Need to Know: March 1, 2021

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: In January, the Biden administration began requiring White House journalists to be tested for COVID-19 and wear masks (The Washingtonian)

But did you know: White House plans to charge reporters for COVID-19 tests (The Washington Post)

Anyone who enters the White House grounds is required to take a coronavirus test, and starting today, reporters will face a $170 fee for each test, potentially siphoning thousands of dollars away from newsrooms. TV networks that send eight-person crews to the White House would owe $1,360 per day. The White House will continue to cover tests for pool reporters and will allow entry to journalists who receive tests from other sources, the costs of which can range from $50 to more than $200 in the region. The White House Correspondents’ Association opposes the fee, which the organization says would place a financial burden on news organizations, especially smaller outlets.

+ Noted: Insider will raise its minimum salary for U.S. employees to $60,000 (Axios); New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote promotional copy for Facebook’s corporate website (BuzzFeed News); A former news producer alleged a pattern of racist behavior at Santa Monica-based public radio station KCRW-FM (Los Angeles Times); After last year’s racial justice movement, newsrooms continue to reckon with racism (Columbia Journalism Review)


We curate the best journalism advice on the web and put it all in one place

Better News is a free resource for news innovators, offering hand-picked journalism wisdom from around the web and organizing it into “big picture,” “strategic” and “tactical” categories, depending on how ready you are to implement the advice. It also features lessons learned by newsrooms that participated in the Table Stakes training program managed by API. 


How to get engagement buy-in from your newsroom (Medium, Bridget Thoreson)

After a training last year from Election SOS, journalists found that incorporating audience engagement tactics into their work could be challenging if their newsroom’s leadership wasn’t fully invested in the idea. Bridget Thoreson of Hearken recommends that journalists move toward getting buy-in by first determining what would motivate their newsroom to try audience engagement. This can build the background for a well-researched pitch that explains the need for the project, how it would work and what the newsroom could get out of it. Thoreson also suggests treating engagement as a beat: “Develop your sources, learn what works and what doesn’t, and give it time.”

+ Related: Get early access to the upcoming Election SOS report on lessons learned on engagement and trust from the 2020 elections (Election SOS)

+ Tips for filing taxes as a freelancer (Poynter)


Survey: Mental health a concern for journalists in the UK and Ireland (National Union of Journalists)

A survey of National Union of Journalists members found that many journalists in the United Kingdom and Ireland have faced economic pressures during the pandemic, with 61% reporting their income had been affected by it. About 36% of those surveyed said they had lost more than half of their income. At the same time, journalists have faced higher workloads, stress and anxiety that led more than half of those surveyed to cite mental health concerns.

+ In another survey, about 30% of LGBT journalists in the U.K. and Ireland said they faced discrimination, harassment or bullying at work (Hold the Front Page)


What happens when a publisher becomes a megapublisher? (The New York Times)

Last year, Penguin Random House announced plans to buy Simon & Schuster, setting the scene for the two largest publishers in the country to merge into a company that will control an even bigger share of the industry. Penguin Random House has estimated that together the merged companies would account for less than 20% of general interest publishing revenue in the United States, but other estimates place that number around 28 to 34%. The deal could affect what authors are paid for new books and lead to more “beauty contests,” when an auction stops because the only bidding parties are from imprints within Penguin Random House, leaving authors to select the imprint of their choice.


‘Don’t censor right-wing disinformation. Just stop making us pay for it.’ (Media Nation)

Last week, Democratic Reps. Anna G. Eshoo and Jerry McNerney wrote a letter asking cable carriers if they would continue offering Fox News, Newsmax and OANN, which they say have aired a consistent stream of false information. Members of Congress probing into cable carriers’ contracts with networks poses a threat to the First Amendment, Dan Kennedy argues. Kennedy supports the notion of à la carte cable packages that would allow viewers to opt out of channels they don’t want to pay for.

+ Black History Month offers opportunity, but it can also put pressure on Black writers and flatten Black experiences (Poynter)


How to return to ‘a common set of facts’ (National Catholic Reporter)

Leading up to Marty Baron’s retirement yesterday from his position as executive editor of The Washington Post, the storied journalist said he has witnessed a culture shift in the United States, where journalists have become a frequent target of hostility and facts are often thrown into question. Our democracy relies on a common set of facts, he said, while offering some solutions to move in that direction, including improved civic education, a bigger emphasis on the study of history and the constitution, and more investment in media literacy. Americans need to be able to distinguish between credible and unreliable sources, he said, and “people ultimately need to understand the difference between being informed and being affirmed.”

+ Why Dana James is writing for Black Iowans and Black Iowans only (Substack, Lyz Lenz)