Need to Know: March 8, 2023


You might have heard: In 2019, Gannett and GateHouse combined to become the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. (Axios) 

But did you know: Gannett shed nearly half its workforce since GateHouse merger (Axios) 

After Ganett and GateHouse merged in 2019, there were 21,255 employees at the newly combined company. Now, Gannett is down to 11,200, only 562 more than the 10,638 employees that Gannett had before the merger. The newspaper chain has also dropped 117 local news websites and 127 weekly newspapers. In an earnings call, CEO Mike Reed said that the company is looking to focus on fewer publications and “would entertain bids on any of our markets.” 

+ Noted: CNET hits staff with layoffs after disastrous pivot to AI journalism (Futurism); Amazon sold close to $40bn of advertising last year, bigger than the entire global newspaper industry (Benedict Evans); Vox retires Recode and The Goods branding, absorbs into technology and culture coverage (Vox); The Week alums launch climate news startup with $4M Series A funding (Axios)  


IWMF and API partner on online violence training and resources for newsrooms 

The International Women’s Media Foundation and API are pleased to announce a new partnership providing holistic training and education on online violence. As online attacks against journalists continue to threaten press freedom and journalists’ wellbeing, the organizations will collaborate to bolster digital safety in the news media.

The partnership will build on the IWMF’s unique model of identity-conscious digital safety support by offering ongoing training to combat violence to news organizations in API programs, including alumni of The Table Stakes Local News Transformation program and participants in the Source Matters diversity tracking cohort. Led by digital safety expert Ela Stapley, these sessions will work to improve the policies of API’s news partners in addressing online attacks, as well as help implement mental health and trauma response protocols for staff experiencing abuse online. 

Trust Tip: On-air transparency can help you explain ethical decisions (including how you minimize harm) (Trusting News) 

The ABC10 team in Sacramento recently added transparency around their reporting process and their ethics into an on-air story. During the TV story, anchor Alex Bell explains how the station discussed and debated the handling of police body cam video showing a man who was injured while being taken into police custody. Bell uses the word “transparency” while explaining how she and her coworkers debated whether airing the complete video was appropriate. She also specifically mentions who they consulted before making this decision: their internal race and culture team and mental health experts.

This is a great example of how a newsroom can inject transparency into daily coverage. Remember: People don’t automatically assume your newsroom has firm ethical foundations or cares about being thoughtful with coverage. (Usually, it’s the opposite.) That’s why it’s important to tell them you do! 


How Grist launched a reader-inspired climate book club (Grist) 

After engaging with readers of its newsletter Looking Forward, climate-focused news outlet Grist realized that its audience turned to books to give them hope. So the Looking Forward book club was created as a perk for newsletter subscribers. Readers recommended and voted on the first two books, with 30 people participating in the first book club and 45 in the second. The books’ authors appeared for a Q&A at the beginning, followed by breakout rooms where subscribers were encouraged to participate whether they’d read the book or not. The goal is to host a quarterly book club, as well as to partner with other science-oriented news outlets for joint book club events. 


Ukraine’s reporters adapt amid media restrictions and pressure of war (The Guardian) 

Journalists in Ukraine have begun reporting on corruption in the military after initially stepping back from anything critical of leadership during the early days of the war with Russia. When Yuriy Nikolov was leaked evidence that the military was paying extremely high prices for food, he initially sat on the story for fear of hurting the war effort. But he came to realize that it was more important to share the story, since the misuse of funds could in the long run contribute to Ukraine losing the war. Journalists are still required to follow strict wartime media restrictions, including not reporting on troop movement or battles or publishing any pro-Russia propaganda. 

+ Related: How Russian journalists in exile are covering the war in Ukraine (The New Yorker) 


The media is, again, normalizing Trump (The Washington Post) 

Over the weekend, former President Trump gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he claimed, among other things, that President Biden has taken down the border wall and hidden it. Jennifer Rubin argues that the media normalized Trump’s comments in an irresponsible manner. “From the coverage, you would never understand how incoherent he sounds, how far divorced his statements are from reality, and how entirely abnormal this all is,” Rubin writes. “Talk about burying the lead.” 


How does a news organization succeed in 2023? One word: Retention. (Poynter) 

Retaining subscribers is key to succeeding in an economic downturn, writes David Cohn. A recent survey found that nearly one quarter of people who recently unsubscribed from a publication said they did so because they weren’t using it enough. News outlets need to focus on the onboarding experience of new subscribers to make sure that their audience can develop a habit and find value in the work that they do. This means offering various products, providing a sense of community and finding tactics to reward audience loyalty.