Need to Know: June 25, 2020


You might have heard: Australia becomes the next battleground country to try and force Facebook and Google to pay local news publishers (U.S. News & World Report)

But did you know: Google will start paying publishers to license content (Axios)

In a major departure from its long-standing practice of not paying publishers directly to distribute their work, Google executives say the company is creating a licensing program to pay select publishers “for high-quality content” as a part of a new news product launching later this year. Although details about the program remain unclear, Google has also said it will pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on a publisher’s site where available, to help those publishers grow their audiences. The announcement comes as regulators around the world have been pushing for legislation that would require tech giants like Google and rival Facebook to pay publishers directly for their work.

+ Noted: Half of newspaper readers and journalists have vanished over the past 15 years, according to a new report assessing U.S. new deserts (UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media); Nieman Lab announces staff changes (Nieman Foundation); As journalists of color at the Los Angeles Times register their discontent, the company announces that it’s hiring a senior editor for talent and culture (WorkDay); All-white IRE Executive Committee resigns, paving way for new election of board officers (Investigative Reporters & Editors)


How COVID-19 is reshaping grantmaking and what news organizations should know

Funders in public health, community development and rural issues are beginning to see how their priorities align with those of local news organizations. News organizations should expand their grant searching to include funders who haven’t previously supported news, but whose focus on community impact and equity matches their own, Lizzy Hazeltine writes for API.


‘Macro’ vs. ‘micro engagements’ — and which matters most (Medium, We Are Hearken)

In a post-pandemic world, news organizations will need to be able to tie their engagement activities to growth goals, writes Chelsea Haring, the new CEO of Hearken. That means figuring out how to scale authentic engagement — something many organizations struggle with. While many spend their energy and resources on “macro engagements,” like events or other highly-architected experiences, news organizations should also learn to value and cultivate the more sustainable “micro engagements,” Haring writes. “While the micro moments are less likely to be featured as foundational stories brands would like to tell concerning the impact of their work, they’ll be more successful driving growth outcomes.”

+ News 5 Cleveland explains when they include suspect descriptions in their stories, and when they don’t (News 5 Cleveland)


What do rural Indians want in a WhatsApp-style news app? (Splice)

No one was using Lokal, a news app launched in January 2018 that caters to non-English speaking Indians. Founders Jani Pasha and Vipul Chaudhary decided that they had built the app “in a bubble,” so they went back to the drawing board and started asking people in their target audience what they actually wanted in a news app. The answers went beyond news, to user-generated content like classifieds, including hiring ads and matrimony ads. Many small-town readers were already being served by regional newspapers, explained Pasha. But what newspapers couldn’t give them was news at the pace of online communication, which they were craving, and opportunities to contribute their own “citizen reporting” or get other announcements published.


Using archives to discuss social progress (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Many news organizations have tapped into their archival content, in some cases creating separate social media accounts dedicated to it after single posts garnered significant engagement. Seeing local history, especially in the context of current events, can deepen readers’ sense of connection with their community — and help them critically examine social issues, said Kori Rumore Finley of the Chicago Tribune. “I feel it is a reporter’s duty to bring history to light for today’s audience. Don’t hide it. It’s an opportunity to review and discuss how much — or little — progress has been made in how a person is perceived by their age, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other defining characteristics.”


‘The call for ‘moral clarity’ could use more clarity’ (Twitter, @TomRosenstiel)

In response to Wesley Lowery’s column in The New York Times, which called for journalists to abandon neutral objectivity for “moral clarity” in cases when objectivity obfuscates the truth, Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of API, argues for a better understanding of the concept of objectivity as it is applied in journalism. “Objectivity never was meant to [be] simplistic as balance, or ‘he said he said’ reporting,” he writes. “I fear a new misunderstanding is taking root in newsrooms today, one [that] could destroy the already weakened system of journalism on which democracy depends … If journalists replace a flawed understanding of objectivity by taking refuge in subjectivity and think their opinions have more moral integrity than genuine inquiry, journalism will be lost.”

+ It’s time to change the way the media reports on protests. Here are some ideas. (Nieman Lab)


Estimates of COVID-19’s impact on journalism fail to count freelancers, whose livelihoods have vanished overnight (Poynter)

The New York Times estimated in April that 36,000 workers at news outlets had been laid off, or had their positions reduced, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. However, that estimate and others don’t provide a complete picture of the devastation to the industry, as they fail to account for freelance journalists or contractors, writes Molly McCluskey. “To report on freelance journalism, and journalists properly, media outlets would have to contend with their own relationships with their freelancers, their complicity in the current state of the news media, and how the erosion of salaries, employer-paid health insurance, unemployment insurance, formal employment networks and other protections have placed these journalists at unprecedented risk during the coronavirus epidemic.”

+ The COVID-19 SoJo Story Exchange is offering a lottery through which newsrooms could win $1,000 to support a freelancer’s solutions story or stories (Solutions Journalism Network)