Need to Know: May 18, 2023


You might have heard: The Messenger to launch May 15 with 150 journalists (Axios)

But did you know: No need to shoot The Messenger: Its muddled ideas are doing the job (Nieman Lab)

This week marked the launch of The Messenger, Jimmy Finkelstein’s news site with $50 million in funding that brands itself as impartial and non-partisan. Joshua Benton shares his first impressions of the site, including the mishmash of tabloid headlines alongside a softball interview with Trump, the overwhelmingly male bylines, and the roster of wealthy backers who advance conservative causes. Benton asks whether The Messenger will become part of the mainstream media or exist in a conservative bubble while using its claims of “balanced journalism” as a cudgel.  

+ Noted: Journalist resigns from board after PEN America cancels Russian writers panel (The New York Times); The Data Institute’s free, intensive workshop teaches journalists to use data, design and code (Center for Journalism and Democracy); Institute for Nonprofit News starts transition to new leadership (INN)


6 strategies for growing partnerships in the Black community from The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Use several approaches, including audience roundtables, mobile newsrooms and source audits, to rebuild trust and engage with the Black community, whose achievements have often been ignored or downplayed by local news organizations. The Fayetteville Observer built trust with Black residents by hosting a variety of in-person listening events, conducting a source audit, increasing diversity in its newsroom and meeting with leaders in the Black community. 

+ API’s Kevin Loker has been named a visiting fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at John Hopkins University, where he will explore the role of philanthropy and community donations in opinion journalism.

+ API’s digital session on burnout is today at 1 p.m. EDT. The event has reached capacity, but keep an eye out in this newsletter for insights discussed during the webinar. 


Advice for public radio stations: why we can’t keep treating digital members like radio listeners (Engagement at LAist) 

LAist, WBEZ, WBUR and MPR spent the last year participating in the Operationalizing Engaged Journalism cohort — supported by API and funded by the Knight Foundation — to explore how the public radio stations can grow their digital memberships. As radio audiences decline, public stations need to build out their digital following — and find new ways to fundraise online. Digital memberships require different offerings and strategies, and digital members or donors aren’t the same as radio members. For example, WBUR found that most newsletter subscribers donate within 100 days of subscribing — which was a departure from the traditional pledge drive conversion timeline.


BBC unveils Verify team of 60 journalists it says will be ‘transparency in action’ (Press Gazette)

A team of about 60 investigative journalists has its own place in BBC’s London newsroom to demonstrate to audiences how BBC journalists know what they are reporting is factual. BBC Verify is a new brand within BBC aimed at building audience trust and transparency by outlining the editorial tools and techniques BBC journalists use to investigate, source and verify content. The Verify team will work on a range of reporting, from breaking news to visuals and investigations. 


China shuts 100,000 fake news social media accounts, ramps up content cleanup (Reuters)

Over the past month, the ​​Cyberspace Administration of China has shut down about 107,000 online accounts it says have misrepresented news anchors and media agencies. It said the cleanup was part of  an effort to curb fake news and accounts that impersonate state-controlled media. The administration said it focused on accounts that used fake broadcast studio backdrops and AI to imitate professional news presenters and comment on social incidents and international affairs. 


How you want me to cover artificial intelligence (Platformer)

Casey Newton, who writes the newsletter Platformer, asked readers to share how they’d like to see artificial intelligence covered. Newton used the feedback to develop a set of principles for his AI coverage, starting with being specific about the types of AI tools he writes about, since each has its own risks and benefits. Readers also asked for fewer predictions and more coverage of developments, a focus on the people building AI systems as well as those affected by the technology, strategic takes on AI products, and an emphasis on the tradeoffs involved. 


New report documents the current state of New Jersey’s ethnic and community media (Center for Cooperative Media)

Almost 10 years after the Center for Cooperative Media started fostering relationships with New Jersey’s ethnic and community media organizations, a new report finds that these news outlets are booming — and are instrumental in filling the local news void as New Jersey becomes a majority non-white state. The Center’s report identifies more than 140 ethnic and community media outlets — an increase of 15% since 2019 — that report in more than 15 languages. About 85% of these organizations report in a language other than English, and 10% of ethnic news outlets received advertising from state agencies.