Need to Know: May 19, 2023


Journalism’s reckoning with AI continued on several fronts this week. At a hearing Tuesday, one senator questioned whether technologies like ChatGPT will simply use journalists’ work without compensating them. ChatGPT’s chief responded that it’s “critically important” for AI to help preserve local news, though he did not offer details. Meanwhile, publishers at an industry gathering in London said that generative AI should not send the media into a panic, and instead should be seen as a useful productivity tool for newsrooms. The Radio Television Digital News Association issued guidelines for the use of AI in journalism. Woodward and Bernstein weighed in on the topic, too. (The Washington Post, Press Gazette, RTDNA, BBC)


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week. 

No need to shoot The Messenger: Its muddled ideas are doing the job. Joshua Benton shares his first impressions of the site: A mishmash of tabloid headlines, a softball interview with Trump, overwhelmingly male bylines, and a roster of wealthy backers who advance conservative causes. (Nieman Lab)

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s operations were disrupted by a cyber incident. The Inquirer was forced to shut its office for several days after an apparent cyberattack. Experts said that while cyberattacks are becoming a larger threat for all organizations, news outlets may be a particular target of those who seek to embarrass them, access confidential information, spread disinformation or merely wreak havoc. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Poynter announces the 27 newsrooms accepted into Transforming Crime Reporting Into Public Safety Journalism. The program will help newsrooms rethink their crime reporting by examining existing reporting, building a mission for public safety journalism, writing new policies and training newsroom staff. (Poynter) 


Trust tip: Build trust while covering rural communities (Trusting News) 

Journalists need to earn the right to tell the stories of rural communities by showing that they are committed to understanding where those stories are coming from, writes Trusting News’ Joy Mayer. She offers three ways journalists can win rural communities’ trust. Among them: recognize that you’re part of “the media” even if you work for a local news outlet. When you ask for an interview, explain what kind of story you’re trying to tell and how you’ll work to get it right.  

API’s Kevin Loker named visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s SNF Agora Institute 

API’s Kevin Loker has been named a visiting fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where he will explore the role of philanthropy and community donations in opinion journalism. Kevin, our director of strategic partnerships and research, has been at the forefront of API’s efforts to think through how news organizations can reimagine their local opinion journalism to promote healthier civic discourse.

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. 

SPECIAL EDITION: Transitioning to GA4

Each Monday, Need to Know shares a special edition series focusing on top issues impacting today’s newsrooms. This month we’re featuring a four-part series from API Newsroom Success Manager Shay Totten on tips to ensure your migration to Google Analytics 4 is successful and relatively painless — well before the July 1 deadline. 

How to set up events, tracking and reports

One of the main issues we’ve heard from newsrooms transitioning to Google Analytics 4 is that the ways to filter and group data about people visiting your website or app is like learning a new language. 

There are some key changes in GA4 that will make direct comparisons to Universal Analytics data tricky, if not impossible in some instances. That means <<groan>> most newsrooms are going to lose about a year’s worth of comparative data. That is, unless you are one of the rare newsrooms who set up a GA4 instance last year and have a stockpile of data. If you did that, pat yourself on the back, and may all your performance reviews be glowing.

+ Events are the foundation of Google Analytics data, triggered by user interactions on your website. 

  • Automatically collected events are default and collected no matter what.
  • Enhanced measurement events are default, but you can opt out.
  • Recommended events are not out-of-the-box ready, but they’re a good starting point to tailor further to your website.
  • Custom events are completely from scratch.

To dig deeper and read Shay’s FAQ on GA4, read the whole installment. 

Coming on Monday: A closer look at GA4 Reports.


+ How a Chicago-area journalist helped prove an unassuming wristwatch once belonged to China’s last emperor (Chicago Sun-Times)

+ Bye, Mister: Why (most) journalists turned against courtesy titles (The Washington Post)

+ Can giant surveys of scientists fight misinformation on COVID, climate change and more? (Nature)

+ ‘Find love’: Q&A with Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist Maria Ressa (The Vanderbilt Hustler)