Need to Know: September 10, 2020


You might have heard: Voting is a local story (American Press Institute)

But did you know: This initiative wants to fund reporting on voting in battleground states (Twitter, @elizwgreen)

Votebeat, a “pop-up, locally executed, nonpartisan newsroom paid for by philanthropy,” would hire two reporters to cover each of the 23 battleground states. Their stories would run for free in local news outlets and also be redistributed broadly, to ensure the widest possible reach. However, the initiative is still in the seeding phase, despite already having support from several organizations. “In our opinion, the hard part here isn’t just raising money to pay the reporters,” writes Elizabeth Green, whose organization Chalkbeat is taking the lead on fundraising. “The hard part is proving that reporters and local newsrooms are ready to step into action.”

+ Related: A new Knight Foundation study found that voters and non-voters alike feel more knowledgeable about what’s going on nationally than about what’s happening in their local communities (Twitter, @JesseHolcomb)

+ We at API are offering microgrants up to $10,000 and expert advising to support journalism on voting or local misinformation. Apply by Sept. 14.

+ Noted: A new database is tracking COVID-19 cutbacks in U.S. newsrooms (CJR); A new initiative, funded by the Committee to Protect Journalists, will offer grants of up to $5,000 for newsrooms reporting on press freedom threats in the U.S. (News Leaders Association); More than 75% of press freedom violations documented in the U.S. in 2020 happened during Black Lives Matter protests (RCFP)


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‘Before you can fix your newsroom, you need to fix your life’ (Nieman Reports)

Many newsrooms are committing to achieving racial equity, but the people leading that change also need to examine their own personal behaviors and habits, writes S. Mitra Kalita. Kalita offers several concrete ways to weave diversity, equity and inclusion into daily actions and decisions. “This is not a checklist or a bunch of merit badges you earn, rather a path to baseline competence,” she writes.

+ A free webinar today at 3 p.m. ET will cover how to boost your fundraising with one-tap mobile payments (Twitter, @INN)


Amid National Security Law uncertainty, women journalists in Hong Kong forge ahead (Poynter)

The law, which gives China broad powers to punish dissent in Hong Kong, has moved many journalists to strengthen the security measures they take to protect themselves and their sources, or even to self-censor their work. But some women journalists on the ground in Hong Kong are committed to documenting not just the mass demonstrations or the high-profile clashes with police, but also the seemingly small incidents in daily life that nonetheless signal authoritarian creep: professors not getting tenure or being fired, people in offices being told to be cautious about what they post on social media, or being asked to take down signs with pro-democracy slogans. “All these little things that wouldn’t necessarily rise to the level of being a huge story, added up together really shift the entire way Hong Kong society functions,” said Mary Hui, a reporter at Quartz.


The internet of protest is being built on single-page websites (MIT Technology Review)

Easy-to-use tools like Carrd, which allows users to create a simple website in minutes, are becoming the go-to tool for internet users — mostly Gen Zers — who want to effect social change, writes Tanya Basu. The simple, attractive websites can be neatly embedded on social media, making it easy to share their calls to action. The popularity of Carrds reflects a fundamental change in how Gen Z consumes news and social media, says Amelia Gibson, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Gibson says Gen Zers who use them are leading the shift from personality-focused content to an anti-influencer mentality, calling their peers’ attention to the cause itself, not the people behind it.


Cable news profits from its obsession with Trump. Viewers are the only victims. (CJR)

A new cable-analysis tool from Stanford shows that cable news coverage of President Trump has by no means slowed down since the 2016 campaign. “News media have basically been running with 2016 campaign-level attention on Trump for four years straight now,” writes Musa al-Gharbi. The unrelenting coverage continues to draw in viewers, who are often treated to incorrect information as new outlets rush to break the latest story. In the effort to keep those viewers, the media often “fetishizes” the president by focusing keenly on his most provocative and outrageous statements, further polarizing their audiences.

+ Related: “Stay with the uncertainty” — what the TV news media must do to fend off an election-night disaster (Washington Post)


Since introducing a paywall a year ago, The Atlantic has added 325,000 paid subscribers (CNN)

The Atlantic has already smashed its previous goal of gaining 110,000 in the first two years of the paywall, despite suffering pandemic-related revenue losses and newsroom cutbacks (17% of the staff was laid off in May). The magazine’s coronavirus coverage in particular, led by star reporter Ed Yong, has attracted many of those new subscribers. “We have an advantage in that nobody comes to us looking for sports, traffic, or weather. Our readers aren’t expecting anything other than excellent stories about important subjects,” said Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg. Goldberg has also said that he will focus on investing in the editorial team, although not increasing its size.