Need to Know: June 4, 2021


You might have heard: The media’s climate coverage is improving, but time is very short (The Nation) 

But did you know: Major newsrooms feel that calling climate change an ‘emergency’ sounds too much like activism (Columbia Journalism Review) 

Covering Climate Now, a joint effort from the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, was created in 2019 to push the media to improve climate change coverage. But stories in the media about climate change are still not frequent, prominent and urgent enough, Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope write. A recent poll found that less than one-quarter of the public is exposed to climate reporting once a month or more. More than 30 newsrooms have signed CCNow’s Climate Emergency Statement, but Hertsgaard and Pope write that several major newsrooms said that the phrase “climate emergency” sounds too much like activism. Hertsgaard and Pope argue that, regardless of the term being used, media outlets need to prioritize their coverage of climate issues. 

+ Earlier: How six Florida newsrooms are teaming up to cover climate change (Nieman Lab)

+ Noted: Former Treasury official sentenced to six months in prison for giving documents to BuzzFeed News (Buzzfeed News) 


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.


Local news outlets are upgrading their apps and battling ‘app-rehension’ (Local News Initiative) 

News apps have long been a niche product, but increasingly local news outlets are working to improve and sell their readers on them, arguing that they deliver a superior experience and build loyalty. Executives from McClatchy, Tribune Publishing and the San Francisco Chronicle said that apps allow a direct relationship with audiences, making them less dependent on readers who find their content through third-party platforms like Facebook and Google. The apps allow non-subscribers to download and access some content before hitting a paywall. Dedicated apps encourage engagement and build reading habits; one executive called it “the modern digital equivalent of a home delivery subscriber.” 

+ 6 ways to incorporate Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces in your audience strategy (Reynolds Journalism Institute)  


Nonprofit newsrooms focused on healthcare coverage in Peru and South Africa thrived during the pandemic (Global Investigative Journalism Network) 

When COVID-19 hit, newsrooms dedicated to health and science reporting had a strong basis on which to build their pandemic coverage. These publications had existing relationships with public health and vaccine experts, and knew how to cover the intersection of politics and science in the pandemic response. In the case of Salud con Lupa in Peru, which translates to “Health under a Magnifying Glass,” reporters continued their cross-border health investigative work during the pandemic, focusing on stories like the readiness of Latin American hospitals and the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous communities across the continent. At Bhekisisa in South Africa, whose name is derived from the isiZulu for “to scrutinize,” they have teamed up with a local television channel to offer scientific analysis during the pandemic, which has raised the outlet’s profile and funding. 


Startup social media app to serve local news to young audiences (The NewStart Alliance) 

Xana O’Neill spent several years as the head of news at Snapchat before launching Forth, a news platform that aims to get trusted information to 18- to-34-year olds. It’s a generation that has been difficult to reach as social media platforms have come and gone. O’Neill says that Forth will focus on concise content that avoids the clickbait style of so many other publishers. Initially, Forth will focus on the Upper East Side in New York, but will also include regional and national content. Content will be tailored by geolocating the user, and will be free in that location; users can pay a fee to see information about another market. Some stories will be written exclusively for the platform, while others will come from existing local news outlets, which will get a revenue share in return. 

+ Facebook to end special treatment for politicians after Trump ban (The Verge) 


Do visual journalists have an ethical obligation to minimize harm when covering protests? (Poynter) 

Since Michael Brown’s death in 2014 set off a wave of Black Lives Matter protests, several prominent Black activists who achieved a level of celebrity due to media coverage have died prematurely. With that in mind, several activists have insisted that photographers blur the faces of protestors to protect them from retaliation. Taraneh Azar argues that the digital age calls for “a renewed consideration of ethical principles and considerations” in photojournalism, because photos can go viral and upend the subject’s life overnight. While protestors have no expectation of privacy on the street, Azar says journalists should consider protestors as part of a vulnerable group that should be covered with extra caution. 


Did The Financial Times copy an interactive website idea under the guise of journalism? (The American Prospect) 

In 2018, computer programmer Noah Levenson created an interactive website called Stealing Ur Feelings, which used emotion recognition AI on users’ webcams to show how algorithms can go wrong. In 2020, a journalist at The Financial Times reached out for an interview with Levenson, supposedly for a story about visual storytelling. No story materialized, and it wasn’t until May of 2021 that Levenson says he was told that the FT had created their own interactive storytelling project about the dangers of emotional recognition by AI. The story’s credits say it is “inspired” by Levenson’s project, which Levenson says is a confusing term in the context of journalism. He argues that, unlike in entertainment, where artists often “pay homage” to works that inspire them, anyone who describes themselves as a journalist should not be taking outside ideas for their own benefit and profit. 


+ Atlas Obscura has reviewed how it tells stories about curious places in light of last year’s shift in how Americans view their past (The New York Times) 

+ Unpacking the demand for multilingual science media (Science Friday) 

+ The women who preserved the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre (The New Yorker) 

+ “Nostalgia is a hell of a drug”: Will Gawker’s swashbuckling style survive its upcoming relaunch? (Vanity Fair)