Need to Know: April 19, 2021

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


 You might have heard: Most reporter questions to the White House are about health and immigration (CNN)

 But did you know: The White House tries a time-tested media strategy — courting local reporters (The Washington Post)

The Biden administration is giving regional reporters a virtual seat in the White House briefing room as part of a communication strategy that factors in local news outlets, allowing them to ask questions on topics that affect their communities. The White House has begun holding monthly press briefings for regional outlets, with plans to bring in publications serving people of color, the LGBTQ community and women. Since Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s, White House communication teams have sought out local outlets as a way to spread their messaging in local communities.

+ Noted: Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss ended his bid for Tribune Publishing, leaving Maryland hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr. to seek new financing to block sale to Alden (The New York Times); On Friday in Minnesota, police rounded up journalists who were covering a protest, forced them on the ground and photographed their press credentials and faces (USA Today)


Keeping opinion local: The benefits of cutting national politics from opinion sections

After a local newspaper dropped national politics from its opinion section, researchers found that polarization in the community spread more slowly. The newspaper also experienced a surge in letters to the editor from local contributors on local topics, including transportation, arts and culture, and online readership of the opinion section doubled. We spoke with one of the researchers, who is also co-author of the book “Home Style Opinion: How Local News Can Slow Polarization,” about the implications of the study and considerations for other news outlets that are considering abandoning national opinion content.


Block Club Chicago offered a version of a breaking news story without a graphic video (Nieman Lab)

After Chicago police released body cam footage of an officer fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo, Block Club Chicago opted to give their readers a choice as to whether or not to watch the violent video. The nonprofit created two versions of an article about the footage. One describes the video without embedding it, and both have headlines clearly noting that the footage will or will not be included. “It is deeply traumatic to watch these things, and after a really, really hard year, I think people need an option to not see that,” said Jen Sabella, Block Club Chicago co-founder and director of strategy.


Trolley Times newsletter gives voice to protesting farmers in India (International Journalists’ Network)

Since November, thousands of farmers in India have protested new laws they say will allow companies to drive down prices for agricultural products. Trolley Times, which is run by 10 volunteers, emerged to provide protest news and counter a narrative in mainstream news that the farmers are anti-India. The newsletter has print editions in Punjabi, Hindi and some in English, and it includes articles written by the protesters. Throughout history, activists have created newspapers to share information unlikely to appear in traditional news sources, and during the past decade, papers similar to the Trolley Times were launched in Iraq and Syria.


Is parenting during the workday here to stay? (The Boston Globe)

The pandemic upended our traditional work structure, forcing employees to combine at-home office hours with parenting. In a survey from November, only 17% of respondents said they received resources to help with child care or remote school, while more than half said they had flexible working hours. As some workplaces have created better policies for parents, Linda Rodriguez McRobbie asks “how meaningful such improvements can be without broader structural supports such as government-funded parental leave and child care — and whether women will continue to shoulder more parenting expectations than men.”

+ Related: Some female media leaders are building work cultures that allow parents shorter work weeks and take other steps to support working mothers (Digiday)


How newsrooms could help women deal with burnout (@mitrakalita, Twitter)

Citing burnout, two of The Texas Tribune’s top newsroom leaders announced last month they were stepping down from their roles. Last week, Wired editor Megan Greenwell said on Twitter that she also feels “totally drained, and I’ve realized I cannot do my best work without a break.” Journalist S. Mitra Kalita suggested news organizations should find ways to retain women, whether through offering sabbaticals, fellowships, coaching or opportunities to work on special projects.


 With eye-popping auctions, news outlets are jumping on the NFT gravy train (Vanity Fair)

The Associated Press was the first news organization to delve into auctions for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, earning about $180,000 in cryptocurrency from a sale in March. Now the AP plans to auction NFT-backed digital art files from the outlet’s vast photography archive, and The New York Times, Time, Quartz and The Atlantic also have gotten into NFTs. While the payoff for some has been significant (Time earned $1.5 million in NFT sales), The Atlantic failed to sell NFTs that didn’t reach minimum bids during auction, and some observers suspect this development is a bubble at risk of bursting, not a trend.

+ Earlier: NFTs are like “one-of-a-kind trading cards” for blockchain currency (The Verge)