Need to Know: March 8, 2021

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


You might have heard: Traffic to news sites quadrupled on Election Day (Axios)

But did you know: Early Biden presidency receives less coverage than Trump’s (Axios)

According to data from the analytics company SimilarWeb, traffic at large news sites fell more than 20% from January to February, with political coverage alone dropping by 28%. At the same time, the amount of coverage newsrooms have given to Joe Biden during the early days of his presidency pales in comparison to that of Donald Trump. Social media tracking firm NewsWhip found that journalists wrote three times more stories about Trump in February 2017 than they did about Biden last month, and data from the Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer found that news programs discussed Biden for less than half of the time they gave Trump.

+ Noted: Michael Pack, former CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, signed a hefty, no-bid contract that paid a law firm millions to investigate his staff (NPR); New York Times columnist David Brooks resigned from the Aspen Institute and will remain a volunteer on the project (BuzzFeed News); Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry sued an Advocate/Times-Picayune reporter for seeking records on a sexual harassment investigation, prompting a judge to order him to release the materials (The Advocate)


Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus hotline connects readers with questions to reporters with answers

Reporters at the nonprofit news site Block Club Chicago had written thousands of stories about the coronavirus in Chicago and live-tweeted countless press conferences about it. They were sharing all they knew on the usual channels. But they wanted a more direct way to match readers with the information they needed. So with funding from the Facebook Journalism Project, they launched a free hotline that readers could call, text or email, and get their questions resolved by the editorial staff. Several months in, they’ve answered hundreds of questions from Chicagoans about testing, vaccinations, housing, unemployment and more.


How The Week Junior changed the bulk of its marketing plan during the pandemic (Digiday)

The Week planned to launch an American version of its children’s publication, The Week Junior, last spring, but the pandemic forced the news magazine to change its strategy at the last minute to adapt to the situation. Kerin O’Connor, CEO of The Week, said the publication had to lose most of its original marketing plan. Based on research on children and parents, the magazine moved away from a more “sophisticated” marketing approach and opted for one rooted in the value of encouraging children to read.

+ Where to find Federal Reserve research to add context to reporting and discover story ideas (Journalist’s Resource) 


In Zimbabwe, journalists are on the vaccine priority list (International Journalists’ Network)

A journalist was the first person known to have died of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, and the country has included about 2,500 journalists on its priority list for vaccine access. The decision stems from the view of journalists as frontline workers responsible for providing the public with reliable information on the illness and vaccines, while dispelling rumors and misinformation. Media advocacy organizations in Brazil, Peru and Uruguay are also calling for journalists to receive priority access to the vaccine.

+ This year, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro broke Facebook’s policy on false COVID-19 information at least 29 times without facing penalties from the social network (Folha de S.Paulo)


Data is great, but it’s not a replacement for talking to customers (Harvard Business Review)

Much like journalism’s emphasis on site analytics, many industries use customer data, including web browsing activity, social media use and purchasing patterns, to inform key decisions. However, customer data can be misleading. In a survey from business services company Deloitte, more than two-thirds of participants said that 50% or less of third-party data on them was correct. In addition to studying data, Graham Kenny writes that companies should also speak with clients to get useful, concrete feedback. Adobe product manager Elaine Chao said her company, which places an emphasis on listening to customers, tries “to focus on what customers want to accomplish, not necessarily how they want to accomplish it.”


Journalism is a public service. So why doesn’t it represent the public? (Poynter)

In a piece outlining the barriers low-income journalists face while trying to enter the field, Angela Yang argues that newsrooms with the means to afford it should only offer paid internships and recruiters should invest in applicants from community colleges and lesser-known state schools “because a shiny brand name is not the best determinant of ability.” Despite calls to bring more people of color into the industry, most newsrooms still don’t represent the communities they serve, which presents a missed opportunity. “A diverse staff that expands audiences could spell the future for journalism,” Yang writes.

+ Related: In the United Kingdom, Moya Lothian McLean writes that a start-up’s low-paying freelance fees are connected to “a lack of opportunity within the media industry that boils down to a failure — or deliberate unwillingness — from those holding the purse strings to invest in journalism and create a pluralist media from the ground up.” (gal-dem)


Why food bloggers write more than just recipes (CNN)

Although food bloggers have gotten a bad rap over the years for using a story-plus-recipe formula, this type of writing has evolved to focus more on the food itself. Lisa Lin of the blog Healthy Nibbles and Bits gives readers extra information on ingredients or how to get the perfect crispy tofu, while Clarke Buckley, who runs a diabetes-focused recipe site called Hangry Woman, uses posts to provide context on ingredient substitutions and to anticipate reader questions. Food bloggers also continue to preface recipes with stories as a way to share history and culture that are integral to understanding the dish and where it came from.

+ Earlier: Recipes can’t be copyrighted, so who owns them? (Eater)