Need to Know: September 28, 2020

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


You might have heard: More than 50 local newsrooms have shut down during the pandemic (Poynter)

But did you know: Bill filed in Senate to explore public support of local news (The Colorado Independent)

The bill, which was filed last week, would create a commission to examine public funding options for local news outlets and to make recommendations on other ways the federal government could support local news. The panel would also evaluate if public funding would impact publications’ transparency and independence. The legislation has the support of more than dozen journalism advocacy groups, including the Society of Professional Journalists and Local Independent Online News Publishers. 

+ Noted: The deadline is coming up to apply for grants from the U.S. Press Freedom Accountability Project (News Leaders Association); The Los Angeles district attorney won’t prosecute a KPCC/LAist reporter who was arrested while covering a shooting of two deputies (Los Angeles Times); The Associated Press, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Conversation join to expand coverage of the nonprofit world (Associated Press)


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How The Washington Post is preparing for an election ‘hack-and-leak scenario’ (Twitter, @nakashimae) 

In guidelines issued last week, executive editor Marty Baron advised his newsroom to opt for caution over speed when encountering hacked or leaked information. That means taking time to evaluate if the material is authentic, accurate and newsworthy before reporting or tweeting about it. If the newsroom does decide to cover hacked or leaked information, Baron urged his staffers to include as much context as possible on where the material came from and if it may have been released in an effort to influence the election.

+ Earlier: In an effort to influence the 2016 election, the Russian government hacked and leaked documents from the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee, resulting in ongoing coverage (FiveThirtyEight)


Publish less, but publish better: Pivoting to paid in local news (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)

According to a recent study of eight local and regional newspapers in Europe, pursuing reader revenue like subscriptions, donations or premium access has led newsrooms to change some of their editorial approaches. For instance, to determine how to best draw readers to its premium model, Kaleva in Finland uses A/B testing to determine which content draws the most subscribers, a tactic that helped the publication increase its digital subscriptions by about a third during the last year. The papers in the study also changed their strategies for Facebook, using the platform more for promoting subscriptions.

+ In the United Kingdom, cutting a requirement to print public notices in local newspapers could result in a £10 million loss to the industry (Press Gazette); A State Department watchdog found that the agency revoked a Finnish journalist’s award because she criticized Trump (CNN)


Why online harassment is the new frontline for women journalists (International Center for Journalists)

Before Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in 2017, she was often threatened online. Julie Posetti writes that gendered harassment and abuse has preceded instances of violence against several female journalists around the world. Some online harassment stretches into the real world with privacy and security attacks, including doxxing. Targeted harassment can be the work of state-sponsored networks or members of fringe social media sites like 4chan, where hate campaigns can spark before spilling onto other platforms. During the course of a targeted harassment campaign, journalists also may find their families, sources and online audiences face similar online attacks.  

+ About two dozen experts, including journalists, plan to analyze and critique Facebook’s content moderation and other policies (NBC News)


Universities often block athletes from talking to the media, but it’s not legal (Poynter)

In a survey of sports editors, 91% said they sometimes or regularly were unable to get the access they needed to student athletes when going through an information officer. According to a recent study by researchers from the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, 86% of universities in the NCAA’s top division have written policies that prevent student athletes from speaking to journalists unless they receive permission from the athletic department. Other universities may not have that policy on the books but put it into practice, with coaches telling their players not to talk to the press. 

+ During a tense session at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, famed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward rejected questions about his decision to delay reporting on comments from the president until his book was published (Twitter, @karenkho)


An examination of the Los Angeles Times’ failures on race, our apology and a path forward (Los Angeles Times)

The paper’s editorial board writes that the Los Angeles Times has “often displayed at best a blind spot, at worst an outright hostility, for the city’s nonwhite population, one both rooted and reflected in a shortage of Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian and other people of color in its newsroom.” That editorial is part of a package that examines the paper’s role in systemic racism, with a pledge from the Times’ first non-white owner to increase staff diversity and improve coverage of underrepresented communities.

+ Earlier: This package follows months of calls for the paper to address race issues in the newsroom and its coverage (Nieman Lab)