Need to Know: September 21, 2020

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: The pandemic has ushered in waves of layoffs (Poynter)

But did you know: Layoffs hit Meredith, Bloomberg, News Corp (Media Post)

News Corp is doing what many local newspapers have done already by moving its printing operations, which could impact as many as 400 jobs. Meanwhile, Meredith Corporation, publisher of magazines including People and Better Homes & Gardens, laid off 180 employees, most of whom worked for the company’s local media group that owns 17 TV stations. Bloomberg Industry Group, which publishes Bloomberg Law and other titles, also cut 21 positions, most of which aren’t newsroom jobs.

+ Related: In North Carolina, Winston-Salem Journal and the News and Record in Greensboro, both owned by Lee Enterprises, have depleted newsrooms after years of downsizing (WFDD)

+ Noted: Solutions Journalism Network is offering grants to transform poverty coverage into stories of resilience and economic mobility (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network); BuzzFeed News, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 110 other news organizations in 88 countries published FinCENFiles, an investigation into the world’s major banks (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)


In four weeks, learn high-impact tactics to combat misinformation and polarization through your reporting

As we approach the 2020 election amid a public health crisis and ongoing civil unrest, reporters must be able to navigate a media landscape filled with misinformation and polarization. We’ve created a four-part email series that highlights key skills for doing so. In four short emails sent over the course of a month, you’ll learn how to avoid amplifying lies and misleading claims in your reporting, handle quotes that haven’t been verified, thwart attempts at media manipulation, and make stories less polarizing. Sign up here. 


CNN tests a ‘drive-in’ town hall with Joe Biden (Variety)

During the pandemic, events like graduations have been held at drive-in theaters that allowed the audience to socially distance in their cars. Last week, CNN followed suit and held a town hall in a parking lot in Moosic, Penn. with certain guidelines in place. A vehicle could only enter the venue if it had three or fewer people inside, and the audience was required to wear masks at the venue unless they were asking a question. CNN also used a boom mike so people could have the option to ask questions without leaving their cars.

+ The Society of Professional Journalists and the Trans Journalists Association started a hotline to offer advice on race and gender coverage issues (Nieman Lab)


A popular Twitter handle that gave birth to a self-sustaining online media organization (Medium, JAMLAB)

When Nigel Mugamu returned to Zimbabwe after studying in the United Kingdom, he noticed a divide between prominent reporting on his native country and the lived experiences of people there, as international news tended to focus on figures like former president Robert Mugabe. In 2012, Mugamu started a Twitter account called 263Chat to “link” local Zimbabweans with those living abroad. The account grew in popularity and evolved into an organization that shares free news with readers on WhatsApp. Most of 263Chat’s 70,000 subscribers are in poverty, and the daily update gives them access to news devoid of state propaganda.


Twitter expands QAnon ban to political candidates, elected officials (HuffPost)

Last week, Twitter issued new rules that will lead to reduced visibility on the platform for political candidates and elected officials who share material on the wide-ranging QAnon conspiracy theory. A Twitter spokesperson said the policy will apply equally to all verified accounts and candidates, including President Trump, who has previously retweeted posts from QAnon followers. Since Twitter banned more than 7,000 QAnon follower accounts in July, impressions of content spreading the dangerous hoax have been cut in half. 

+ Related: YouTube tweaked its algorithm last year to recommend less conspiracy theory content (Wired); Five things to consider when reporting on politicians who promote conspiracy theories like QAnon (American Press Institute)


Journalism must be an act of community-building (Nieman Reports)

Co-directors of Southern media collective Press On caution news organizations that responses to the racial justice movement, such as creating new diversity positions and establishing quotas to hire more people of color, may be short-term, shortsighted and exclude the community. Instead, they recommend newsrooms rethink the role of journalism and consider how they can learn from their communities and social movements. The co-directors write: “By seeking a rigorous understanding of history, learning how to work collaboratively with shared trust and agency, and building collective power, journalism can rise to meet this moment in a spirit of liberation and resistance.”

+ Dan Kennedy writes that a new Boston Globe partnership with biotech company Biogen presents ethics issues (Media Nation); MSNBC said Trump endangered the lives of journalists with comments supportive of police shooting the outlet’s reporter with a rubber bullet (The Wrap)


A five-decade-long friendship that began with a phone call (NPR)

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, longtime NPR reporter Nina Totenberg reflected on her friendship with the gender rights icon. Totenberg’s beat is the Supreme Court, and she writes that despite their friendship, she and Ginsburg understood that they both had a job to do, “and without favor.” For six weeks in 2018, Totenberg’s husband knew Ginsburg was coping with lung cancer, but she asked him to keep her illness from the reporter. Ginsburg later explained: “I just didn’t want you to be trapped between your friendship for me and your obligations as a journalist.”

+ A new nonprofit newsroom, Mountain State Spotlight, wants to be the watchdog for West Virginia (Nieman Lab)