Need to Know: October 14, 2020


You might have heard: Journalists need to prepare for election night becoming election week (Medium, Hearken)

But did you know: Washington Post develops new tool for election night, announces ahead of time that it won’t predict election results (Axios)

In the run-up to next month’s presidential election, The Washington Post has developed a tool that will not call races or predict outcomes, but will instead give a better understanding of what is happening in real-time. The modeling tool will help determine if an election is too close to call and where votes are still being counted. Traditional election night practices, like precinct reporting, may be significantly less helpful in an election with so much mail-in voting. Other major news outlets are also preparing for coverage of an election night that may not result in a clear winner.

+ Related: Get your questions on fighting election misinformation answered at a free virtual session hosted today by API’s Trusted Elections Network and the Associated Press (Eventbrite)

+ Noted: WordPress can now turn blog posts into tweetstorms automatically (TechCrunch); Bon Appétit relaunches YouTube channel with diverse slate of hosts after mass resignations (The Wrap); New York Magazine brings the 16-year-old Curbed back to life (but says goodbye to its local sites) (Nieman Lab); Business Insider parent nears deal to buy controlling stake in Morning Brew (Wall Street Journal); Flipboard introduces new data tools for its magazine curators (CNET)


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+ Announcing the second round of grantees for the Trusted Elections Network Fund


How publishers are experimenting with hyperlocal news (Twipe)

Local news outlets around the world have realized their path forward is to focus on the types of local news stories that readers cannot get elsewhere. In Germany, Neue Westfälische partnered with a local neighborhood social media platform to help provide hyperlocal news to a younger audience, which in turn has helped the newspaper develop better relationships with its readers. Meanwhile, in Sweden, Bonnier News Local has begun using AI to cover things like local real estate, which has become one the most popular types of content amongst paying customers.

+ Earlier: How Canada’s Torstar launched 10 hyperlocal news brands in less than a year (Local Media Association)

+ Interested in learning how cooperative ownership and governance could support local news? Join this emerging study group (Twitter, @oliviamqhenry)


Ukraine’s Ukrayinska Pravda builds travel, payments industry solutions into unique membership model (What’s New in Publishing)

Ukrayinska Pravda, a long-running digital publication in Ukraine, has expanded its subscriber options by adding a level that offers discounts and gifts from partner corporations. Subscribers paying roughly $5 per month will have access to offers from corporations like Uber as well as restaurants and publishers. The idea was to create a partnership that equally benefited businesses and readers, inspired partly by the way that travel and credit card companies offer partner benefits to users. Before the pandemic, subscription models were largely unknown in Ukraine, but media outlets there have turned to reader revenue as the most likely source of stable income going forward.


To mend a broken internet, create online parks (Wired)

The internet is often blamed for inciting partisanship and hate, but, Eli Pariser writes, it could be used to foster connection. He uses the example of Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, which offers everything from soccer fields to farmers markets to meeting points for Black Lives Matter protests, allowing “very different people … to coexist.” Modern digital spaces, on the other hand, are public-private hybrids designed to monetize attention, without care put in to ensure that they are designed to be welcoming. Pariser writes that we need to invest in truly public online spaces, where the focus is on “finding the balance between welcoming everyone and providing safety and comfort for everyone.”


If nothing seems to improve, is reporting on disaster preparedness a waste of time? (Columbia Journalism Review)

For years, April Ehrlich has been covering wildfire preparedness in the Pacific Northwest, reporting on both successes and failures in emergency planning. But when her own home in Oregon was threatened by a wildfire, she discovered that government officials and aid organizations seemed to have learned nothing from her work. She saw firsthand how alert systems failed and people were turned away from evacuation centers, and how many questions were left unanswered by those who were supposed to be handling the crisis. “In my previous experiences reporting on wildfires in other places, I had the privilege of distance,” writes Ehrlich. “But this time, there’s no hiding it: I’m angry.”


How the 1619 Project took over 2020 (The Washington Post)

Since Nikole Hannah-Jones debuted the initial essay for the 1619 Project — a collection of articles for The New York TImes Magazine about how the history of America is intertwined with its history of slavery — the series has become a touchstone for a larger American reckoning with race. One particular line in the opening essay, about the role of slavery in the run-up to the Revolutionary War, sparked a firestorm of debate among historians. But, Sarah Ellison writes, this academic debate became fodder for politicians, including President Trump, who have used it as proof of the demonization of white Americans by liberal factions.