Need to Know: September 30, 2021


You might have heard: Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Public Media are in talks to “become a combined entity” (Robert Feder) 

But did you know: Chicago Public Media’s board approves acquisition of Chicago Sun-Times (Crain’s Chicago Business)

The board of directors of Chicago Public Media voted late Wednesday to pursue acquisition of the Chicago Sun-Times, a merger that would “create one of the largest local nonprofit news organizations in the nation and be a national model for the future of local journalism,” their joint statement read. Both organizations have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to develop a partnership. WBEZ interim CEO Matt Moog will step up to serve as CEO of Chicago Public Media, and Nykia Wright will continue to serve as CEO of the Sun-Times.

+ Noted: Today is the deadline for newsrooms to apply to host a Report for America fellow in 2022 (Report for America); YouTube will ban prominent anti-vaccine activists and block all anti-vaccine content (The Washington Post); Google adds feature to search results that shows users information about the source (Twitter, @Google)


Journalism managers are burned out. Is it time for a work redesign?

Journalism has a long history of inducing stress and burnout in workers. Here are several suggestions for improving newsroom workflows and workloads so that the jobs are more sustainable — and the people in them healthier and happier. “Local journalism can’t be saved on the backs of overworked leaders whose careers are breaking them,” writes Jane Elizabeth. “It’s time to create a change in the bad bones in journalism’s historic work structure.”


Local news outlets can assess their ‘AI readiness’ through AP survey (AP)

The Associated Press has begun surveying local U.S. news outlets to assess their ability to adopt artificial intelligence tools. The survey asks about technologies and applications that the newsrooms currently use, and how automation and AI might streamline their news and business functions. The findings will be used to develop a free, online curriculum that AP will build next year. “There is a growing technology gap between national and local newsrooms that this project aims to narrow,” said Aimee Rinehart, AP’s program manager for the new initiative. “It’s critical that our survey has broad participation from local newsrooms of every size and includes AP members and non-AP members alike.”

+ Four tips for covering religious exemptions to vaccine mandates (Journalist’s Resource)


Automated accounts conduct 20% of Twitter attacks on journalists in Brazil, study says (LatAm Journalism Review)

A Reporters Without Borders survey found that social media has become hostile territory for the press in Brazil. One-fifth of threats aimed at journalists on social media were very likely to have originated from bots. This level of automation raises the suspicion that attacks on journalists are systematically planned and coordinated, the study’s authors wrote. The highest number of automated attacks on journalists came the day after an investigation into President Jair Bolsonaro’s “secret billion-dollar budget” was published by newspaper Estadão, suggesting that the government is behind the attacks.


The AFRO-American Newspapers invests to digitize 129 years of archives (Local Media Association)

The AFRO-American Newspapers plans to create a searchable and publicly accessible database housing digitized artifacts including newspapers, photos, letters, business records, original audio recordings, advertisements and even reporters’ notebooks. The company received a $535,000 grant from #StartSmall, a philanthropic initiative by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, to undertake the project. “The collection is really remarkable. It’s probably one of the best-preserved Black newspaper collections in the country,” said Savannah Wood, a fifth-generation member of The AFRO-American Newspapers family and executive director of AFRO Charities. The AFRO-American Newspapers was founded in 1892 by a former enslaved man and his wife; the company today is led by their descendants.


A New Yorker staffer questions racial equality at the magazine — and becomes the talk of the town (The Washington Post)

In 2019, archives editor Erin Overbey began combing through back issues of the New Yorker and tabulating the race and gender of its writers and editors. She found that almost none of the magazine’s stories had been edited by a Black person, and only a small fraction had been written by Black, Hispanic or Asian American women — “not surprising, perhaps, in a magazine whose history stretches to 1925,” writes Paul Farhi. Overbey’s findings, which she posted on Twitter, were met with praise from influential writers, including one who called it “a landmark in American press criticism.” New Yorker website editor Michael Luo defended the magazine, tweeting that the percentage of person-of-color hires in the New Yorker’s digital side has been “very, very high” since he took over in 2016.


Readers may perceive context in a story as an indicator of reporter bias (Twitter, @tamarwilner)

A Center for Media Engagement study found that certain journalistic practices, like adding context to a story, can contribute to audiences’ perceptions of the reporter’s bias. Other practices, like including quotes and eyewitness accounts from people who experienced events, were highly valued by participants in the study, who “saw these techniques as the ultimate vessels of truth,” writes Tamar Wilner, one of the study’s coauthors. Participants appreciated journalists’ watchdog role but also wanted a “passive, detached journalism” — sentiments that seem to be in conflict with each other, Wilner notes.