Need to Know: May 21, 2020


You might have heard: Coronavirus climbs up keyword block lists, squeezing news publishers’ programmatic revenues (Digiday)

But did you know: News publishers are trying to emphasize good news to lure back coronavirus-weary advertisers (Digiday)

Some news outlets are starting to successfully attract their estranged advertisers by focusing on stories on civic, economic and public recovery, reports Max Willens. And they’re finding creative ways to serve their audiences at the same time. The Boston Globe, for example, found a sponsor for a private Slack channel it built to help small business owners share information and get answers to financial aid questions. NowThis News has attracted several sponsors for its video series “In This Together,” which highlights resourceful ways individuals are coping with the pandemic. And later this month, Gannett will launch an ad-supported editorial project across its USA Today Network that explores the recovery of the American economy at both the national and the local level.

+ Noted: Today Tribune Publishing will hold its annual shareholder meeting, at which hedge fund Alden Global Capital is expected to consolidate its control over the company and usher in more newsroom cuts (NPR); The coronavirus has closed more than 25 local newsrooms across America … and counting (Poynter)


How the Detroit Free Press uses an annual impact report to show how its journalism drives change (Better News)

Inspired by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Detroit Free Press published its first community impact report to show its readers — and funders — how its journalism drives social change and makes Detroit a better place to live. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


How to turn off when the news never stops (RTDNA)

Even when journalists are technically off the clock, they’re often still “on” — checking social media, work email and Slack updates. If you can’t fully unplug, then try to be strategic about your “off-the-clock” check-ins, suggests Karen Hansen, communications director for RTDNA. Have a specific reason for checking in, don’t just start scrolling. “Set tasks and goals for what you need to know and do to stay in the loop,” Hansen writes. “Is that getting a recap of the governor’s latest press conference? Checking for updated COVID case numbers? Be specific about what you need to accomplish. Once you’ve checked those boxes, if you’re not on the clock, log off.”


An army of volunteer ‘elves’ fights disinfo in the Czech Republic (Coda Story)

It’s unclear why they call themselves elves, but the group of Czech citizens has set themselves a very unmagical task: rooting out anti-Western Russian propaganda that appears on Czech social networks and websites. They also identify and debunk chain emails with misleading or false information, which researchers have flagged as key carriers of misinformation, especially among Czechs older than 65. The Elves partnered with the Czech Red Cross to raise awareness among seniors, sending out counter blasts of emails filled with accurate and reliable information on the COVID-19 crisis.


Researchers say nearly half of accounts tweeting about coronavirus are likely bots (NPR)

Culling through more than 200 million tweets about coronavirus, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that about 45% were likely sent by robotized accounts. Among the misinformation disseminated by these accounts — which are likely run by Russian or Chinese propaganda arms, although the researchers say they can’t prove that yet — are conspiracy theories about hospitals being filled with mannequins, or false claims that coronavirus is spread by 5G wireless towers.

+ Earlier: Twitter is making an effort to label misleading, disputed or unverified tweets about the coronavirus (NPR)


A government fund to help journalism … that wouldn’t corrupt journalism (Poynter)

Steve Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America, suggests creating a “Supersized NewsMatch” in which Congress would pay a one-time lump sum into an endowment fund, which would then be used to dramatically amplify donations made to local newsrooms through an annual fundraising campaign. The money could come from the $5 billion fee with which the Federal Trade Commission recently slapped Facebook, which “would throw off $250 million a year, more than what the Corporation for Public Broadcasting spends on local news,” Waldman writes.


How we organized one of the largest virtual U.S. journalism events to date (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)

The Center for Cooperative Media already had 75% of its planning completed for its annual Collaborative Journalism Summit, to take place May 14-15 in Charlotte, N.C. But when COVID-19 struck, the group was forced to move the summit online. It waived registration fees — and registrations shot through the roof, topping out at nearly 750, when the in-person gathering usually attracts around 150 attendees. Stefanie Murray and Joe Amditis walk through the team’s preparations for the virtual summit, and how it pulled off a polished, engaging conference for so many.

+ Did you miss the Collaborative Journalism Summit? Here’s an excellent recap. (Local News Lab)