Need to Know: September 18, 2020


You might have heard: Coronavirus-induced salary cuts, layoffs and closures continue at newsrooms, including, this week, several Lee Enterprises newspapers, the Tribune-owned Daily Press, and KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif. (Poynter)

But did you know: Strong metro newspapers are expanding their footprints well beyond their home bases (Poynter)

“A mini-trend has been brewing for the last year or so: Publications like The Boston Globe, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and The Post and Courier of Charleston have started launching news reports for markets outside their core cities,” writes Rick Edmonds. In an industry that has been losing money for many years, what are these newspapers doing differently? All of them have excelled at building a paid digital subscription base — and they are all independent and locally owned. Many of them are not concerned with being a complete paper of record, but are cherry-picking exclusive, watchdog-type stories. And they are supplementing their resources by forming statewide or regional reporting collectives.

+ Earlier: How the Post and Courier created “mini-publishing” teams across editorial, sales and marketing that led to a 250% increase in digital subscriptions (Better News)

+ Noted: The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University and Big Local News are offering grants to fund “data-driven, replicable stories related to the pandemic (JSK Journalism Fellowships); The Google News Initiative is launching a free program to help small- and mid-sized news publishers grow their businesses online (Google)


API is sponsoring scholarships to attend ONA20

Digital journalists working in small news organizations covering local issues are encouraged to apply for the ONA20 Local News Scholarship sponsored by the American Press Institute. Recipients will receive complimentary registration to ONA20 Everywhere, to be held Oct. 1-16. Applications are due Monday, Sept. 21.

+ This week in Factually, a newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute: the conspiracy theories diverting attention and resources from real threats to imagined ones, a fired Facebook data scientist turns whistleblower, and Spanish-language platforms are being used to spread misinformation. 


How the LA Times turned a reporting project into a free educational resource (Los Angeles Times)

In August the Los Angeles Times published a series of stories, videos, graphics and archival materials on the Chicano Moratorium, a movement of Chicano anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s and 70s. The series proved popular, but many readers who are not subscribers inevitably hit the Times’ paywall. In particular, the Times heard from several teachers who wanted to use the material in their classrooms. So it adapted the series into a printed (and printable) zine. The zine, along with a commemorative poster, can be purchased on the L.A. Times’ store, or printed and assembled at home for free.

+ Researchers at New York University built a tool that allows reporters to examine political ad spend on Facebook, as well as topics and objectives of the ads. (NYU Ad Observatory)


In an increasingly diverse world, why are British newspapers still so ‘pale, male and posh’? (The Guardian)

A new study by Women in Journalism shows that, despite high-profile controversies in recent years like the BBC’s gender pay gap and the #MeToo movement, 75% of front-page bylines in British newspapers are male, and of the 111 voices quoted on front pages in a week chosen at random this summer, just one belonged to a black person. It’s a long-standing issue, but little progress has been made to improve diversity in the U.K. media, writes Jane Martinson. However, there is a financial imperative to change: With Britain’s growing ethnic-minority population, “The media industry cannot afford to lose so many who see it as alien to their lives.”


How can we stop Trump from using the debates to lie? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Despite moderators known for being tough and highly prepared, President Trump’s mendacity will require an extra effort at fact-checking the president in real time, writes Bill Grueskin. If moderators themselves are wrong, they can greatly add to the public’s confusion — “They’ll need to have Glenn Kessler– or Daniel Dale-quality fact checkers in their control room, providing instantaneous quality control on the candidates’ claims,” writes Grueskin. “So armed, moderators can help voters see which candidate is more capable of handling and delivering the truth.”


Pennsylvania senator sues journalists over public records costs (Spotlight PA)

Republican State Sen. Joseph Scarnati’s campaign is suing independent news outlet The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis, alleging that the trio owes $5,070 for work an accounting firm conducted to produce public records the journalists requested during an investigation into his and other lawmakers’ campaign spending. However, Pennsylvania state law only allows campaigns to charge copying and delivery fees for public records, which would be a fraction of the amount Scarnati’s lawsuit is seeking. “To be a public entity and to push your records onto some private firm and then force people to pay those folks to access them is really outlandish,” said David Cuillier, a public records expert at the University of Arizona. “Essentially, you price people out of their government.”


Using the ‘Netflix experience’ to deliver local investigations (Cronkite News Lab)

Are there audiences willing to binge-watch local journalism? NBC Bay Area was willing to gamble a “yes” to that question, with a six-episode investigation into BART, the Bay Area’s beleaguered public transit system, that will be released on several streaming platforms. The episodes range from four to 15 minutes long. “Typically, we’d put it on TV, and it goes from there,” said news director Stephanie Adrouny. “But we wanted to get away from that. If you’re a BART rider, we thought, ‘Hey, maybe you’ll watch Chapter One on your way to work and Chapter Two on your way home.’” To date, about 350,000 people have streamed the first season on its various platforms, and many of them are engaging with the project on social media.


+ Why community media outlets are uniquely positioned to boost the Census count (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism)

+ Reviving democracy requires reviving local journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)