Need to Know: June 22, 2021


You might have heard: Why Axios Local is expanding into eight new cities (Press Gazette)

But did you know: 6AM City, the ‘fastest-growing newsletter-first local media company’ in the U.S., expands to 24 markets (Medium, 6AM City)

The expansion will more than triple the company’s size and help it reach more than 1 million subscribers, writes Operations Manager Jessica Kurbatov. 6AM City is on a hiring surge, searching for local editorial and sales staff in each city where it plans to launch a newsletter. The company’s selection of new cities is guided by its “partnerships with organizations looking to expedite economic recovery, including economic development entities, professional sports teams, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” writes Kurbatov. “These relationships are accelerating the company’s expansion.”

+ Noted: Applications are open for the 2021 Google News Initiative Startups Boot Camp (LION Publishers); Nearly a quarter of Chicago Tribune reporters are taking this week’s buyout (Twitter, @hopnotes)


Where you can find API at ONA21

ONA21 kicks off today and runs through Friday, June 25. API staffers will participate in sessions on source diversity, organizational buy-in, employee burnout and improving crime coverage. Here’s how and when to connect with us.


The Trace launches resource for Philadelphians affected by gun violence (Twitter, @teamtrace)

Up the Block, a website launched this week by nonprofit news outlet The Trace, aims to connect Philadelphians affected by gun violence with local resources, which are grouped by category — such as “life after incarceration” and “keeping your family safe” — and neighborhood. Until now, The Trace’s coverage of gun violence has taken more traditional forms, such as investigations, profiles and policy articles. “We created Up The Block to provide more direct service journalism to the communities most affected by gun violence,” the team wrote on Twitter. Many of the resources and information provided on the site were identified through The Trace’s community listening efforts made in advance of the launch.

+ Earlier: The Philadelphia Inquirer is investing in service journalism that connects audiences directly with resources (American Press Institute)


BBC tightens security after anti-vaxxer ‘death threats’ to staff (The Guardian)

Following the haranguing of political editor Nicholas Watt by anti-lockdown protesters and threats made against other BBC journalists on the messaging app Telegram, the BBC has announced new security protocols and created a working group to examine staff safety online. The “abuse of journalists is a growing problem,” Fran Unsworth, director of news and current affairs, acknowledged in a message to staff last week. Experts have documented the increase of anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown activists on Telegram, and their intertwining with far-right extremist groups that have been pushed off other platforms.


Newsletters were supposed to be the Wild West. Enter Sheriff Google. (Los Angeles Times)

The rising popularity of newsletters is hampered by one thing: Gmail, Google’s free and also popular email service. Gmail’s Promotions tab separates out emails not good enough for your inbox but not bad enough for your spam folder; with the result that many people rarely check it. This can significantly affect open and engagement rates for newsletter writers, many of whom rely on these metrics to woo advertisers and thus fund their newsletters. The seemingly arbitrary way in which emails are sent to the Promotions tab has inspired a cottage industry of “email deliverability specialists,” writes Brian Contreras.


What we can learn from the media’s dismissal of the Wuhan lab theory (Poynter)

The theory that the coronavirus was manufactured in a Chinese laboratory was roundly dismissed and even mocked by most in the news media; now, that theory is considered plausible by many scientists and the U.S. government. The media’s rush to judgment on the theory represents a teachable moment, writes Alan C. Miller. Journalists were “too credulous and reliant on outspoken scientists and failed to probe their potential conflicts of interest”; including a group of scientists who publicly denounced the theory in The Lancet, an influential medical journal, and were later found to have been involved in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology (from where the virus is suspected to have leaked). Many journalists were also keen to dismiss the theory because former President Trump was promoting it, writes Miller.


When the local paper shrank, these journalists started an alternative (The New York Times)

In New Bedford, Mass., the Gannett-owned daily newspaper The Standard Times had become a “ghost” paper, with severely diminished staff and diminished coverage. “It used to be that I couldn’t sneeze without having to explain myself,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “Now, I have to beg people to show up at my press conferences. Please, ask me questions!” Residents attempted to purchase The Standard Times from Gannett; when that failed, a group of journalists got together and formed The New Bedford Light. The Light, which launched online on June 7, aims to publish an in-depth article every weekday while skipping some of the staples of local papers, like high school sports and a police blotter. “We cannot go down the route of the daily newspaper that tries to do all things for all people,” said Editor Barbara Roessner. “The challenge for us is to stay disciplined to do the deeper work and not be caught up in the daily news cycle.”

+ How creative thinkers are reinventing local news in the Midwest (Medill Local News Initiative)