Need to Know: October 1, 2021


This week the man who carried out a deadly attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md., was sentenced to five life terms in prison without parole. The shooting left five employees dead. Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs described the shooter as a remorseless, cold-blooded killer who had a decade-old grudge against the paper. “To say the defendant showed a callous and cruel disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply an understatement,” Wachs said. (Capital Gazette)

NewsGuild of New York this week filed unfair labor practice charges against Gannett, after several employees alleged that Gannett managers undermined their attempts to unionize via threats to pay increases, 401(k) matches and diversity initiatives. NewsGuild has also launched an investigation into multiple journalists’ claims of working unpaid overtime, to determine how widespread the issue is at the company. (Axios, Poynter)


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week.

Covering climate change requires newsroom change. In a Reuters Institute survey, more than two-thirds of newsrooms’ confirmed their plans to increase coverage of the climate crisis. Most newsrooms take one of three approaches to do this, writes Wolfgang Blau: Increase the budget of their science desk, set up a whole new climate desk that works with their science desk, or take an interdisciplinary “climate hub” approach with existing staff. Blau compares the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. (World News Day)

Learn a 30-minute technique for understanding your audience. Network mapping is a great exercise for identifying the many stakeholders in an issue you’re covering — including the less obvious ones. Bridget Thoreson explains how to use the technique when kicking off a new project or story. (OpenNews)

How Axios is tackling local news: newsletters from small teams, in more markets. Axios is launching newsletters in cities across the U.S., hiring two journalists in each market and using its central team to tackle tech, design and copy editing. “We are trying to hire the two best journalists in each market,” said General Manager Ted Williams. These teams will “grow as the audience grows and revenue grows… rather than go in and hire really large teams and just burn through cash quicker.” (Digiday)


Journalists, whose feedback are you getting? And are you listening? (Trusting News)

Journalists need to make time to seek out quality feedback from people in their communities (not counting snarky remarks or hostile invectives from the comment section). It can be as simple as asking a former source, a personal acquaintance, or a frequent (respectful) commenter or emailer for a 30-minute conversation, writes Joy Mayer. She suggests asking these questions depending on your aims — whether you want to know more about a specific demographic, or how your coverage of a certain topic is perceived, or how audiences are feeling about a new or changed product.


+ Is it time for journalism to quit Facebook? (Dick Tofel)

+ How WHYY in Philadelphia is “pushing public radio toward antiracism” (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ “I’m not doing an interview to get good quotes. And I’m not doing it to confirm something I already thought”: How Atlantic reporter Ed Yong, who won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting, approaches difficult interviews with empathy (Nieman Reports)