Need to Know: October 21, 2020


You might have heard: Florida Latinos are swamped by wild conspiracy theories (Politico)

But did you know: Fake, partisan news websites in Spanish pit Latino voters against Black Lives Matter (The New York Times)

Conspiracy theories are spreading across Spanish-speaking media that seek to polarize Black and Latino voters by drawing clear distinctions between the two groups (despite the sizable population of Afro-Latinos in the U.S.). Much of this media focuses on Black Lives Matter protests, which are spun as dangerous and untrustworthy, often using blatantly racist language. Researchers say the disinformation stems almost exclusively from conservative media, particularly right-wing Spanish-language websites that are designed to look like nonpartisan news outlets. Attempts to target disinformation, such as taking down QAnon accounts from YouTube, have often failed to curb Spanish-langauge content, and a lot of disinformation spreads on private WhatsApp chats that are popular in Latino communities.

+ Noted: Applications for the Lenfest Institute’s Membership 101 training course are due by Friday (Lenfest Institute); Presidential debate commission to mute candidates’ mics at start of each segment at Thursday’s debate (NPR); Former Atlas Obscura CEO launches City Cast, a network of daily local podcasts (Medium, David Plotz); 20 U.S. newsrooms chosen for the Facebook Sustainability Accelerator (ICFJ); Local Media Foundation awards investigative reporting stipends to 10 news organizations (Local Media Association)


Trust Tip: Do you endorse candidates? Either way, explain why (Trusting News)

With the election right around the corner, news outlets should take this opportunity to explain why and how they endorse candidates — or why they don’t. For endorsers, explain both the process and how the organization maintains separation between the news and opinion sections. Outlets that endorsed candidates in the past but have stopped should also explain the factors that went into that choice. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.

+ Related: USA Today breaks tradition by endorsing Joe Biden (Axios) 


Block Club Chicago launches free coronavirus hotline via text, phone and email (Twitter, @slulay2)

In an effort to connect readers with the information they need, nonprofit news outlet Block Club Chicago has launched a free hotline to answer their coronavirus questions. When readers email, call or text the hotline, they’ll be connected with someone in the newsroom who will answer questions or provide information on resources. The hotline will be available in English during business hours, and in Spanish for limited hours.

+ Earlier: KPCC and LAist launched a “help desk” to address audience members’ coronavirus concerns, which ended up driving both newsletter subscriptions and memberships (Better News)

+ Harvard’s Shorenstein Center releases the Media Manipulation Casebook to help journalists know how and when to respond to misinformation in all its forms (Nieman Reports)


How Norway’s Aftenposten is using habit theory to engage readers (Twipe)

After the Oslo-based newspaper Aftenposten began focusing on reading habits a few years ago, the team added a feature on its app called is Oppsummert, which means “summarized” in Norwegian. The product allows users to catch up on the big stories of the day with just a few swipes to target the “micro moments” when people want to consume news. The feature was initially launched in 2019 to cover Brexit updates, and has been expanded to more general news. Over time, the interface has expanded to include a way for readers to go more in-depth if they want, and a daily push notification for the new edition.

+ Earlier: Building habit — not page views — matters most for keeping subscribers (Medill Local News Initiative)


Stir raises $4 million to help online collaborators split revenue (Axios)

As journalists increasingly move into individual projects such as newsletters, a new start-up called Stir is helping these creators share revenue from collaborations. The company, which launched a public beta this week, raised $4 million in seed money from various leaders in the “creator economy,” including executives from Patreon, YouTube and Stripe. Collaborations and crossovers have always been a way for online creators to grow their audiences, but splitting revenue from joint efforts has proven difficult. Stir works for both small, one-off collaborations like newsletter cross-posting and ongoing series where revenue is split between different parties.


The real divide in America is between political junkies and everyone else (The New York Times)

Much attention has been paid to the increase in political partisanship in America, but researchers from Stony Brook University have found that the biggest divide is between the 15 to 20% of Americans who follow politics very closely, and the rest of the country, who follow politics casually or not at all. For instance, less politically-inclined Americans of both parties are likely to consider low hourly wages as one of the most important issues in the country, an issue that barely registers with those who follow politics closely. This can affect partisanship because the most partisan are also the loudest, warping perceptions of “the other side.”

+ On Monday the Sacramento Bee News Guild alleged that McClatchy wants to tie journalists’ pay to the pageviews of their stories. The president and editor of the Sacramento Bee says that claim is “inaccurate” and oversimplified: “We are proposing metrics that measure readership and engagement to better serve our communities. This is a concept both parties agreed to in prior bargaining sessions,” Lauren Gustus wrote yesterday on Twitter. “It is one small component of a comprehensive performance management process that measures performance to goals.” (Twitter, @laurengustus)


Prism, a news site led by women of color, centers the voices of marginalized people in its reporting (Nieman Lab)

After The Intercept published a story about a Georgia doctor who forcibly sterilized women held at a detention center, it was reporter Tina Vasquez from the news site Prism who uncovered the name of the doctor behind the surgeries. Deeply familiar with migrant communities in the South, Vasquez was able to unearth a more complicated, nuanced narrative around the incidents, fulfilling the site’s mission of centering the voices of marginalized people. Prism also aims to fill the gaps left by mainstream media by spreading its journalists around the country; each reporter lives in a different city.