Need to Know: September 9, 2021


You might have heard: Almost a third of people worldwide said they “often or sometimes” avoid the news (Reuters Institute)

But did you know: People with the least trust in news are also least interested in it (Reuters Institute)

A study from the Reuters Institute of news consumers in four countries — the U.S., the U.K., India and Brazil — found that those who expressed the least trust in news were not those who were most “vocally hostile” about the media, but instead tended to be indifferent and disengaged with it. They also tended to be older, less educated, and living in rural areas. Explanations about how journalists do their jobs and efforts to build more transparency into reporting will only have a limited impact if this demographic isn’t being reached at all, the report concluded. “Many for-profit news media may, frankly, not want to do this because the commercial returns of focusing on competing for the attention of affluent and already engaged people are likely to be greater.”

+ Noted: Twitter takes on Facebook Groups with invite-only “Communities” (The Verge)


How The Tennessean tells stories for and with Black residents (Better News)

After George Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020, The Tennessean dedicated an entire opinion section to the voices of Black community leaders. It also began actively recruiting more guest essays from Black writers, and succeeded in doubling the number of Black contributors from 2020 to 2021. Its Black Tennessee Voices newsletter, podcast and private Facebook group have also helped actively engage this demographic. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


Tips for covering COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (Journalist’s Resource)

Vaccine hesitancy forms a spectrum, says science journalist Maryn McKenna. “People have come to it with degrees of belief or disbelief for a variety of reasons.” Journalists need to take the time to investigate vaccine hesitancy in their communities and explain its nuances. Start by losing the assumption that vaccine-hesitant people have fallen for misinformation or conspiracy theories, and ask what their concerns or questions are about the vaccine — put a call out on social media and other channels. Then try to get those questions answered for them. “If we don’t let the public ask questions, we don’t know what their questions are and we’re making assumptions,” says Dr. Cindy Prins, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida.

+ Many journalists have been willing to examine the underlying reasons for vaccine hesitancy in minority communities, which rarely have to do with conspiracy theories and misinformation. However, they have shown a “remarkable lack of curiosity and empathy” when it comes to unvaccinated white conservatives — yet their reasons are similar to those of unvaccinated minority groups, writes Timothy Delizza. (Undark)

+ Nonprofit newsrooms, here’s a helpful guide to using NewsMatch to boost fundraising revenue. It features Sahan Journal, which launched in 2019 and managed to double individual contributions in just one year. (Institute for Nonprofit News)


Australian court says publishers can be held legally responsible for Facebook comments (Nieman Lab)

Australian news outlets can now be sued for defamatory comments left by users on their Facebook pages, since the court agreed that news outlets are the “publishers” of those comments. Facebook only a few months ago made it possible for page owners to turn off comments on a particular post — probably in response to this case as it made its way through the lower courts. The ruling this week came from Australia’s High Court, which means its decision can’t be appealed by media outlets. “If a professional publisher has to evaluate the truth level of every single Facebook comment to the same standards as their journalism,” writes Joshua Benton, “and it faces multi-million-dollar liability every time they get it wrong — in what universe is digital publishing even possible?”

+ Earlier: New Zealand’s biggest news outlet, Stuff, left Facebook. Seven months later, traffic was just fine and trust was higher. (Reuters Institute)


Why some companies are encouraging side hustles (Digiday)

In the U.S., 34% of people started a side job this year, according to a survey from Zapier. And while many employers regard side hustles as unwelcome distractions for employees, others are beginning to openly encourage them, writes Marylou Costa — as long as employees don’t let their performance slide. Allowing employees to pursue passion projects also allows them to develop new skills on their time, and gives them a greater sense of freedom and flexibility. Employers need to start focusing more on “personal progression, not career progression,” says Paul McEntee, founder of a creative agency that offers cash injections, tech equipment and mentoring to junior staff who submit a side hustle business plan. “What is best for that person, rather than the company?”

+ Outlier Media is looking for a Director of Audience and has set up a “hiring hotline” for potential applicants. “As a newer org, folks often have questions before they apply,” wrote Executive Director Candice Fortman. “That’s why we have a ‘hiring hotline.’ You can schedule a 20 [minute] call to ask me anything you might want to know before you submit your application.” (Twitter, @Cande313)


Did the rise of Politico shift political journalism off course? (Washington Post)

Politico launched in 2007 to serve as an alternative to a “slow and dull” political media that favored a centrist approach and centrist politicians. Its fast-paced, gossipy coverage quickly attracted a large audience of people who were eager to read about the machinations of Beltway powerbrokers. Its success was such that other national media outlets rushed to copy its style. But in an era when politicians are becoming ever more extreme and willing to espouse “anti-democratic” views, Politico’s brand of coverage serves to exacerbate polarization, writes Perry Bacon Jr.


Small publishers have longer runway to digital, but they still need to take off (Medill Local News Initiative)

Many small local news organizations still rely on print advertising for a good portion of their revenue — and many of their subscribers still loyally read the print newspaper. That may be one reason some have been slow to adapt to digital. “Most of the smaller dailies have made great progress,” says Nancy Lane, CEO of the Local Media Association, but with the small weeklies, “it’s a mixed bag.” Some small outlets are finding creative workarounds to the common roadblock of not being able to afford tech infrastructure; taking advantage of training and funding from groups like the Local Media Association, the Google News Initiative, the Facebook Accelerator Program and America’s Newspapers. There are also more tech products now that are designed for small newsrooms, including Newspack, Town News and Workbench.