Need to Know: May 18, 2021


You might have heard: Trust in traditional media declined to an all-time low in January (Axios) 

But did you know: More Americans now see the media’s influence growing compared with a year ago (Pew Research) 

A new study from Pew Research finds that Americans are now more likely to say that the media’s influence is growing than declining. In the survey, 41% of respondents said that media influence is growing, while 33% say it is declining. In 2020, it was the opposite — 48% said that media influence was declining, and 32% said it was growing. People with a higher trust in media — specifically in political news from national news organizations — were more likely to see the media’s influence as growing, while those with less trust were more likely to see it as waning. In a racial breakdown, Black Americans were most likely to see the media’s influence growing, while white Americans were more likely to see it declining. 

+ Noted: Orlando Sentinel staffers and supporters rally against Alden Capital’s bid to buy Tribune papers (Orlando Sentinel); AT&T to spin off and combine WarnerMedia with Discovery in deal that would create streaming giant; deal would include CNN (CNN); ElectionSOS offers extremism coverage prep with concrete guidance for newsrooms (ElectionSOS); New York Public Radio’s ‘On The Media’ co-host Bob Garfield is fired over bullying complaints (Gothamist)


Podcast: Las Vegas Review-Journal bets big on ‘Mobbed Up’ podcast (It’s All Journalism)

In 2020, the Las Vegas Review-Journal launched “Mobbed Up,” an 11-part podcast series examining the role organized crime played in the rise of Las Vegas. The idea behind “Mobbed Up” was to grow audience and revenue for the paper. As the podcast’s creators put the finishing touches on its upcoming second season, Jim Prather, the Review-Journal’s executive director of programming, spoke to IAJ host Michael O’Connell. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Table Stakes newsroom training program.

+ Earlier: How the Las Vegas Review-Journal partnered with a local museum to create the “Mobbed Up” podcast (Better News)


Journalism at your service: How newsrooms help readers with their everyday lives (Medill Local News Initiative) 

Many local newsrooms are expanding their reach into the community by helping readers connect with useful resources. Service journalism used to be thought of as less serious, says Megan Griffith-Greene, a senior editor of service features at The Philadelphia Inquirer, but it has increasingly been embraced and expanded through modern technology. Examples include Block Club Chicago’s hotline for COVID-19 questions, El Tímpano’s two-way messaging service in Spanish, and Outlier Media’s automated text messaging program. 

+ Earlier: How to apply a service journalism approach to every beat (American Press Institute)


South African journalists push for the formation of a Media Sustainability Fund (Medium, Jamlab) 

At a recent Media Ethics and Credibility Conference in South Africa, journalists and media stakeholders produced a report on the future of media sustainability and access to public interest journalism. One of the top priorities in the report is the creation of a media sustainability fund, which would “support the development, sustainability and independence of public interest media.” It would provide grants and loans to organizations, promote low-cost and free training for young journalists, and “strengthen the mandate” of media regulatory bodies. Sources of funding could include government allocations, broadcaster fees, social media taxes, contributions from private organizations and philanthropic funding.  


To navigate the dangers of the web, you need critical thinking — but also critical ignoring (The Conversation) 

Learning to parse information on the internet requires both careful reading and studious ignoring, writes Sam Wineburg, a professor at Stanford University. In a study about assessing digital sources, students were asked to evaluate a website about climate change and determine whether it was reliable. Most students did not leave the page itself, but read carefully — as they were taught in school —  to evaluate the information. Only the students who left the site and searched the broader web discovered connections between the site and the fossil fuel industry. Wineburg writes that students need to be taught to think like fact-checkers to fight the spread of misinformation. 

+ Related: Just 12 people are behind most vaccine hoaxes on social media, research shows (NPR) 


Republicans upset about Facebook should save press (The Seattle Times) 

Republicans in Congress who are upset with free speech issues on social media should be more concerned with supporting independent local media, argues Seattle Times Free Press Editor Brier Dudley in an opinion piece. He argues that social media platforms like Facebook have become so powerful in part because local media has diminished so much, leaving many people with no other option for local news. He mentions the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would allow publishers to collectively negotiate with tech companies, and the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which would offer tax credits for subscribing to or advertising in local news. 


There can be no free press unless journalists are able to do their jobs safely (Poynter) 

In recognition of both World Press Freedom Day and Mental Health Awareness Month, Hannah Storm writes that a free press requires journalists who are not just physically safe, but mentally supported as well. The news industry often normalizes stressful, adrenaline-fueled experiences, and there is a culture that can make it hard to admit vulnerability. But journalists can look to the tools surrounding hostile environments like war and disaster — such as risk assessments, training, before-and-after support — and apply them to their daily struggles with mental health. “There are differences between situations of acute and life-threatening violence … and the insidious, chronic, drip-drip effect of trauma and stress,” writes Storm. “But they are not mutually exclusive. In today’s media industry, we need to consider both.”

+ Related: USC’s Student Journalism Wellness Project offers a new resource for emerging reporters (Poynter)