Need to Know: October 20, 2020


You might have heard: Coronavirus shapes up as a double wallop for media businesses’ advertising and events (Poynter)

But did you know: Local media is reaping the rewards of a slow reemergence of advertising spend (Digiday)

One of the unexpected upsides for local publishers during the pandemic is that national chains are looking to reach regional audiences. Smaller publications have new appeal to advertisers since they have less expensive ad inventory and better relationships with their audiences. And with the COVID-19 rules changing state by state, advertisers can target their ads to different regional audiences based on local restrictions. In 2018 and 2019, inbound ad requests at Gannett’s USA Today Network were overwhelmingly focused on national brands, but over the last few months, advertisers are making clear that local publications are the key.

+ Noted: Finalists for the 2020 Online Journalism Awards have been announced (OJAs); Staff of tech news site The Markup has unionized (Talking Biz News); Staffers at Bustle Digital Group, which owns Nylon, Mic and Elite Daily, announce intention to unionize (CNN); 5 projects awarded a total of $45K in Newark through Peer Learning + Collaboration Fund (Medium, Center for Cooperative Media)


Podcast: How to use events to grow a diverse audience (It’s All Journalism)

Scalawag, a nonprofit news outlet covering social justice in the South, wanted to build a more diverse audience. Executive Director and Publisher Cierra Hinton explains how they worked with local grassroots organizations to host creative events, including a virtual Jubilee in the early days of the pandemic, that helped Scalawag reach audiences they otherwise would not have. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Table Stakes newsroom training program.

+ To Canadians and all: This week API is supporting Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication’s Journalism in a Time of Crisis, an international symposium Oct. 22-23 “to look at the nexus between journalism and the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to find lessons for journalism practice in the future.” See the full agenda, including an opening forum with API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel, and register for the virtual event here. 


Coalition organizes day of action for movement to fix public media’s workplace culture (Current)

Public media has come under fire for its lack of diversity, and now a group of public media workers, led by people of color, wants to call attention to their lack of representation in the field. Public Media for All has declared November 10 “a day of action and education for diversity, equity and inclusion in public media.” The goal is for 500 public media professionals and supporters to take the day off from work in a sign of solidarity. The group is focused on retaining and advancing people of color currently working in the industry.


Argentine fact-checkers fight back against government office created to combat online misinformation (Poynter)

Earlier this month, the Argentine government announced a new office focused on curbing false information and hate speech on the internet. Laura Zommer, of Argentine fact-checking organization Chequeado, writes that the agency, called Nodio, is not a true fact-checking agency. Instead of working to improve media literacy like Chequeado, journalists in Argentina worry that the new agency will be focused on curbing critical voices. Zommer (alongside Cristina Tardáguila of the International Fact-Checking Network) argues that while government policies to prevent the spread of dangerous information could make sense in the context of a global pandemic, this type of oversight must be transparent, strict, and nonpartisan to be productive.


Why social media is so good at polarizing us (The Wall Street Journal)

Social media has long been criticized for making America more polarized, and the assumption has often been that users’ “filter bubbles” mean that they fail to see outsider opinions. But a new study has found that showing users content from the other side of the political divide actually exacerbates polarization, due to the way platforms promote more extreme opinions. Seeing extreme positions that a user disagrees with leads to repulsion of the other side and a reinforcement of their own beliefs. Studies have found that, over the past 60 years, Americans’ opinions have not actually changed drastically, but their dislike of people who disagree with them has grown dramatically.

+ Google’s monopoly is making the internet’s most-used website way worse (The Washington Post)


The Sacramento Bee urges McClatchy to reconsider tying journalists’ pay to clicks (Twitter, @SacBeeGuild)

In a letter posted on Twitter Monday, the Sacramento News Bee Guild responded to a proposal from the paper’s McClatchy owners that would tie performance reviews and pay raises to pageviews and similar metrics. The guild argues that this would incentivize clickbait headlines over community-oriented accountability journalism, and hurt the company’s subscriptions. The guild also argues that metrics used to gauge a story’s success have changed over the years, so emphasizing specific metrics will harm the evolution of those measures by holding reporters to outdated numbers. A “No Pay-for-Clicks” petition to fight the proposal has already gained more than the 1,000 sought-for signatures.

+ Related: Journalists from around the country decried the Bee’s proposal, calling it “objectively a very, very terrible idea,” “shameful,” “demeaning,” and “so depressing.” Ellen Pao wrote that, on the internet, companies “keep making the same mistakes again and again” and Will Oremus wrote that people working in tech “underestimate the degree to which journalists themselves loathe the idea of writing for clicks.”  (Twitter, @VeraMBergen, @raheemfh, @DanCALmatters, @laura_nelson, @ekp, @WillOremus)

+ Earlier: How to determine which metrics are most meaningful for your newsroom (American Press Institute)


Journalism can do more than report on racial injustice. It can also help solve it. (Poynter)

As America continues its reckoning with race, Ashton Lattimore writes that journalists have the power to further the cause of racial justice. Storytelling is a key component of journalism, and mass media adds up to a collective story about the state of society. She compares America’s history of racism to that of a typical Hollywood film, where white America — and white journalists — believed the country to have overcome this obstacle and could live happily ever after. The key will be not just to feature stories about people of color, she writes, but to include people of color in the storytelling from the start.