Need to Know: June 4, 2020


You might have heard: Gutted newsrooms juggle pandemic and protests (CNN)

But did you know: Some furloughed reporters are getting called back to work (Poynter)

As the U.S. reels from twin crises — an economy-thrashing pandemic and violent protests against police brutality — some news outlets are reconsidering furlough policies implemented to help through pandemic-induced revenue shortfalls. At McClatchy, CEO Craig Forman announced Monday that most staffers in the News and Production departments would be excluded from furloughs, calling them “first responders” who “fulfill vital civic functions.” Gannett has also pulled some reporters off furlough to help cover local protests, and other news organizations have said they will delay furloughs for some reporting staff.

+ Noted: RJI announces Local News Challenge to help newsrooms “without the resources of large legacy newsrooms” tackle technology challenges (Reynolds Journalism Institute)


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Public radio expands Spanish-language content to provide vital information about pandemic (Current)

At the end of April, New Hampshire Public Radio launched a daily 5-minute Spanish version of its morning newscast, translated by reporter Daniela Vidal Allee and produced by intern Maria Aguirre Torres. The newscast is also distributed online, and via Facebook and WhatsApp. KRCB in Rohnert Park, Calif., began adding Spanish voiceovers of its virtual town hall broadcasts about the coronavirus along with the original English versions. More public radio stations are following suit, many of them using Facebook grants to expand multilingual programming to reach Latinos and other minority groups in their communities, which have been experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infection.


How to visualize churn data (Twipe)

The Swedish news company MittMedia (now Bonnier News Local) was struggling with a churn rate that hovered around 12%. To help them understand why they were losing subscribers, they built churn models that flagged specific points at which subscribers were deserting. For example, they found that readers who received more than 20 push notifications in a month were cancelling their subscriptions earlier than others. They also found that those who had subscribed several times in the past or had payment errors were likely to churn, while those who spent more time reading articles, looking at images, or had subscribed via campaign were less likely.


VizPol takes a cue from bird-watching apps to help journalists identify unfamiliar political symbols (Nieman Lab)

Demonstrations sparked by George Floyd’s death have been exploited by extremists looking to promote their own aims — and some of them are wearing their intentions literally on their sleeve. Researchers at Columbia University have built an app to help journalists recognize emblems of extremist groups among protest crowds. Partially modeled after an app used by birdwatchers, VizPol scans photos uploaded by journalists and checks them against a database. It should be used as a context-gathering tool so “journalists can ask better questions, or take more informed pictures, and caption them with more specificity,” said Nina Berman, one of the creators of the app.


The ‘Times’ Op-Ed page: both ends against the middle (Commentary Magazine)

A controversial op-ed in The New York Times by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, suggesting that President Trump deploy the military to restore order amidst the Floyd protests, has the Times staff “in revolt,” according to CNN’s Oliver Darcy. It’s not the first time the Times’ op-ed section has sparked outrage from staff — and the section had early beginnings in seeking out extreme viewpoints, writes Carl Gershman. Since its inception in 1970, the op-ed section has often focused more on presenting the “widest possible variety of opinions” than contributing to a “deeper public understanding of difficult issues.”

+ Earlier: Opinion sections don’t just have to be a place to display conflicting viewpoints. Here are a couple creative ways to rethink your opinion section, from The Tennessean and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

+ Resist the urge to simplify the story: “We have patchwork protests, mixed with patchwork riots,” writes Anne Applebaum. “In each one of them, the police and the protesters have different motives, create different impacts, affect people in different ways.” (The Atlantic)


8 journalists on reporting while Black, with the weight of history on their shoulders (Glamour)

For Black reporters covering the demonstrations, the civil unrest, frustration and grief isn’t just a familiar headline — it’s personal. Many covered the Ferguson protests in 2014, or have family members who witnessed the race riots in the 60s. It contributes to an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu, says Abby Phillip, a political correspondent for CNN. Antonia Hylton, an NBC News correspondent, says she wakes up anxious — “not just about what might happen in the news, but also about the private worries that I might have to find a way to compartmentalize or suppress in order to do my job.”