Need to Know: October 7, 2020


You might have heard: Why Congress should care about the damage online platforms can do (MIT Technology Review)

But did you know: House Judiciary’s tech antitrust report urges option for news outlets to negotiate (Axios)

On Tuesday, the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee released a 450-page report exploring legislative and executive ways to curb antitrust violations by big tech firms like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon. The changes could have major implications for news outlets — one key proposal is to allow news publishers to team up to negotiate with platforms that are looking to carry their content. The report also suggests banning big tech from favoring its own content or giving preferential treatment to certain content providers. Calling big tech platforms monopolies, the report compared them to “oil barons and railroad tycoons.”

+ Noted: Bonnier Corp to sell its biggest U.S. magazines, including Saveur and Popular Science, to Venture Equity Group (Wall Street Journal); Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer are leaving Politico Playbook at the end of the year (Politico); Quartz is put on the block just two years after sale (Wall Street Journal)


Local news sustainability: API advisers highlight three paths forward

Thanks to a 2017-19 grant from the Knight Foundation, our team at API has sent advisers into 23 U.S.-based newsrooms, ranging from nonprofits and startups to legacy newspapers and public radio stations, to support their efforts to reach or maintain sustainability in the long term. We’ve highlighted three outlets — a large metro daily, a hyperlocal community newspaper and a digital startup — whose challenges are typical of many media organizations, and shown the steps they’ve taken toward sustainability, including creating a newsletter aimed at driving digital subscriptions, reaching more community members through social media, and introducing key listening and engagement strategies into their work.

+ Trust tip: Explain how you call who won an election (Trusting News); API’s Trusted Elections Network is hosting a free webinar with the AP today at 2 p.m. ET on polling best practices, and how to use voter surveys to tell good stories (Eventbrite) 


‘You told us what you care about this election season. Here’s how we’ll report on it.’ (WBEZ)

Over the last few months, WBEZ has been asking listeners and Chicagoans what they want to learn about in the run-up to election day. From thousands of responses, the overall messages were that people wanted to hear about plans, not more problems, and that they wanted all solutions to include steps toward racial equity. Here, WBEZ lays out its agenda — and makes specific promises — for covering issues from coronavirus to investments in local neighborhoods.

+ The publisher’s guide to navigating COVID-19 (What’s New in Publishing)


Despite crises, India’s media fixes its gaze on a Bollywood tragedy (The New York Times)

In the midst of several major crises, many news outlets — particularly those sympathetic to the government — have focused much of their energy on the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, which was ruled a suicide. India may soon become the world’s leader in COVID-19 infections, and is facing economic hardships due to the pandemic. But many news outlets, and politicians, have dedicated significant time to covering Rajput’s death, which some think was related to his actress girlfriend or to shadowy drug connections. Prime Minister Narendi Modi’s party, which has been known to influence news outlets by playing favorites with government advertising, has pushed these storylines.


A local newsletter workflow to improve information equity in your community (Communify Info Coop)

In communities that are underserved by news outlets, local news and community organizations can help inform residents by “harvesting” news and information from different sources and redistributing it to the community. Modeled after food pantries, New Jersey’s Bloomfield Information Project was developed after residents said they wished there was a single, reliable source of information for their community. Using a technology-assisted workflow, the project spreads short news summaries across its website, newsletter, and social media platforms, all in about two hours per day.

+ Facebook bans QAnon across its platforms (NBC News)


‘This gravy train is coming to an end’: News media begins to contemplate a post-Trump White House (Vanity Fair)

With Joe Biden well ahead in the polls, journalists and media outlets are wondering whether a new president could have significant changes for the industry. While there’s a good chance that a post-presidency Trump would remain prominent and in the public eye, political coverage — especially on cable news — might lose some of its urgency in a Biden presidency. Important discussions like race that have become national news during this presidency may fade, while fact-checking may become a less prominent feature of the news. On the plus side, some say that a calmer political scene may allow for the resurgence of beats that have been dormant over the past few years.


A Black journalist on navigating racial tension in the newsroom (Nieman Reports)

In an excerpt from his new book, Issac J. Bailey reflects on his time working in newsrooms in the South, where white editors and publishers sometimes took more seriously the grievances of angry white readers than the rules of journalistic ethics. Rather than fight back, Bailey said he often “swallowed hard” and kept his head down, in hopes of keeping his job. After years of colleagues and readers pressuring him to be less Black in his columns, he found that no matter how even-handed he was, he could never convince white audiences that he wasn’t a radical. One boss, who had pressured him to dial down his tone on race, dropped that attitude immediately after his writing brought national attention and awards to the paper.