Need to Know: Oct. 29, 2019

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


You might have heard: As of last year, Americans’ trust in local media was surprisingly high (Poynter)

But did you know: That trust is still fragile, as partisanship increasingly colors how people view their local news outlets (Knight Foundation)

A Knight-Gallup study released today shows that while Americans still trust their local news more than national news, that trust is increasingly fragile — especially as local news outlets wade into coverage of controversial social and political issues. Democrats are more likely to express confidence in local media (50%) compared to Republicans (27%), the study found; a trend long reflected at the national level. “Overall, the local-national trust gap is driven by Republicans and, to a lesser degree, independents, but this gap is more a function of Republican and independent distrust of the national news media than of high levels of trust in local news media,” wrote the study’s authors.

+ Noted: Jarrod Ramos admits killing five in Capital Gazette newsroom attack (Washington Post); Federal judge reinstates libel lawsuit filed by Covington Catholic teen against Washington Post (Washington Post); Canadian journalist Wendy Metcalfe will replace Matt DeRienzo as chief news executive for Hearst’s Connecticut newspapers (Media Nation)


How KCUR helps ‘soccer dads’ care about the arts in Kansas City (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: When planning arts coverage, ignore the calendar and ditch stories pegged to upcoming performances, art openings, festivals and events. Instead, focus on news, people and what the arts say about your city. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


Connecting with readers revolves around the words ‘you,’ ‘we’ and ‘us’ (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Journalism has been traditionally characterized by its impersonal, institutional voice. But now that its survival depends on building strong relationships with audiences, the “disembodied voice strategy” isn’t going to work, writes Jim Brady. Adding a personal tone to their work can help journalists connect with readers on a more personal level. Here’s one example: On Sept. 1, a slew of new laws went into effect in Texas. ABC13 in Houston went with the headline, “New Texas laws going into effect on Sept. 1 include beer-to-go.” The Texas Tribune, meanwhile, went with: “820 new Texas laws go into effect in September. Here are some that might affect you.” The use of the word “you” makes a huge difference, and the headline makes clear that the Tribune staff curated this list with the consumer in mind. Find “two to three stories a day where you can insert the words ‘you’ or ‘we’ or ‘us,’” suggests Brady. “It’s the first step in becoming less formal.”

+ Related: “We want to give you the news and information you need and want. Here are four ways you can help us do that!” The Chattanooga Times Free Press puts out flyers listing ways readers can help them cover their community (Twitter, @AllisonSCollins)


BBC faces flood of equal pay cases as Samira Ahmed tribunal begins (The Guardian)

The equal pay revolution at the BBC, which burst into the spotlight last year with former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie, is not over yet. Now, the BBC is facing at least a dozen legal cases from female members of staff who believe they were illegally paid less than their male counterparts, as a high-profile employment tribunal hearing gets underway involving the presenter Samira Ahmed. Ahmed is claiming she was underpaid by hundreds of thousands of pounds since taking over as host of the BBC’s Newswatch program in 2012. 


Google search doesn’t need the media to work just fine (Monday Note)

French publishers currently battling Google in the pay-for-snippets dispute are in for a reality check. A new study from German digital marketing firm Sistrix shows how very far Google is from depending on publishers’ content to maintain the quality of its search engine (as French publishers argue) — or to glean any meaningful revenue. The study found that only 0.1% of commercial search queries (queries that Google makes money on) can be characterized as journalistic in nature, and just 2.7% of search queries in total can be characterized as journalistic. The study also found that just 10% of all Google search results come from journalistic domains. The authors conclude, “Based on our evaluation it has become clear that journalistic content is not commercially relevant enough for Google. When push comes to shove, Google will be able to live without these results in their hit lists.”


What’s Facebook’s true aim with its news tab? (Nieman Lab) 

The platform could be betting on various factors, writes Ken Doctor. The information news tab is pulling from publishers is, essentially, a headline and precis that links back to publishers’ sites. It will help Facebook gain eyeballs, which is of course its ultimate goal. And it knows that most people only read the headlines and the snippets, and don’t click through to the actual story — so not straying far from Facebook’s realm. The news tab, above all, could be both a bone for the news industry as well as a PR stunt, says Doctor. “Call it a shotgun marriage of convenience, perhaps. The news industry needs money — badly. Facebook needs a better story.”

+ Related: Pretty much no one has seen Facebook News yet — but a lot of people are upset that Breitbart News is included as a “high-quality” news source (Nieman Lab)


How the Shawangunk Journal is making ends meet in a former industrial town (The Atlantic)

Born in 2006, the Ellensville, N.Y., newspaper has a print circulation of about 2,000 — but its staff is already prepared for a print-less future. Its digital model is based on subscriptions and micropayments, which conditions people to the idea of paying for their online news, says co-founder Alex Shiffer. “We still fight the battle every day, of people saying on Facebook, ‘What, do I have to pay for this?’ And we’re on there constantly saying, ‘Yes, you do, and here’s why.’” The print paper and website are also complemented by a free news app run by students at the local high school, which Shiffer says helps replenish their dying (literally) print audience. “The main reason we lose print readers is due to death,” he said. “It’s not that reading the paper is all that dangerous! It’s just that they’re old.”

+ Why editorial illustrations look so similar these days (Quartz); John Heilemann’s new venture is betting people want more political video on their phone (Vanity Fair)