Need to Know: May 18, 2020

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


You might have heard: 1 in 5 newsroom workers lives in New York, Los Angeles or D.C. (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: The pandemic got journalists out of New York and D.C. (CNN)

While newsrooms embrace working from home and some journalists in New York City and Washington, D.C., move to less congested cities, there remains a case for distributed newsrooms that burst media bubbles. Some newsrooms are already ahead of the curve, like ProPublica, which is based in New York but has journalists in Fort Worth, Seattle and other cities across the country. News nonprofit The 19th, which will launch later this year, is based in Austin and hiring journalists across the United States in an effort to bring “regionally diverse” voices to its coverage.

+ Noted: Readers have given more than 45 newsrooms $3.8 million through News Revenue Hub (News Revenue Hub); Economist Group lays off 90, with editorial not affected (Talking Biz News); Vice Media cuts 155 staffers, two-thirds of which worked overseas (The Wrap); Tribune Publishing and union agree to three-week furloughs for Chicago Tribune newsroom employees (Chicago Tribune)


Tips for getting revenue and long-term audience relationships from ‘the COVID-19 bounce’

Traffic, subscriptions and even donations to news organizations have climbed over the course of the pandemic. On April 30, API hosted a virtual summit on “Sustainability Through Listening: Reader Revenue in the Wake of COVID-19,” to discuss how news organizations are building relationships with these new audiences, and in doing so, laying the foundation for long-term support. Lizzy Hazeltine of the NC Local News Lab Fund and Ariel Zirulnick of the Membership Puzzle Project captured “back-of-the-napkin” tips for understanding and retaining pandemic-driven audiences, including how to adapt your onboarding process for these new readers, what to “ask” of your data on them and how to move them along to the “mid-funnel.” 

+ Related: The publisher subscription “corona bump” is flattening (Digiday)


Detroit Free Press partners with state archives to collect coronavirus stories (Detroit Free Press)

In this collaboration, the Free Press and the Michigan History Center are collecting (and sharing with each other) personal accounts from the pandemic. The Free Press is collecting recordings for an audio series called “We Lived It,” while also using stories from the project for articles. The Michigan History Center, which manages the Michigan History Museum System and state archives, also is posting the stories it collects online. “It’s storytelling at its best, and there is so much to be studied and learned when you look back on this period, say, 100 years from now,” Free Press editor Maryann Struman said of the project.

+ Lessons from COVID-19: News coverage doesn’t need to bleed to lead (Knight-Cronkite News Lab); A new project to bring newsrooms and communities together, during and after COVID-19 (Re:Engage)


Quebec newsroom launches co-op to fend off bankruptcy (International Journalists’ Network)

French-language Canadian daily newspaper Le Soleil gained 3,500 new subscribers by the end of April and doubled its readers during the pandemic with a new reader-first strategy. Last year, Le Soleil and five other French-language dailies owned by Groupe Capitales Médias formed the largest newsroom cooperative in Canada. Under the arrangement, 350 employees each gave 5% of their salaries to support the co-ops, and readers can also become co-op members.

+ Financial Times makes cuts to pay and use of freelancers (Press Gazette)


Google hides news, tricked by fake claims (The Wall Street Journal)

According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, since 2011, copyright claims have persuaded Google to stop listing in its search results hundreds of stories alleging wrongdoing. Individuals and companies, often using fake identities, made formal requests that Google take down the news stories and blog posts, but much of the removed material doesn’t appear to have legitimate copyright complaints. For example, a man accused of running a fake law firm falsely claimed posts airing allegations against him had been copied from his website, leading Google to scrub the pages.

+ Facebook is buying GIF platform Giphy for about $400 million (Axios)


Vice Media CEO slams Big Tech as ‘great threat to journalism’ in layoffs memo (CNBC)

As Vice Media laid off 155 workers, CEO Nancy Dubuc wrote in a memo that the company’s investment on the digital side has yielded a limited return due to tech companies. “Platforms are not just taking a larger slice of the pie, but almost the whole pie. … 36,000+ lost jobs in journalism is enough to take your breath away,” she wrote. By 2018, Google and Facebook had a combined 60 percent share of the U.S. online advertising market.


Amid cuts, sportswriters wonder what will be left of a storied profession (The Washington Post)

During the football season, half of the Charlotte Observer’s traffic came from Carolina Panthers coverage, and the Kansas City Star’s Super Bowl stories outpaced traffic the paper’s total first-quarter traffic goals. Readers love sports news, but during the pandemic, sports departments and publications, including Sports Illustrated and SB Nation, have been struck with furloughs and layoffs. In early March, sports journalists began losing access to athletes as they were restricted from locker rooms to protect players’ health, leading news outlets to wonder what reporting will look like when games resume.