green Bay Packers-style approach to rescue Colorado newspaper (The Seattle Times) 

The Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in Aurora, Colo., is seeking a community ownership model, selling shares to local residents and supporters. The paper had previously sought donations from readers in the past and received substantial contributions, which inspired editor Dave Perry to pursue the community ownership model. Like many newspapers, The Sentinel struggled during the pandemic and has shrunk by more than half in the last decade. Joaquin Alvarado, a consultant who is leading the business transition, said the goal is to save and grow existing outlets, rather than starting new publications. “The smartest money is protecting these ones that have the credibility,” Alvarado said. 

+ Noted: Remains of U.K. journalist Phillips identified in Brazil (BBC News)


What local news organizations are learning by guiding audiences to practical information

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, or stories aimed at conveying practical information on topics like voting in a pandemic, hurricane preparedness and how people can access housing and health services. Much of this work is rooted in deep listening to community needs through engagement on various venues or platforms — for example, in-person or via messaging apps or text — and experiments that can build momentum for greater work. We’ll hear from four organizations that participated in API’s Local News Ideas to Action Fund (2021) or Trusted Elections Network Fund (2020). Participants are encouraged to share questions ahead of time. 


WHYY sent a reporter to listen to communities impacted by gun violence (WHYY) 

Sammy Caiola is WHYY’s first-ever gun violence prevention reporter, and she spent months talking to Philadelphians about the effects of gun violence and their work to fight it. She spent her first 60 days on a community listening tour of the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods — without publishing any stories. Instead, she attended school events, local meetings and public forums without a microphone, listening to what people said about their own experiences. She writes that such a time and resource commitment is “absolutely necessary” to cover such a sprawling, systemic issue.


Fact-checkers extend their global reach, but growth has slowed (Duke Reporters’ Lab) 

The number of fact-checkers around the world has doubled in the last six years, but the pace of growth has slowed over the last few years, according to Mark Stencel, Erica Ryan and Joel Luther of the Duke Reporters’ Lab. There are currently 378 active fact-checking projects around the world, with fact-checking now taking place in 69 languages on six continents. The Lab also finds that fact-checkers are relying less on rating systems, which succinctly summarize conclusions to prominently convey findings, with one editor saying his team found the ratings to be “a straitjacket.” 

+ The Times of London withdrew a story about Boris Johnson and his wife without explanation after printing it in some editions (The Guardian) 


Facebook looks ready to divorce the news industry, and I doubt couples counseling will help (Nieman Lab) 

Following recent reports that Facebook is likely to not renew deals with news publishers and is attempting to become more like the video platform TikTok, Joshua Benton argues that the social network is “ready for a divorce” from the news industry. He writes that while Facebook saw news as a valuable traffic driver back in 2015, the swarm of misinformation that grew during the 2016 election pushed the company to de-emphasize news on the platform. Facebook is also reeling from the move by governments — originally Australia, increasingly elsewhere — to force the company to pay news outlets for linking to content. Benton writes that Facebook’s association with news has always been “a weird match.” “It’s time for everyone to move on.” 


The weaponization of ‘trust’ (Rappler) 

Last week, the Reuters Institute released its 2022 Digital News Report, an annual assessment of the industry which also looks at which brands are most trusted around the world. Gemma B. Mendoza of Rappler, a news site in the Philippines, says that the report’s findings that the site is not “trusted” are used as a political tool by those opposed to the site’s independent journalism. Mendoza calls on the Institute’s director, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, to be more transparent about how the term “trust” is used and what makes a brand trustworthy. “Because by not placing its scoreboard in the proper context, this yearly exercise becomes nothing more than a popularity contest,” Mendoz argues. “It can be weaponized against any news organization who dares speak truth to power.”

+ Related: The research of the Reuters Institute shouldn’t be abused to attack Rappler (Reuters Institute) 


Infighting overshadows big plans at The Washington Post (The New York Times) 

One year after starting as executive editor at The Washington Post, Sally Buzbee is dealing with a frustrated newsroom. After two social media-oriented controversies — which one editor described as “a proxy for newsroom culture” — Buzbee is trying to institute a clearer social media policy for staffers. But, Katie Robertson and Benjamin Mullin report, staffers have accused newsroom leadership of indulging “star” reporters, not being accessible enough to rank-and-file employees and showing bias to the national desk over metro reporting teams.  

+ Related: The Washington Post’s strange journey from ousting Richard Nixon to ousting Felicia Sonmez (Politico)