Need to Know: Sept. 5, 2019

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


You might have heard: Only about 17% of news stories provided to a community are truly local (Duke University) 

But did you know: Local newspapers do more local journalism than TV, radio and online-only news outlets (Duke University)

A new study shows that local newspapers significantly outperform local TV, radio and digital media outlets, not only in terms of overall output, but also in terms of coverage that is truly local — meaning that the stories are geographically local, original and serve a critical information need. While local newspapers made up 25% of the news outlets sampled in the study, they produced 60% of the news that met those three criteria. Online-only media outlets, meanwhile, made up only 10% of the news outlets surveyed, and produced 10% of the news that met the criteria. The findings emphasize the importance of philanthropic support of newspapers, and “suggest that commercial and philanthropic efforts to establish online-only outlets as comparable alternatives to local newspapers remain far from this goal,” wrote the study’s authors. 

+ Noted: University legal clinics and professors form a national network to provide pro bono legal support for public interest journalism (RCFP); Submissions are open for the RJI Student Innovation Challenge (Reynolds Journalism Institute); Google has been accused of secretly feeding personal data to advertisers (Financial Times)


Learn ways to diversify audience revenue  

We scour the web for the best advice on how to tackle common newsroom challenges. Then we put that content all in one place on Get advice on diversifying revenue streams, or navigate to another area you need help in.


How BuzzFeed’s tech team helps journalists report on technology with authority (Medium, BuzzFeed)

Last year BuzzFeed launched “The Tech + News Working Group,” a Slack-based collaboration that allows BuzzFeed reporters to tap into the tech team’s expertise when working on a story. Reporters’ questions sometimes lead to new reporting tools, like Tubeviewer, which exposed how YouTube’s Up Next algorithm works, and bots that send digests of patent information to Slack or collect data from court filing systems. “These requests are a fun break from our day to day ‘real’ work. Sometimes the Tech team gets way more invested in the answer to a question posed by a reporter than the reporter intended,” writes Logan McDonald. “In the end, we’ve helped contribute to a bunch of stories and scoops, and in doing so created a bond of trust amongst reporters and technologists across our organization.”

+ 6 steps to a successful podcast pitch in a newsroom (Poynter)


How Denmark’s TV2 Østjylland uses news memes to attract younger audiences (

Last year Danish news station TV2 Østjylland began using memes as a way to get its journalism in front of a younger, social media-addicted audience. Its reporters have deployed memes in their coverage of a range of topics, from new parking lots to the increased cost of bus tickets. The key to a good meme: Stick to topics that people will have strong opinions about (but stay away from tragic events), choose a compelling image, get reporters and editors to suggest captions … and don’t try too hard. Being well-immersed in the “language of memes” is essential, said Art Director Kristine Helms. “It is really easy to do wrong and to be awkward, so you have to get the right tone of the meme and also think about what stories you’re telling.”

+ Earlier: Spanish news outlet uses memes to help its fact-checks and debunking posts travel faster across social media (Poynter)


Why the strongest communities start small (First Round Review)

For news organizations thinking about starting a membership program, the secret to building a community of loyal supporters is to start small and actively try not to scale, says Bailey Richardson. Richardson was formerly in charge of Instagram’s global community-building efforts, and was the mastermind behind the in-real-life “Insta-Meets” that continue to be popular gatherings around the world. She suggests starting with a small group of people (100, 150, 300) who “give a damn” about what you’re trying to accomplish, and finding meaningful ways to engage them. “[It] boils down to the actual people who love you and building relationships with them. You have to do things that don’t scale in terms of personal outreach and relationship cultivation, not just in the product or in sales.”

+ Earlier: Some ideas for weaving member interaction into your journalism, in ways that strengthen both your journalism and your relationships with members (Membership Puzzle Project) 

+ Video ads that play automatically on websites with sound are the most annoying type of ad, say survey respondents, half of whom are using ad blockers (eMarketer)


The news industry needs to invest in childcare, especially for conferences (OpenNews)

The high cost of childcare bars many journalists from assignments or industry events that require travel. Emily Goligoski and Marisa Mazria Katz name several conference organizers that are now offering on-site childcare; many of them using specialized agencies like Sitters Studio or KiddieCorp. “Investments in caregiving will enable a more diverse set of practitioners to engage in critical issues — encouraging a set of often marginalized voices to take their rightful place at the table,” they write. “If only people of means can attend, it limits the substantive change that might come from the conversations that happen.”  

+ Will the media’s climate blitz take root? (Politico); The New York Times columnists vs. the haters: A brief history of overreaction (Slate)


Why going solo is a risk for female reporters in the U.S. and Canada (Committee to Protect Journalists)

In a new survey on journalist safety from CPJ, 85% of respondents said they felt journalism is becoming less safe as a profession. They cited working alone and crude comments as top concerns, and several said they lacked support or empathy from editors, who appeared to have an attitude of “do the job or move aside.” Broadcast journalists, who increasingly work alone in the field, said that carrying a camera or other equipment seems to invite harassment. “In this day and age, sending anyone places by themselves with news gear just encourages the crazies,” said one respondent. “The gap [is] management recognition of the problem, especially of women working as multimedia journalists.”

+ The ONA19 Student Newsroom is conducting a short survey about the challenges faced by early-career journalists. Take a few minutes and fill it in. (ONA19)