Need to Know: November 1, 2021


You might have heard: What journalist Casey Newton learned from a year on Substack (The Platformer)

But did you know: More journalists are venturing beyond their newsrooms to try to cash in (The Wall Street Journal)

The newsletter boom, fed by platforms like Substack and Facebook’s Bulletin, is tempting high-profile journalists to leave their newsroom jobs with the promise of potentially higher earnings and greater editorial autonomy. Other journalists are exploring avenues beyond newsletters, including podcasts and selling film rights to their reporting. In some cases, these journalists become direct competitors with their former employers, who are also experimenting more with newsletters and podcasts. For lesser-known journalists, earning a sustainable income via these alternative routes could take years, especially given the increasingly crowded landscape, writes Benjamin Mullin. “Journalists who decide to strike out on their own face plenty of risks, from losing the editing, legal support and clout of an established newsroom to becoming drowned out by a growing number of independent writers.”

+ Earlier: The Atlantic wants to hire newsletter writers — and it wants their subscribers, too (Vox)

+ Noted: Funders pledge $3.8 million to match individual donations to NewsMatch 2021 (Institute for Nonprofit News); Hearst Connecticut Media is hosting a virtual career fair on Nov. 10 (Hearst Connecticut Media)


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Want to be a collaborative manager? Check out this playbook. (Center for Cooperative Media)

The rise in journalism collaborations means that there is also a growing need for people who can manage those collaborations and oversee their day-to-day operations. The Center for Cooperative Media has created a Project Manager Playbook for Collaborative Journalism to help formally define that role. It includes sample job descriptions and key characteristics. “Whether you are a mid-career journalist looking for a new way to use your industry skills and experience or you are a journalism student considering your potential place in the field, this playbook is for you,” writes Caroline Porter. “If you do not fit into either of those categories, this playbook is also for you” — the role of a collaborative manager can also draw upon skills from civics, the arts and nonprofit management.


BBC to appoint external impartiality investigators (The Guardian)

The BBC will appoint external investigators to assess the impartiality of its coverage of polarizing issues, Director General Tim Davie announced Friday. All areas of the BBC’s output, not just the news division, will be required to show they are representing a broad range of ideologies and voices in their content. The BBC said the new impartiality assessment process would challenge “underlying assumptions and groupthink” in the organization, which has been criticized for being London-centric and leaning liberal in its coverage. Whom the BBC selects to lead the impartiality assessments will likely come under intense scrutiny to determine whether they have any political connections, writes Jim Waterson.


The Information amps up creator economy coverage spurred by demand (AdWeek)

Coverage of the creator economy has proven to be a highly lucrative beat for The Information, generating six-figure revenues for both subscriptions and advertising for the tech news site. The Information launched a newsletter in April covering the tech companies and people working in the creator economy, and it also maintains a proprietary Creator Economy Database, which contains subscribers-only information on more than 100 creator-centric startups. Today it is also hosting its first-ever virtual Creator Economy Summit. “The Information really focuses on the under-covered topics that are going to have the biggest impact in business,” general manager of consumer business Sam Rosen told Adweek. “We found that there was a lack of content on the creator economy, and that people are really hungry for it.”


Is there a better way to tell protest stories? (Center for Media Engagement)

Protest coverage often casts protesters and their causes in a negative light, particularly when covering underrepresented groups. A new survey by the Center for Media Engagement showed that stories that legitimize protests can result in more positive attitudes toward the protest and the protesters. It also found that including humanizing details about the people whose death sparked protests led audiences to adopt more positive attitudes toward the protest and the protesters. However, while humanizing details led more Democrats and those with left-leaning views to consider the coverage as more credible, it had the opposite effect for many Republicans and those who lean right.


Why The New York Times is tapping artists as part of a paid newsletter strategy (Digiday)

Starting with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, the Times Opinion section is engaging musicians, novelists and artists to provide commentary for its paid subscriber newsletters. It’s part of a larger experiment to see what resonates with readers and helps retain subscribers, says Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury. “We are doing short-term residencies where we bring someone’s voice in for a limited amount of time,” she told Digiday. “We’ll do it once or twice a year. It takes a lot of work to find the right person, when you’re talking to people who aren’t professional writers.” Bringing in contributors like Morello can bring fresh context to current debates, she added. “We are choosing people because they have something important to say about conversations we are having today as a society right now, or conversations we want to start. That’s how we think about opinion journalism at the Times generally.”