Need to Know: May 19, 2020


You might have heard: Seven in 10 U.S. adults say they need a break from COVID-19 news (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Initial surge in news use around coronavirus in the U.K. has been followed by significant increase in news avoidance (Reuters Institute)

More than half of Brits (59%) say they sometimes actively avoid the news, with 22% say they are always or often actively avoiding it. The vast majority (86%) say they are trying to avoid COVID-19 news, mostly because they are worried about the effect it will have on their health, although several people said the news had become too repetitive. Women are more likely to avoid the news than men, and young people are more likely than older people.

+ Noted: Community Listening and Engagement Fund announces grants to 20 local newsrooms to support coverage of COVID-19 (Lenfest Institute); Insiders speculate that the National Enquirer is in a “death spiral” (The Daily Beast)


How COVID-19 is reshaping grantmaking and what news organizations should know

In a precarious time for newsroom finances everywhere, foundations are opening their coffers, and there are opportunities for news organizations to expand their grant searching to include funders who don’t traditionally support journalism. Organizations focusing on community impact and equity are increasingly seeing the value of local news, writes Lizzy Hazeltine for API, and news outlets that can prove they walk the walk when it comes to equity and inclusion will appeal to community-oriented grantmakers.


A journalist’s guide to using Zoom for community engagement (Medium, Cortico)

Since the pandemic made in-person meetings an impossibility, the Local Voices Network has hosted dozens of small group conversations over Zoom. The group, which began 2020 focused on helping communities increase census outreach, has put together a guide to using virtual meetings to build trust and grow engagement, even with people who may never have been able to attend live events. Tips include assigning hosts and co-hosts, using chat functions and break rooms, and making sure people feel oriented and comfortable in the digital space.


After two decades of losses, French left-wing daily Libération pivots to nonprofit status (Digiday)

Libération, the leftie French newspaper founded by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, has not been profitable since 1998. Now the paper’s owner, French telecoms company Altice, is creating an endowment fund and will cover the paper’s €50 million of debt, transitioning the paper to nonprofit status. The move will allow the paper to receive donations, and all profits will be given to charities like Reporters Without Borders. The paper is already subsidized by the French government, receiving about €6.5 million in direct aid in 2015.

+ More than 150 Australian newsrooms shut since January 2019 as COVID-19 deepens media crisis (The Guardian)


CNBC reporter shows how easy it is for plagiarized news sites to get ad revenue — by making her own (CNBC)

In the past few years, fraudulent ad-supported websites that steal content from legitimate publishers have become a profitable sub-industry. To prove how easy the process has become, Megan Graham, a reporter at CNBC, spent a few hours setting up a WordPress site that scraped articles from her employer. She then applied to programmatic ad tech partners, and was instantly approved. Even some companies that claimed to have strict filters in place to detect copyright fraud let her sign up immediately.

+ Ken Schwencke at ProPublica suggests that American Express add a credit card benefit to reimburse customers for local news subscriptions like it does for streaming services (Twitter, @Schwanksta)


The answer to the media industry’s woes may be publicly owned newspapers (The Washington Post)

The Los Angeles Municipal News was a government-backed newspaper, launched in 1912 with a circulation of 60,000. A $36,000 subsidy was given to the paper, and three citizen volunteers were chosen to oversee it. The paper, which was distributed for free around the city, was a short-lived experiment — voters defunded it in 1913 after private publishers launched a campaign against it — but Victor Pickard for the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication says it’s an idea worth revisiting.


Maybe it’s time to retire the idea of ‘going viral’ (MIT Technology Review)

In the midst of a global pandemic, the phrase “going viral” no longer has the same positive connotations it did a few months ago. Uses of the word “viral” to refer to popular internet content have dropped off, while its use to refer to literal viruses has exploded. Whitney Phillips, who studies misinformation at Syracuse, says that using the term “viral” to describe popular internet content should be done more carefully. Journalists, she said, tend to talk about misinformation spreading across the internet without acknowledging their role in the spread. “If you’re writing a story about a particular disinformation campaign, you become a carrier for that virus,” Phillips said.