Need to Know: September 28, 2021


You might have heard: More than two-thirds of journalists say they plan to increase climate change coverage (Reuters Institute) 

But did you know: Why climate news is paralyzing people (World News Day)

Research has shown that humans need to feel “emotionally activated” to change their behaviors. But they can also feel emotionally deactivated — paralyzed by feelings of hopelessness, despair and a sense of being overwhelmed. One analysis revealed that 79% of news headlines about the United Nations’ recent climate report evoked those feelings in readers around the world. (One point of proof is that Google searches for “climate change” peaked 14 years ago; in the last five years, people have been three times more likely to search for “Marvel comics.”) Other psychological factors are at play — ”present bias” can cause people to focus on pursuing small rewards in the short term while discounting future losses or threats; while the “ostrich effect” prevents people from absorbing information effectively.

+ Earlier: Why we need a new local language of climate change reporting (Reuters Institute)

+ Noted: CherryRoad Media acquires 20 newspapers in four states from Gannett (Editor & Publisher); LION is expanding its Media Liability program for members to all 50 states (LION); The New York Times is launching a “talent pipeline program” for early-college students (New York Times Co.)


Webinar today: Learn how Newsday and Spokesman-Review keep more subscribers

API’s Director of Reader Revenue Gwen Vargo will lead a free webinar today at 3 p.m. ET, about developing strategies for retaining news subscribers. Erik Zenhausern, director of acquisition and retention at Newsday and Pat Leader, the director of audience and consumer revenue at the Spokesman-Review, will share ways they have revamped their retention strategies to reduce churn of digital subscribers. Learn more and register for the conversation here. 


A 30-minute exercise to kick off your audience engagement project (OpenNews)

Network mapping is a great framework for identifying the many stakeholders in an issue being covered. “Whether you’re developing a newsroom-wide strategy for connecting with audiences or you’re looking to quickly find sources for a single story, network mapping allows you to identify what you’re seeking to connect with audiences about, who cares about that topic and how you can reach them,” writes Bridget Thoreson. Get your team together and name as many groups as you can who fall into this category within 30 minutes; then start to form outreach plans.


TikTok now has ‘vulgarity’ moderators in Pakistan (Vice)

The Pakistani government has banned TikTok four times since last year for content it deems “vulgar, immoral and obscene.” In response, the social media company is now launching a “safety center” in Pakistan where local moderators will filter that type of content. TikTok says its Urdu-language safety center will include parental controls, protection against bullies, and suicide alerts. While the app is still currently banned in Pakistan, critics of the moderation team say it will censor content creators and curb free speech.


‘No News Monday’: How KATU News made space for mental health training (Twitter, @MikeKATU)

Yesterday KATU News in Portland, Ore., did not air its usual morning and afternoon shows. The entire news team was attending a seminar, led by the Poynter Institute, on how to deal with on-the-job stress and trauma. “In almost 25 years as a photojournalist, I’ve never seen a newsroom do this,” wrote photojournalist Mike Warner on Twitter. “I am grateful for a company and managers who care about our mental health and well being. We’ll still be keeping an eye on things, just taking a day to feel better.”


Why misinformation is about to get so much worse (The Atlantic)

In a conversation with executive editor Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic Festival, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt described recent advances in artificial intelligence as marking “the beginning of a new epoch of human civilization” — having more of an impact on society than the internet, social media and smartphones. But it can also usher in new ways to generate and spread misinformation. Humans are not good at navigating a cascade of information — let alone misinformation, said Schmidt. “We’re not very good with rapid change and lots of information — it just causes our brains to go crazy, with maybe a few notable exceptions.” Information driven by features that are not human, he said, could result in more misinformation, but it could also help humans to process information in ways that haven’t been possible.


How Axios is tackling local news: newsletters from small teams, in more markets (Digiday)

Axios is taking what General Manager Ted Williams calls a “lean, pragmatic approach” to its newsletter teams now operating in 14 cities across the U.S. Each team has two journalists (with the exceptions of Atlanta and D.C., which have three) who cover local news. Tech, design and copy editing for each newsletter are handled by centralized Axios teams. “We are trying to hire the two best journalists in each market,” Williams said. The teams will “grow as the audience grows and revenue grow … rather than go in and hire really large teams and just burn through cash quicker.” Axios is also taking a lean approach to its advertisers, focusing on establishing longer-term relationships with fewer advertisers, rather than taking on as many clients as possible.