Need to Know: June 30, 2020


You might have heard: Nonprofit news organizations have proved less vulnerable to the economic crisis (CJR)

But did you know: Nonprofit journalism leaders are deciding whether or not to make a bid for all of McClatchy to form a nonprofit newspaper chain (Nieman Lab)

In the next two days, both McClatchy and Tribune are likely to see major changes in their ownership structure, and yesterday afternoon Ken Doctor reported for Nieman that a group of nonprofit journalism leaders say they could gather the $300 million necessary to buy McClatchy and for the first nonprofit newspaper chain. Bids for McClatchy are due Wednesday as the chain attempts to emerge from bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Tribune is likely to be taken over by hedge fund Alden Global Capital on Tuesday, as more shares in the chain go up for sale.

+ Noted: The New York Times pulls out of Apple News (The New York Times); WarnerMedia to sell Atlanta’s CNN Center (The Wrap); Columnist Betsy Rothstein has died (New York Magazine)


The empathetic newsroom: How journalists can better cover neglected communities

Cultivating empathy into reporting can lead to better coverage of communities that have historically been marginalized or misrepresented by the media. This report describes empathetic techniques journalists can weave into their work, including spending more face-to-face time with sources, using noverbal cues to show that you’re listening, and reframing questions to get at a source’s motivations and emotions.


‘More complete and relatable:’ How a TV newsroom can earn trust on air (Medium, Trusting News)

For many newsrooms, it can be hard to identify the most effective ways to build trust with an audience. A new study from Trusting News and the Center for Media Engagement finds that television newsrooms can build trust by providing insight into why a story was covered, offering additional resources and welcoming viewer participation. A series of focus groups compared different versions of the same story with these different elements, and participants said that the inclusion of these trust items made them feel a “‘personal connection” to the story.


Australian regional media outlets to share $50 million in government funding (The New Daily)

More than 100 regional publishers and broadcasters in Australia will split a government fund of $50 million AUD ($34 million USD) to help them through the COVID-19 pandemic. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said a drop in ad revenue during the pandemic has led to cuts in local papers and threatened the viability of local broadcasters. “Public interest journalism is critical to keeping communities informed,” Fletcher said in a statement.


No more going viral: why not apply social distancing to social media? (The Guardian)

Algorithms have allowed misinformation and disinformation to spread widely throughout social media. Platforms are increasingly policing the content — Twitch temporarily banned President Trump, Reddit banned hate speech and a Trump sub-community, YouTube banned several white supremacists — but monitoring all content globally is an impossible task. In an opinion piece, Leo Mirani argues that social media platforms should apply the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and limit the virality of all posts, which would curb the spread of misinformation. Two years ago WhatsApp put limits on sharing messages, and in less than a month, there was a 70% reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages. Mirani suggests simple measures, like moving the retweet button on Twitter, could slow the spread of bad information.


News organizations make mistakes. But shunning them will only hasten the death of journalism itself. (The New York Times)

Following the controversy surrounding The Tennessean’s regretted decision to run a full-page anti-Islam ad, Margaret Renkl writes that, despite the poor decision-making that led to the ad, canceling one’s subscription to a newspaper over a controversial choice will only make doing good journalism harder in a near-impossible landscape. She highlights several important articles that the paper published that same day by an over-stretched and under-resourced newsroom.


San Quentin’s breakthrough prison newsroom (Politico)

In recent years, newsrooms based in prisons — such as San Quentin News, a paper written and published entirely by inmates at California’s San Quentin State Prison — have been booming. Ear Hustle, a podcast by and about prisoners, has had over 41 million downloads, and community journalists are increasingly working with local prison newspapers to help highlight issues surrounding prison reform. Newspapers, in particular, are useful for inmates, who are often barred from internet access. San Quentin News has also now held more than a dozen forums that allow prisoners to speak directly with prosecutors, teachers, and other community members.