Need to Know: March 11, 2021


You might have heard: Yesterday Congress passed Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill (CNN)

But did you know: COVID-19 relief bill throws lifeline to transform local news (Nieman Reports)

The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill offers pension relief to companies in industries from manufacturing to transportation to publishing, helping keep their retirement plans solvent. “No industry or retirees need help more urgently than America’s community newspapers, weighed down by underfunded pension liabilities,” writes Craig Forman, the former CEO of McClatchy. “By more than doubling the runway to make defined-benefit contributions and enhancing predicted investment yields, the legislation aims to keep these plans funded and away from federal takeover. If they succeed, this pension relief will be seen as a national investment in local democracy that may actually cost taxpayers nothing.” Had this legislation been in place 13 months ago, Forman writes, McClatchy “likely” would have been able to avoid declaring bankruptcy that resulted in its nearly 25,000 pensions being absorbed by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, and led to its being bought by hedge fund Chatham Asset Management.

+ Noted: Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri acquitted after trial stemming from her arrest while she was covering George Floyd protest (Des Moines Register); Introducing the 2021 Women’s Leadership Accelerator cohort, speakers and mentors (ONA); Local Media Association to support launch of The Tributary, a collaborative news startup in Jacksonville, Fla., “in an effort to inspire a business model for other journalists feeling the impact of layoffs and buyouts” (LMA)


To retain subscribers, The State sees the eEdition as a key product to increase loyalty (Better News)

To hold onto its loyal print subscribers, The State, based in Columbia, S.C., launched a campaign to get them to activate their digital access — which most were paying for but not using. The campaign focused particularly on the paper’s eEdition, which serves as a “natural print-to-digital bridge for someone who values holding the newspaper in their hands.” This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ Earlier: How to improve your digital products, including eEditions, while cutting back on print editions

+ API’s Metrics for News analytics platform is named as a finalist in INMA’s Global Media Awards in the category of “Best Data Dashboard” (INMA)


Why corrections are key to gaining trust (and how to do them better) (RTDNA)

A 2018 report by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that the two highest-rated factors that engender trust in the news media are “a commitment to accuracy (89%) and quickly and openly correcting mistakes (86%).” But it can be difficult for journalists to identify and respond to legitimate requests for corrections amidst the firehose of vitriol and harassment that is often directed at them online. A few tools are cropping up to help newsrooms with this problem, including VettNews Cx, which uses a small, embedded form at the bottom of each article to collect correction requests and make it easy for reporters and editors to respond to them. Carolyn Fox, senior deputy editor of engagement, sports and culture at the Tampa Bay Times, says that VettNews has helped them separate valid corrections requests from abuse. “It’s a pretty easy way to remove politics since you can just deal with corrections. We’re showing yes we may not always be set up to get everything right, but we have ways for you to get back to us.”

+ America Amplified introduces its community engagement playbook, with different pathways and tools for different newsroom roles (America Amplified)


‘Today in History’: how AI helps to monetize evergreen archive content at Ouest-France (Twipe)

Ouest-France, France’s largest newspaper, has a massive archive — more than 30 million articles. How could it tap that archive for a new daily feature called “Today in History,” which would resurface historical content relevant to the various regions and locales within the paper’s coverage area? Ouest-France turned to an artificial intelligence tool from Twipe that tags every article in its archive with a “content monetization predictive” score, which uses different customizable variables to determine articles’ evergreen value. The tool helped greatly narrow down the articles eligible for “Today in History,” making it easier for journalists to manually select some for republication. Republished articles have been shown to generate strong reader engagement, when well-selected and positioned within the news content of the day.

+ Earlier: How the Las Vegas Review-Journal turned its archival content into a narrative podcast on the city’s mob history (Better News)


Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Amazon won’t let you. (The Washington Post)

Since 2009, Amazon has published books and audiobooks under its own brands. It’s also the only big publisher that flat-out blocks library digital collections, writes Geoffrey A. Fowler. Amazon won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. “That’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own,” writes Fowler. In a 2019 testimony to Congress, the American Library Association called digital sales bans like Amazon’s “the worst obstacle for libraries” that are trying to move into the 21st century.


PBS could help rebuild trust in US media (Columbia Journalism Review)

In a survey of PBS viewers conducted in January, researchers at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University found that the political leanings of viewers range from extremely liberal to extremely conservative — a diversity in viewership that is rare in this age. This “suggests a potential role for PBS in improving trust in news and media and in reducing polarization,” researchers wrote. “Its tempered, fact-based, and perceived political neutrality may be a template to follow as American television news looks to reinvent itself in the wake of the 2016 and 2020 presidential election cycles.”


How student journalists can guard against burnout as they start their careers (Poynter)

Student and entry-level journalists are particularly vulnerable to burnout because they tend to see their jobs as a “proving ground,” says Anne Helen Petersen, author of the book “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.” (It’s also hard for them to protect themselves against something they haven’t experienced.) Young reporters can set healthy boundaries for themselves by trying “really hard to have open communication with your manager” and being clear about expectations for production and when you shouldn’t be working. “In personal experience,” she says, “a lot of the time the person setting these expectations for how much you should be working is yourself. Your managers would love for you to do a little less.”

+ Related: More businesses are trying co-CEO leadership models to help offset executive burnout (Digiday)