Need to Know: August 2, 2022


You might have heard: A Colorado newspaper settled a libel lawsuit. Now it’s facing accusations of self-censorship. (Poynter) 

But did you know: Government yanks ads from Aspen newspaper to make a point (Inside the News in Colorado) 

Members of the Pitkin County, Colorado board of commissioners have voted to redirect official notices away from The Aspen Times and to its competitor, The Aspen Daily News, only a month after pulling all advertising spending from the Times. The goal is to punish the Times’ owner, Ogden Newspapers, which, locals say, forced the Times to censor coverage of a billionaire’s lawsuit against the paper. “It’s no secret that our board wasn’t happy with what happened at The Aspen Times recently and I don’t think the community has received necessarily a satisfactory answer from the new owners of the newspaper at this point in time,” said Commissioner Steve Child. 

+ Noted: Nicholas Kristof returns to The New York Times after running for governor of Oregon (The New York Times); Major news organizations sue Texas Department of Public Safety for public records on Uvalde shooting (CNN)  


Meet us at NABJ-NAHJ and AEJMC conventions this week

API’s CEO and executive director Michael Bolden will be at the NABJ-NAHJ convention and career fair in Las Vegas this week. He will participate in two sessions on Thursday, one at 12:30 p.m. on how newsrooms can combat online abuse of their journalists and the other a 3:30 p.m. roundtable discussion on holding news media accountable in efforts to increase diversity in their organizations and better cover communities of color.

And Letrell Deshan Crittenden, API’s director of inclusion and audience growth, will be at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s 2022 conference in Detroit, where he’ll participate in four panels focused on DEI and community engagement practices.

If you’ll be at either of these conferences, please say hello, or feel free to DM Michael or Letrell on Twitter. They’re eager to hear from you.


Can we make it easier for readers to digest all the numbers journalists stuff into their stories? (Nieman Lab)

Journalists have a tendency to fall prey to “numerism,” which views numbers as “objective and truthful at their core,” according to a new paper from Journalism Practice. The result can be “number soup” — dense, grammatically complex copy that assumes readers are familiar with the inherent meanings of data points. According to their study, economy and health stories were most likely to include number-stuffed sentences or paragraphs, often in ledes. The study’s authors argue that reporters should make a point of writing in a clearer, more accessible way, with shorter sentences that convey one idea at a time. 


The New York Times misses chance to do better in Ukraine (The Fix) 

The New York Times has named former Moscow correspondent Andrew Kramer to run its new Kyiv bureau. Some in Ukraine accused Kramer of having a pro-Russia slant, while others feel that the decision reinforces the perspective of Ukraine as a subset of Russia, write Zakhar Protsiuk and Jakub Parusinski. In the past, Moscow-based writers sent to cover Ukraine “land in Kyiv with heads full of Russian narratives, buzzwords and talking points” that impacted their coverage. Media observers, they write, are still wary of the Times after its 1930s Moscow bureau chief, Walter Duranty, was found to be a Stalin apologist who covered up Holodomor, Stalin’s man-made famine. 


Books about investigative reporting are even more interesting than they used to be (Substack, Second Rough Draft) 

While books about investigative journalism used to focus on the heroics of a newsroom staff chasing a story, more stories are emerging that show individual journalists fighting against their own newsroom leadership to get a story, writes Dick Tofel. It was the case in Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, and it’s the narrative of Bad City by Paul Pringle, who claimed that his editors at the Los Angeles Times were unenthusiastic about his pursuit of a bombshell story about the dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine. Tofel calls Bad City “a warts-and-all version of how investigative reporters push relentlessly to get stories, how nearly all of them are idealists but some combine that with occasional self-righteousness, how even the best of them need editors, and how queasiness and excessive caution in top editors or in newsroom lawyers ill serves readers.” 


Former Conde Nast chief says newspapers downplay climate change to boost sales (Press Gazette) 

Wolfgang Blau, a former executive at Conde Nast and co-founder of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network, says that news editors are making “short term” decisions to downplay climate change in order to appeal to readers, writes Andrew Kersley. He argues that, by focusing on how climate issues will affect day-to-day life, editors “understate how climate change is the biggest social question ever, one that will hit the poorest people the hardest.” Blau also said that news outlets will have to adapt to climate change as they eventually did to the internet, with all staffers versed in a “basic climate literacy.” 


Inside the one newsroom the NewsGuild failed to unionize (Poynter) 

Earlier this year, staff at Outside Magazine decided to abandon their efforts to unionize. It was the first time in many years that a public effort to unionize at NewsGuild failed, writes Angela Fu. After staffers asked the magazine’s parent company, Outside Inc., to voluntarily recognize their union, the company launched an aggressive anti-union campaign, arguing that a union would make it harder to attract funding and would put the jobs of hundreds of people across many publications at stake. The organizers decided to pull their request. Only a few months later, the magazine laid off several staffers and re-organized others without consultation, and many staffers regretted not unionizing.