Need to Know: August 2, 2021

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


You might have heard: In 2015, the Writers Guild organized Gawker Media, making it the first major online media company to unionize (The New York Times)

But did you know: Writers Guild announces pause on organizing digital newsrooms (Poynter)

In an email to members last week, the Guild Council for Writers Guild of America, East said that it is assessing its membership and pausing organization efforts at digital newsrooms. Since Gawker unionized, the Writers Guild has organized more than two dozen newsrooms, including Vox and HuffPost. During the past five years, “a substantial portion” of the guild’s budget has gone to digital organizing, the email said, and the union’s news-to-freelance ratio among its members has also dramatically changed. Eight members of the Guild Council issued a separate statement that said the decision didn’t stem from budget issues but from “a conflict between Council members over who belongs in the WGAE and who does not.”

+ Noted: The New York Times is indefinitely postponing a mandatory return to its offices, which will be open to staffers who have proof of vaccination (The New York Times); The Kansas City Beacon is expanding to a second city, Wichita (Nieman Lab)


Journalism in the fog of ‘high conflict’: Q&A with Amanda Ripley

Journalist Amanda Ripley’s 2018 essay, “Complicating the Narratives,” helped change how many journalists cover polarizing debates. In this Q+A, API’s Kevin Loker talks to Ripley about how journalists can, through their reporting, help people exit “high conflict” — a type of conflict that is “self-perpetuating and all-consuming, in which almost everyone ends up worse off.” 


How to make social media accessible (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Bryan Gould, director of the National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH, recommends newsrooms make their work as inclusive as possible by ensuring images and audio in social media are more accessible to people with disabilities. Social media managers can make posts more accessible to screen readers by creating captions and alt text, avoiding acronyms and excessive emojis, and putting hashtags in camelcase by capitalizing the first letter of each word. Gould suggests newsrooms train staff and make accessibility guidelines with checklists to help ensure published pieces are meeting the guidelines.

+ How to write about traumatic situations without retraumatizing those involved (Nieman Lab)


How India’s only all-female news organization speaks up for India’s poor (The Guardian)

At the Uttar Pradesh-based news outlet Khabar Lahariya, which covers rural issues through a feminist lens, all of the journalists are women and most are Dalits, members of India’s lowest caste. Beginning as a temporary project to train women to write a newsletter in 2002, the digital outlet reports undercovered stories that often bring attention to discrimination, violence against women and abuses of power. As part of its accountability coverage, the outlet requires its reporters to follow up on each of their stories after four weeks and write an update if those in authority haven’t taken action, an approach that has resulted in sexual assault convictions, infrastructure improvements and other impacts.


New NPR ethics policy says it’s OK for journalists to demonstrate sometimes (NPR)

In July, NPR updated its ethics policy to allow journalists to express support for democratic and civic values, including “the right to thrive in society without facing discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, or religion.” The policy removed language that blocked journalists from participating in marches, rallies and other public events and instructed them to avoid advocating for “controversial” or “polarizing” issues. The policy has some caveats: Journalists can’t attend protests they’re covering or events supporting specific legislation or candidates.

+ How to talk about your mental health with your employer (Harvard Business Review)


How calling it ‘the Amanda Knox saga’ omits the power dynamics that shaped her story (Twitter, @amandaknox)

The director of the upcoming film “Stillwater,” which stars Matt Damon, has said the film is loosely based on the life of Amanda Knox, who was wrongly convicted and later acquitted of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Italy. Knox writes that the phrase “Amanda Knox saga,” which has appeared in news coverage of the film, obscures her lack of agency amid the failings of the criminal justice system and sensational media coverage that focused on Knox “at Meredith’s expense.” She writes, “The result of this is that 15 years later, my name is the name associated with this tragic series of events, of which I had zero impact on.”

+ How media stereotypes continue to dehumanize Haiti (NBCU Academy)


Tell-all crime reporting is a peculiarly American practice. Now U.S. news outlets are rethinking it (Nieman Lab)

In June, the Associated Press announced it would no longer publish the names of people arrested for minor offenses, a move that is part of a larger trend of American newsrooms reconsidering how they cover crime. In some European countries, the norm is for news organizations to withhold names of people who are arrested unless they are public figures or the incident is of particular interest to the public. German, Dutch and Swedish ethics codes for journalists encourage newsrooms to protect the identities of suspects and people convicted of crimes.

+ Related: Why newsletter publisher 6AM City avoids crime and politics (Press Gazette); How to reinvent your crime coverage to build trust (Trusting News)