Need to Know: May 23, 2019

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism


You might have heard: 8 states have passed bills to limit abortions this year (New York Times)

But did you know: Abortion ban coverage sows confusion (Columbia Journalism Review)

National news coverage of the restrictive abortion bills recently passed in Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and Georgia have created confusion over what remains legal in those states and when the new laws go into effect, writes Alexandria Neason. Journalists working on the motherhood beat also say that abortion gets outsized attention, sometimes at the expense of other related concerns of women’s and reproductive health, including reporting on trans and non-binary people who can become pregnant. In the past several years, a wave of major reporting projects has highlighted the damning maternal and infant mortality records of the same states that have been pushing abortion bans — but the attention these issues have received from the national media is miniscule compared to abortion. Ongoing coverage of women’s health is often disconnected from stories about abortion, says Anna Claire Vollers, who covers maternal health for Alabama Media Group. “When you lump abortion in with literally anything else, you’re automatically closing the ears of a large chunk of our population.”

+ Noted: A handful of local foundations, along with Report for America and the Solutions Journalism Network, are commiting $660k to a journalism collaboration across the Mountain West (Nieman Lab); Cost-slashing Digital First Media to buy bankrupt Reading Eagle (; Veteran McClatchy editor Kristin Roberts will be the first woman to lead the company’s news division (Sacramento Bee)


Simple efforts to build trust (that you’re probably not making) (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

We know from multiple studies on trust in news that accuracy and transparency are top factors that help audiences decide whether a news outlet is credible. Yet few of the news organizations in a random sample taken by researcher Taylor Gion had accuracy statements explaining how they verify information, and none offered accessible and meaningful information about their ownership — a transparency element that can particularly impact audience trust. Less than half had clear and easy-to-find contact information for their reporters and other staff.

+ Related: Your “About Us” page should cover — or link to — all this information and more. Here are some tips for doing yours right. (Poynter); The comprehensive resource (plus free coaching!) on building trust (Trusting News)


Far-right EU disinformation networks reach millions of Europeans as elections kick off (TechCrunch)

A multi-month hunt for political disinformation on Facebook suggests there are concerted efforts to use the platform to spread far-right propaganda to millions of European voters ahead of this week’s elections. Following the independent investigation by campaign group Avaaz, Facebook has taken down a total of 77 pages and 230 accounts from Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain and Poland — which had been followed by an estimated 32 million people. “The results are overwhelming: the disinformation networks upon which Facebook acted had more interactions (13 million) in the past three months than the main party pages of the League, AfD, VOX,  Brexit Party, Rassemblement National and PiS combined (9 million),” reads Avaaz’s report.


Do men know more about salaries? (MIT Sloan Management Review)

When it comes to salary transparency, one widely held belief is that women have a harder time collecting salary information than men. Some evidence supports this; while other research suggests that there is no significant difference across gender when it comes to being equally informed about salaries. However, it does appear that women are less confident than male employees in their ability to guess the salaries of their peers. If that’s the case, it’s plausible that women are not taking full advantage of the information they do have; a factor that could aggravate the gender pay gap, write Zoë Cullen and Ricardo Perez-Truglia.  


How to deal with obstructive public information officers? Challenge them. (Columbia Journalism Review)

In a 2014 survey of political and general assignment reporters, the majority said that the amount of control exerted by PIOs had been increasing, limiting their access to sources and shaping news coverage to a greater extent than previously. While not every PIO works to obstruct journalists, the outnumbering of journalists by public relations officers by a ratio of 6:1 means that even a small number of bad actors can have a suffocating effect on the press, writes Cinnamon Janzer. Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, advises journalists to get a written copy of the uncooperative agency’s media policy and note whose signature is on it, as PIOs often have little or no authority themselves to enforce the policies they write. In the meantime, journalists should be writing about about obstruction by PIOs directly. “You have to call it what it is and tell the public what happened,” said journalist Carolyn Carlson.


Behind the success of The Seattle Times’ Morning Brief newsletter (Poynter)

Last year the Seattle Times’ daily morning newsletter converted 2,000 readers into digital subscribers, amounting to 8% of all new subscriptions in 2018, and generated $400,000 in profit. At last count, it reaches about 220,000 readers every weekday. A key to the Morning Brief’s success is being useful to readers “in the moment,” said lead writer and editor Kris Higginson. She cited one example when the Morning Brief team published a survival guide to Memorial Day traffic that told readers the best and worst times to be on the road. “It went crazy! People want help navigating their lives. We are most successful when we can we be immediately useful to people.”

+ How The Advocate conquered New Orleans (and most of the rest of Louisiana, too) (Poynter)