Need to Know: March 30, 2021

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: A Washington Post reporter criticized the paper for banning her from covering #MeToo stories (Politico) 

But did you know: Washington Post reverses prohibition on reporter from writing about sexual assault (The Washington Post) 

After a public outcry over the weekend, the Washington Post reversed its ban on reporter Felicia Sonmez covering sexual misconduct. Sonmez had spoken publicly about being a survivor of sexual assault, and was told by editors during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that she could not cover him or any other stories concerning sexual assault or the #MeToo movement. Sonmez was also suspended after tweeting about rape allegations against Kobe Bryant in the hours after his death. Over the weekend, during a Zoom call where Post editors discussed how they defended another reporter suffering online harassment, Sonmez criticized her editors for not sufficiently defending her after the Bryant situation, a time when she received death threats. 

+ Noted: Indian Country Today, an online news publication and daily broadcaster covering tribes and Indigenous peoples, will now operate as an independent company (AP News); Florida investor commits $100 million toward potential bid for Tribune Publishing (Wall Street Journal) 

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TRY THIS AT HOME

Kansas City newspaper sends a warning with a blank front page (The Washington Post) 

Last week, editors at the Northeast News in Kansas City left the front page of the paper blank, a warning to readers to think about what would happen if the paper was forced to close. The 89-year-old weekly newspaper, which has a circulation of 8,500, has struggled since several local businesses pulled advertising at the beginning of the pandemic. The Northeast News is currently free, and its website does not have a paywall. The issue with the blank cover also included articles about the paper’s history and its financial troubles, which prompted an outpouring of support from readers and local businesses. The paper is now looking at a subscription model, and its publisher said it needs a regular stream of income in the next two months in order to survive. 

+ Earlier: Faced with plummeting ad revenue, The Day in New London, Conn., partnered with the Local Media Foundation to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support its COVID-19 coverage (Better News); How to talk to readers about the cost of your journalism (Trusting News)

+ Journalists should look into services to scrub personal information off the internet (Twitter, @Lyzl) 

OFFSHORE

How iFact is working toward sustainability in the Republic of Georgia (GIJN) 

Nino Bakradze and Nino Gagua started iFact, an online investigative media outlet, in 2016, when digital news was still scarce in Georgia. With funding from the Open Society Georgia Foundation, iFact launched its first investigation, which found that 62% of national reserve money, which was meant for emergencies, was being spent on other projects. The outlet, which is almost exclusively funded by grants, is looking to move to a subscription model, but has found that audiences in a country used to state-sponsored media are unwilling to pay for news. One fundraising campaign brought in $140, which was still enough to hire a social media specialist to improve their reach online. iFact has also started investigative training for journalists from other organizations. 

+ India’s news upstarts challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi. New rules could tame them. (The New York Times) 

OFFBEAT

How newsrooms are using Twitter’s conversations (Twitter) 

Twitter has rolled out its new “conversations” settings, which allow users to control who replies to tweets, and the platform has highlighted three newsrooms that are using the new feature to conduct interviews and host discussions. Reuters uses the settings to host #AskReuters series with Reuters journalists; then turns these questions into Moments that can be shared after the fact. Meet the Press hosts a weekly conversation with a journalist about the week’s issues, with replies limited to only the journalist mentioned in each tweet. And Axios used these settings to host a panel discussion, mixing text and video replies and pushing the discussion to all the panelists’ followers. 

UP FOR DEBATE

When journalists put tweets in news stories, do they transfer too much power to Twitter? (Nieman Lab)

It’s become more common to include embedded tweets in news stories, but a new study finds that journalists transfer some of their power to Twitter when they do this. The study’s authors, Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor, write that tweets are often presented as news content rather than as sources that need to be vetted. Molyneux and McGregor argue that audiences turn to journalists with the understanding that they are interrogating sources and verifying information. So when they include tweets, they lend their authority to these tweets, which gives all tweets a sheen of respectability and encourages more elites to use Twitter as an information platform, creating a feedback loop. 

+ Earlier: A 2018 study found that journalists who regularly used Twitter for reporting, or who had fewer years of experience in the field, deemed tweets “equally newsworthy as headlines appearing to be from the AP wire” (Columbia Journalism Review) 

SHAREABLE

What the media has learned since Columbine (The New York Times) 

In the 22 years since the shooting at Columbine High School, covering mass shootings has become almost routine for many journalists. But the media has learned a great deal since that tragedy, where coverage overwhelmingly focused on the shooters and their motives. Now, focus is mostly on the victims and their lives, and considerable thought is given to whether media coverage can inspire future killers. Journalists also say that they feel they can be vulnerable in covering these shootings. “It’s not an editorial position to be upset or angry at mass murder,” said NBC anchor Lester Holt.