Need to Know: September 19, 2022


What local newsrooms can do now to prepare for a series of historic elections

This week, API is releasing a new report to help news organizations think about their politics and campaign coverage in different and more effective ways. How do local newsrooms cover elections at a time when democratic principles are under attack, basic voting procedures are questioned and many people fear the future of personal rights? It’s a challenge that fiercely emerged during 2020’s political and social unrest. Now, with another unusual and significant election cycle underway, a growing number of journalism organizations and newsrooms are finding better ways to cover an election like no other. New chapters of this report will be published each day this week.

+ Editor’s note: API is pleased to participate in the 2022 ONA conference in Los Angeles this week. The rest of the week’s Need to Know newsletter will feature new installments of the election preparation report as well as updates on what API is involved in at ONA. Check out what we’re up to at the conference, reach out to API staff and follow along with us at @ampress. 


You might have heard: Traffic to local news websites has plummeted. What happens now? (Poynter)

But did you know: Across the West, news deserts spread — but civic engagement is taking other forms (High Country News)

Journalism professor Ruxandra Guidi tells the story of two young reporters at the Tucson Weekly, whose new owner gutted the newspaper and pushed out much of the staff, including the young reporters. “I believe the repercussions of their exit will ripple out to future journalists and local readers, and in turn, impact their ability to participate in society and democracy and beyond,” Guidi writes. What happened to the Tucson Weekly — which she says is now little more than an advertising rag for Arizona’s growing marijuana industry — is playing out at local newspapers across the country. The various platforms that tend to fill in for local news, including newsletters, podcasts and new websites, can normalize news deserts but also offer opportunities for young journalists to reshape local coverage.

+ Noted: Star Tribune publisher Mike Klingensmith to retire after 13 years (Star Tribune); AFP offers Spanish-language fact checking service on WhatsApp (Poynter); Queen’s funeral may break TV records, but the ad blackout will cost media dearly (The Guardian)


Prism adopts a four-day workweek (Prism)

Earlier this summer, Prism piloted a 32-hour, four-day workweek for full-time employees, the result of which was “nothing short of transformative,” writes Ashton Lattimore. Team members reported improved work-life balance, mental health and productivity while maintaining editorial production goals and exceeding audience growth goals. Following the successful pilot, the independent and nonprofit newsroom led by journalists of color is officially adopting the four-day workweek — joining the growing number of organizations in the U.S. and around the world pushing for a shortened workweek.


UNICEF launches development journalism classes for teachers in India (East Mojo)

More than 100 college and university teachers from across India will participate in an eight-day training program that offers tools to teach students how to take an evidence-based, reliable and credible data-backed approach to reporting. The UNICEF initiative focuses on how to responsibly report on issues affecting children and mothers — from obtaining guardian permission to interview or photograph children, to combining evidence-based reporting with stories of the realities of children. 


Social media giants face content moderation restrictions in Texas (Axios)

A federal appeals court upheld a Texas law that seeks to stop social media platforms from removing content if it can be considered a political viewpoint. Tech companies have argued that the law is unconstitutional as it forces them to host content they object to, violating their First Amendment rights, but that view was rejected by courts on Friday. The law would limit platforms’ efforts to restrict the spread of misinformation and could be adopted in other states if successfully enacted in Texas. The law will not go into effect yet, and a Supreme Court appeal is likely. 


Want trust in media to improve? Do basic fact checking. (The Daily Beast)

In August, the story of a Duke women’s volleyball player being called racial slurs by a Brigham Young University fan at a match went viral — resulting in the ban of the fan from BYU athletic facilities, canceled games against BYU’s volleyball team, and an outpouring of support for the volleyball player from many, including Utah’s governor and LeBron James. However, student newspapers couldn’t corroborate the claim, and a subsequent investigation found no proof of the allegation. The fan in question, described by one witness as mentally challenged, received an apology — but news of the investigation’s findings has received far less coverage, Matt Lewis writes. 


Farewell to Outlook, and nearly 70 years of essays, arguments and criticism (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post’s Outlook print section of commentary and analysis published its last edition on Sunday. Going forward, the essays and analysis appearing in the section will now be found in the Opinions section and online. Robert G. Kaiser and Steve Luxenberg, Outlook’s editors from different eras, gave the section a proper send-off.

“There were triumphs, embarrassments, hits and misses in the section’s weekly quest to provide a mix of significant reporting, opinions worth arguing about, occasional splashes of humor and tragedy, and new ideas that otherwise might never have made their way into the paper.” –Robert G. Kaiser and Steve Luxenberg, The Washington Post