Need to Know: May 11, 2020

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


You might have heard: Public trust in journalists has been falling since the late 1970s (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Republicans and Democrats remain starkly divided in their attitudes toward journalists (Pew Research Center)

According to a Pew Research Center study, 59% of those surveyed last month said that news coverage on COVID-19 is providing the information they need, and about half said it has been accurate. However, political views impact Americans’ thoughts on pandemic coverage, as 66% of Democrats and just 31% of Republicans believe coronavirus news is accurate. The survey also found that 48% of Americans believe journalists will act in the public’s best interest, compared to 55% two years ago.

+ Noted: U.S. News & World Report does furloughs, following pay cuts (The Washington Post); Snopes accepted about $290,000 from the Paycheck Protection Plan loan program (Snopes); Rupert Murdoch to forgo cash bonus, while News Corp. CEO takes 25% of his (The Hollywood Reporter)


How the press and public can find common purpose

Journalism’s future depends on how Americans view its contribution to democracy and their communities. Our survey, conducted in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago, examined several data points around this issue, including how Americans feel about the accountability role of the press and their own ability to question political leaders and improve their communities.  


How 6AM City created a company-wide mentorship program for new hires that actually works (6 AM City)

As 6AM City expands its offering of hyper-local newsletters, its team has grown to almost 30 employees who serve about 1 million readers across seven markets. 6AM developed a mentorship program to help workers feel connected to each other and the company’s mission. For six weeks, new hires spend one hour per week in the program, which focuses on 6AM’s values through conversation with mentors from other markets. 

+ This three-part guide delves into user experience research and product development (Twitter, @lenfestinst) 


Critics say Canada’s government program to support local news favors old media (Nieman Lab)

Government support of journalism comes with a significant quandary – how to determine which news organizations receive assistance. Sweden’s program, for instance, reserves support for cities’ second most popular newspapers. Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative tasked nonprofits with awarding one-year grants to local newsrooms, and in its first round of awards, funding for reporting positions was given to 93 newspapers and 12 digital publications. Judges took into account things like the outlets’ editorial capacity and a track record of at least one year of uninterrupted publishing.


With work remote, companies consider whether they’re more productive (Digiday)

According to a Slack survey, about 1 in 3 people said working remotely had a negative impact on their productivity. One reason for this feeling may be changes to how we approach meetings. Research from productivity analytics firm Time is Ltd. found that workers are attending meetings more often, with more people and with shorter notice. “That’s a pretty hectic schedule,” Time is Ltd. CEO Jan Rezab said. “You might be able to keep it for a month or three but if you’re going to be keeping it long term that’s not healthy for you.”

+ How COVID-19 conspiracy theorists are exploiting YouTube culture (MIT Technology Review)


Instead of killing the U.S. postal system, let’s expand it (The Nation)

Many have argued for saving the struggling post office, but Victor Pickard thinks we should go further and expand it to play a role in local news ecosystems. In this vision, post offices could become weekly newspapers or provide other infrastructure to support access to reliable information. In 2005, the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center bought the post office building in downtown Urbana, Ill., and the space has been used as a hub for news outlets, public-access computers, a community data center and as a performance venue.

+ Laura McGann writes about Tara Reade and the standards that have been set for Me Too stories to withstand public scrutiny (Vox)


The animal fact checker (Columbia Journalism Review)

As an editor and reporter for National Geographic, Natasha Daly has investigated animal abuse in exotic-wildlife tourism and tigers and lions testing positive for COVID-19. Now, she’s begun a foray into debunking animal stories that are circulating among people hungry for positive news. That viral video of a Florida orangutan mimicking her caretakers’ frequent handwashing? Daly found the clip was filmed before coronavirus entered the United States. Claims about ducks in Rome’s fountains, dolphins in Venice and deer in India? False. Daly said that inaccurate stories about animals can negatively impact conservation efforts, and uncovering the truth is important “whether it’s something really high-stakes that affects people’s livelihood, or if it’s something that’s pretty low-stakes.”

+ Hearst Connecticut Media Group dedicates editions to exploring life after coronavirus (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers)