Need to Know: September 23, 2020

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


You might have heard: Women and young people are more likely to avoid news (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: News about politics bums you out and can make you feel ill — but it also makes you take action (Nieman Lab)

Canadian researchers from the University of Toronto and Brock University found that daily political events are a chronic stressor that worsened people’s mental and physical health, with the side effect of increasing their motivation to respond as a volunteer, protester or with other efforts. People who were better at dealing with their emotions from politics through strategies like distraction had fewer negative effects, but they were less likely to react by taking action.

+ Noted: The CEO of American Public Media is stepping down after about 650 employees called for changes to improve racial and gender equity (Twitter, @maxnesterak); Wired’s union held a half-day work stoppage yesterday after Condé Nast claimed workers in audience development and other areas can’t join the group, alleging they aren’t editorial employees (Twitter, @wiredunion, @anthonylydgate) 


Trusting News’ free elections training arrives in text messages (Trusting News)

Trusting News is debuting a free, SMS-based course on how to earn trust with your community while covering local and national elections. The 10-day training will address common misconceptions about journalism and provide tips and resources on topics like how to defend your credibility and engage with your audience during your election coverage. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


Using aggressive pricing and referrals, The Athletic almost doubled subscribers since June (International News Media Association)

In June, The Athletic’s subscriber growth was falling, and the outlet laid off 8% of its staff, cut salaries and stopped hiring freelancers. However, subscriptions to the site have since increased from 600,000 to 1 million, which Grzegorz Piechota attributes to steps that made signing up more affordable. The Athletic introduced a series of deals, from a 12-month package that cost just a dollar to guest passes that existing subscribers could share with friends. The publication also worked with T-Mobile, Sprint and Bloomberg to bundle free six to one-year subscriptions with the companies’ other services.


An Indigenous Canadian journalist was covering a protest. Then he got arrested. (The New York Times)

Four reporters have been arrested recently while covering Canadian Indigenous protests, leading to criticism that police are stifling awareness of the issues that Native Canadians face. One of those journalists was Indigenous reporter and radio host Karl Dockstader, who closely followed protests against a housing project near Niagara Falls until the Ontario Provincial Police arrested him on charges including criminal mischief. He also is restricted from covering the demonstrations in person and interviewing the protesters involved until his case is resolved.


Poynter now offers six months paid parental leave. Here’s how it happened. (Poynter)

In doing so, the Poynter Institute is defying a trend where only 15% of the American workforce has access to employer-sponsored paid family leave. Poynter’s policy, which you can read here, allows eligible staffers who become parents to take four to six months of paid leave, replacing a former plan that didn’t include partners or adoptive parents. The organization is also planning to develop another policy that will affect other employees, including caregivers of adult relatives. 

+ Earlier: Why The 19th is offering employees six months of parental leave (Forbes)


Nina Totenberg was close friends with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Was that a conflict for NPR? (The Washington Post)

Paul Farhi writes that NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg and the public radio outlet typically didn’t disclose the relationship, which spanned years before Ginsburg became a justice. The journalist rejected the idea that her friendships with Ginsburg and another late justice, Antonin Scalia, compromised her work, arguing the relationships came with boundaries and gave her a better understanding of their judicial rationale. Some media critics, however, have said the friendship posed a conflict of interest that should have led to the journalist recusing herself or being removed from the Supreme Court beat.

+ Newsrooms need a plan to diversify investigative teams (Nieman Reports)


Reporting today, with yesterday’s context (Columbia Journalism Review)

During the pandemic, journalists have used historical reporting to increase understanding of current events, with many local publications examining how their communities experienced the 1918 flu epidemic as a comparison to the coronavirus. One nonprofit news site, Retro Report, roots its journalism in “the history behind the headlines,” with stories and brief documentaries that connect the past with current events, like the racial justice movement.