Need to Know: May 25, 2021

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: In the vast Mountain West, collaboration on radio news finds success (Nieman Lab) 

But did you know: How NPR and stations are working together to expand regional news (Current)

In February of 2020, NPR announced the creation of the Gulf States Newsroom, which would encourage collaboration between public radio stations in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Now, the newsroom has a managing editor and three reporters covering criminal justice, health care, and wealth and poverty. This has allowed the stations to dive into big stories like union organizing at Amazon warehouses. The Gulf States Newsroom is one of four regional journalism hubs created by NPR, each with a different editorial focus, but all successfully attracting donors. Kathy Goldgeier, NPR’s network hub content manager, said the different focuses of the stations were drawn from conversations with local stations about what they wanted to cover more. 

+ Noted: After AP employees wrote an open letter calling for answers on journalist’s firing, the company says it is reviewing its social media policies (Associated Press); Former Trump spokesman must pay $42,000 in legal fees to G/O Media after losing defamation suit (The Wrap); Experts raise concerns after Texas execution without media (AP)  

API UPDATE

How customer service can build trust and engagement with audiences

Customer service needs to be a bigger focus for news outlets, especially now that they are more reliant on consumer revenue. We look at how several news organizations have deployed creative strategies to raise the quality of their customer service.

+ Today at 1 p.m. ET: Join an hour-long National Press Club webinar, based on API research, on how to frame coverage in a way that doesn’t alienate mistrustful audiences (National Press Club)

TRY THIS AT HOME

How photographers and videographers at the Minneapolis Star Tribune got creative during the last year (Nieman Reports) 

While many in newsrooms retreated into remote work during the pandemic, photo and video journalists remained out on the streets. In Minneapolis, journalists at the Star Tribune captured the early days of the pandemic via balcony concerts, parking lot church services and drive-by birthday parties. After the killing of George Floyd, these same journalists worked to capture the sentiment of the protests. Deb Pastner, director of photo and video at the paper, said these challenges circumstances forced her team to get creative and make hard decisions — like the choice not to embed with the police during a protest, lest they look like mouthpieces for the force.  

+ Related: How local news organizations are taking steps to recover from a year of trauma (American Press Institute)

OFFSHORE

Local media in India have gone easy on Modi. That’s changing because of the pandemic. (CNN) 

As the COVID-19 crisis has swept over India, local news outlets have increasingly produced hard-hitting journalism that is critical of the government. While many of these outlets have been deferential to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his seven years in power, local newspapers are now increasingly questioning official pronouncements on pandemic numbers. One paper, Divya Bhaska, dug into data from local and regional governments to report on the increase in death counts from the previous year, despite the government’s assertions that there were very few COVID-related deaths. It’s unclear whether such boldness will benefit the news outlets by attracting support from readers, or hurt their chances of government ads in the future. 

+ Meet Roman Protasevich, the dissident journalist who Belarus diverted a Ryanair flight to arrest (CNN) 

OFFBEAT

Florida, in a first, will fine social media companies that bar candidates (The New York Times)

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has signed a law that will impose fines on social media companies who bar political candidates from the platform. The law is a direct response to Twitter and Facebook’s bans of former President Donald Trump, who is a Florida resident. It will also make it illegal for social media companies to ban news outlets from posting on the platforms, seemingly a response to when Facebook and Twitter curtailed The New York Post’s ability to distribute a controversial story about Hunter Biden during the election. The law would not allow bans on political candidates for more than 14 days or risk a fine of up to $250,000 per day. The law would require platforms to be clearer about how they decide what content is allowed, and will allow users to sue if they feel the rules are being inconsistently applied. Companies that own theme parks of more than 25 acres — such as Disney and Comcast — are exempt from the law. 

+ John Oliver tricked local news shows into promoting a bogus “sexual wellness blanket” he invented (Slate) 

UP FOR DEBATE

If media organizations produce solutions journalism, will they generate more revenue? (Medium, The Whole Story) 

For more than a year, Alec Saelens, manager of the Solutions Journalism Revenue Project at the Solutions Journalism Network, has worked with dozens of newsrooms to determine whether incorporating a solutions journalism approach could positively impact their revenue. He says that focusing on solutions journalism was particularly helpful when fundraising, as funders and sponsors are eager to support this approach to reporting. And for many newsrooms, revenue raised in relation to solutions journalism generally went to general operational and editorial costs, not specifically to solutions journalism projects. Anecdotal evidence has also found that solutions-oriented journalism can help draw in readers and convert them to subscribers. 

SHAREABLE

The funding challenges of launching a local digital news sites (Poynter)

There are at least 700 local digital news sites across the U.S. and Canada, and while many resources have emerged to support them, funding remains uneven and challenging to secure. In a survey of 250 sites, two-thirds were launched in part through the personal savings of the owners. Many founders eschew a salary entirely at first, making the profitability of the outlet difficult to sustain. And income worries are even higher for a site that is attempting to address a news desert; the 15% of outlets that launched in an area where a newspaper has closed earned “markedly less” revenue than other local digital outlets.