Need to Know: October 22, 2021


The Devil Strip, which claimed to be the “first community-owned local news cooperative in the United States,” shut down this week citing lack of funds. The entire staff was laid off on October 18. However, three members of The Devil Strip’s board of directors have launched a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of raising enough money to revive the site. (Nieman Lab)

Former President Donald Trump announced this week that his company, Trump Media and Technology Group, would launch a new social media platform called Truth Social. Trump, who is still banned from Facebook and Twitter, said the platform will help users evade what he considers censorship from Big Tech. (The Washington Post)


Need to Know was on “pause” for most of the week. Below are two stories that captured the most interest from subscribers this week, plus one we would have included during our break.

Impartiality is still key for news audiences. Here’s how to rethink it for the digital age. A survey of news audiences by the Reuters Institute found that people value impartiality in news, but have trouble distinguishing between news and opinion, especially online. “Audiences value opinion as a supplement to facts but generally want the facts to be established first,” researchers wrote. “They worry about blurring of the two.” (Reuters Institute)

It’s time to create an alternative path into a journalism career. What if universities offered a low-cost, more flexible alternative to their journalism master’s degree programs, the way Harvard offers an online business course that costs only $2,250? And what if a major funder like the Knight Foundation backed it? This could open up pathways into journalism for more people from working-class backgrounds, writes Joshua Benton. (Nieman Lab)

The Metric Media network runs more than 1,200 local news sites. Here are some of the non-profits funding them. The Tow Center for Digital Journalism traced the media network’s financial ties and discovered that its funding comes from founders of the conservative Tea Party movement and a Catholic political advocacy group that opposed Joe Biden. The company claims to give “every citizen a voice in their community” and publishes “over 5 million news articles every month,” but does not disclose its funding sources. Earlier reporting found the outlets in the network to be distributing mostly “pink slime journalism” — a term for low-cost automated story generation — with questionable ethics. (Columbia Journalism Review)


How the Chatham News + Record is serving the Latinx community — and building a new audience (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: By telling and sharing stories in the Latinx community (beginning with the pandemic’s impact on people, families, businesses), you can do what good newsrooms do — reflect the communities they serve. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ API welcomes a new Table Stakes team member, Kamaria Roberts. Kamaria joined API as Deputy Director of Local News Transformation on Monday, Oct. 18.


+ The Times-Picayune sought FBI files on Bill Jefferson’s corruption case. They came 12 years later. (

+ How publishers can shift heated arguments into meaningful discussions (Digital Content Next)

+ How GBH News transformed its workflow from broadcast-centered to digital-first (Current)