Need to Know: Sept. 16, 2021


You might have heard: Buzzy social audio apps like Clubhouse tap into the age-old appeal of the human voice (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Clubhouse hires NPR veteran in effort to get more newsrooms to join its platform (CNN)

Several newsrooms have been experimenting with Clubhouse, a live audio app that boomed during the early months of the pandemic. In February, for example, USA Today held its first official Clubhouse room with two of its reporters and two doctors speaking about COVID-19 and its impacts on communities of color — a topic that USA Today covered in a six-part investigation published last year. To encourage more of that activity and guard against dwindling participation as more people return to work, Clubhouse has hired Nina Gregory, former senior editor for NPR’s Arts Desk, as its first head of news and media publishers. “As an audio journalist, [Clubhouse] aligned with what I’ve always believed is the best medium for news,” Gregory says. “You don’t need to know how to read to be able to hear radio news. You don’t need to have an expensive subscription. You don’t need cable.” Newsrooms have also increasingly been using similar products from other social media platforms, like Twitter’s live audio feature, Spaces.

+ Noted: The Local Media Association will launch the 2021 Local News Fund in October to help independent and family-owned local news organizations solicit tax-deductible donations from the public (Local Media Association); Facebook announces award-winning proposals from research teams to study misinformation and polarization (Facebook)


Announcing recipients from the API Local News Ideas-to-Action Fund

API is pleased to announce that 10 local news organizations will receive funding through the Local News Ideas-to-Action Fund, API’s new initiative to support accountability and government reporting that better prioritizes the needs of local communities. The news organizations selected will begin their projects this month, all of which involve experimenting with new forms of audience-centered journalism.


Tips for reporters seeking to reveal the scale of inequality (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Data on the gap between rich and poor tends to be nuanced or hard to find, making it difficult for reporters to show stark inequalities. Visualization tools like Datawrapper or TwoTone can be used to show the true scale of those gaps, writes Rowan Philps. Aerial photography can also capture income inequality in images that are difficult to ignore. “Low-cost drones represent a better way to warn of growing, large-scale injustice — at least, in places where regulations allow pilots to fly them on behalf of newsrooms,” Philps writes.


How Europe’s independent media dealt with the coronavirus pandemic (European Journalism Center)

From interviews with 19 independent news outlets across Europe, the European Journalism Center was able to identify themes in how they rode out the pandemic. One of its findings was that European news outlets invested significantly more in audience engagement efforts, through things like surveys, focus groups, online events and crowdsourced investigations. The report also documented a rise in public service journalism; with news orgs using explainers, Q&As, and fact checks to get information to audiences to help them safely weather the pandemic. “It was no coincidence that the largely reader-funded news outlets that took less or no ad revenue were more attracted to this type of public service journalism,” the report’s authors wrote.

+ Google News Showcase is now rolling out in Japan (9to5 Google)


Facebook’s pivot to video didn’t just burn publishers. It didn’t even work for Facebook. (Nieman Lab)

User engagement on Facebook started declining in 2017 — and video, which Facebook was then touting as a magic bullet for publishers, didn’t reverse that decline. In fact, it may have even worsened it, according to an ongoing Wall Street Journal investigation. Seeing that engagement was down and unable to figure out why, Facebook changed its algorithm to feature posts that generated anger from users. That succeeded in ramping up engagement where Facebook Live had not, writes Laura Hazard Owen. Meanwhile, publishers that had dumped their resources into video were facing up to the failure of the “pivot to video” strategy.


Appeals court rules article about Devin Nunes’ family farm wasn’t defamatory, but tweeting about it might have been (Des Moines Register)

A federal appellate court on Wednesday partially revived a lawsuit by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes against Hearst Media reporter Ryan Lizza, which alleged that Lizza had published a defamatory article about Nunes’ family’s Iowa dairy farm. The appellate court maintained that the article itself wasn’t defamatory; however, it remanded the case over additional claims that Lizza committed defamation again when he tweeted out a link to the article in November 2019 — after the defamation lawsuit had been filed. Wednesday’s decision represents “a fairly new and unusual position that tweeting out an article that has already been published can make a speaker vulnerable to libel liability if the subject of the article has denied the original allegations in court,” said Cristina Tilley, a University of Iowa law professor specializing in media law.


Lessons learned from source diversity audits (Medium, Impact Architects)

The nonprofit Impact Architects conducted source diversity audits for KQED in San Francisco, KUOW in Seattle, and CapRadio in Sacramento. One of its takeaways is, when doing a source audit, to “code for multiple variables” — that is, don’t just track gender and race/ethnicity, but also factors like profession, geography, age group, and story topic. Tracking more variables leads to much richer insights. “Tracking for profession is easier — and more valuable — than it seems,” writes Eric Garcia McKinley. Impact Architects created several general buckets for profession — academic, community or advocacy representative, elected government official and so forth — which served as a proxy for characteristics that are more difficult to capture, like social and economic status. It also helped indicate whether news outlets were relying more on “on the ground” experts or institutional experts.

+ Related: API has developed a tool called Source Matters to help newsrooms easily gather and analyze source data