Need to Know: November 22, 2021

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


You might have heard: Some journalists have tightened their digital safety habits due to surveillance concerns (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

But did you know: Hackers broke into newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises ahead of 2020 election (The Wall Street Journal)

Iranian hackers broke into Lee Enterprises’ computer systems to test how to create false content during a disinformation campaign centered around the 2020 election. Last week, two Iranian nationals, whom the Treasury Department described as “state-sponsored actors,” received charges stemming from attempts to intimidate voters and interfere with the election. Hackers targeting media companies to spread election disinformation has been a longstanding concern of cybersecurity experts, and state election officials have recommended voters get results from official tabulations instead of media reports because of the potential for inaccurate information and tampering.

+ Noted: WNYC retracts four articles from its site and Gothamist (The New York Times); The 19th is creating a fellowship program for recent HBCU graduates and alums (The 19th); Axios Local expands to 11 new cities (Adweek)


How one local news outlet created a topic-specific hotline for readers to call

Reporters at the nonprofit news site Block Club Chicago had written thousands of stories about the coronavirus in Chicago and live-tweeted countless press conferences about it. They were sharing all they knew on the usual channels. But they wanted a more direct way to match readers with the information they needed. So with funding from the Facebook Journalism Project, they launched a free hotline that readers could call, text or email, and get their questions resolved by the editorial staff. They fielded hundreds of questions from Chicagoans about testing, vaccinations, housing, unemployment and more.


How The Tennessean is connecting with Nashville’s communities of color (Editor & Publisher)

Since last year, The Tennessean’s Black Tennessee Voices initiative has engaged local Black audiences through a column, a weekly page featuring Black writers, a vodcast, and a newsletter. Opinion and engagement reporter LeBron Hill, head of the initiative, said that older journalists have expressed concerns that the industry’s interest in race is inconsistent. “You have to keep it going,” he said. “Black communities remember when you stop covering them.”

+ Related: More about how The Tennessean tells stories for and with Black residents (Better News)

+ Resources on how to practice solidarity in journalism (The Center for Media Engagement)


Use data to make your case and other leadership tips for women in investigative journalism (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

According to research from Motunrayo Alaka, CEO of Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, one in five newsroom managers in Nigeria is a woman. Alaka has used that data to advocate for hiring more women. Some women who work in investigative journalism, which remains male-dominated, argue that women should embrace the ways their management styles are different from men. “We tend to be better at sharing, collaborating, at networking, at empathizing, and all of these skills are extraordinarily important in investigative journalism,” said Rachel Oldroyd, CEO of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the U.K.


Judge tries to block New York Times’s coverage of Project Veritas (The New York Times)

Last Thursday, as part of a libel suit against the Times, a judge ordered the paper to stop publishing stories or pursuing documents about the right-wing organization Project Veritas. First Amendment advocates and the Times have argued that the order violates constitutional protections for journalists. The order followed a Times report from this month that included excerpts from communication with the group’s lawyer, who suggested that Project Veritas could create fake identities and use other deceptive reporting practices without breaking federal law.

+ Earlier: Project Veritas has a history of filming journalists without their consent with the intention of discrediting them (The Verge)


How to talk about executions (Public Radio Tulsa)

Last week, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt granted clemency to death row inmate Julius Jones hours before his scheduled execution, which has given rise to discussions regarding the language surrounding capital punishment. In a piece explaining why Public Media Tulsa used the word “kill” to describe the execution in its reporting, reporter Matt Trotter said that his previous coverage of this topic omitted that word. “Most people, including me, were more comfortable talking about executions in euphemisms,” he writes. “But if journalists are supposed to hold those in power accountable, it seems like we’re shirking our responsibility if we shy away from accurate yet striking terms to talk about their authority to kill someone as punishment for a crime.”

+ What’s the future of the gender beat? (Nieman Lab)


Low-cost trainings serve as an alternative to journalism school (Nieman Lab)

Votebeat editorial director Jessica Huseman was frustrated with the price of journalism education and how well it serves those working in the industry. So in September, she launched The Friendly State News, which provides low-cost trainings on public records and investigative reporting techniques to newsrooms, freelancers, and students. Huseman is planning future training programs on the federal court database Pacer, census data, and other topics.