Need to Know: December 2, 2021


You might have heard: Six corporations control 90% of the media In America (Business Insider) 

But did you know: Swift selling local media assets to Ogden Newspapers (Associated Press) 

Swift Communications, which runs 20 publications in the American West, will sell its publishing business to Ogden Newspapers. With these news titles, Ogden will publish 54 daily newspapers as well as several weekly papers and magazines across 18 states. Swift’s titles include publications aimed at mountain report towns, such as The Aspen Times and Tahoe Daily Tribune, as well as hobbyist periodicals like Backyard Poultry Magazine. The goal of the newspaper chain is to be a “positive force in the communities we serve,” said Ogden CEO Robert Nutting in a press release. 

+ Noted: Wirecutter workers end strike; management to return to the bargaining table (NewsGuild); Why Newsmax and OAN support Biden’s Democratic FCC picks (Gizmodo); BuzzFeed is about to go public — and its employees are walking out in protest (New York Magazine) 


Here’s what people with low trust in news learned attending a morning TV news meeting (Trusting News on Medium) 

To journalists, selecting which news stories to cover can seem obvious and intuitive, but audiences often read ulterior motives into what gets covered and what doesn’t. To address this disconnect, Trusting News partner WCPO in Cincinnati invited audience members to join their morning newsroom meetings via Zoom. All of the participants had some distrust of “the media” going into the meetings, and more than half came away from the meetings with more trust in the WCPO. Many of the participants were surprised to learn that decisions about story choices were made locally; they had previously assumed these decisions were made at a national corporate level. 


How news partnerships enhance local climate reporting and reach (Local Media Association) 

As part of the Local Media Association’s Covering Climate Collaborative, Laura Paskus of New Mexico PBS knew she wanted to discuss climate change with a figure that her audience already trusted. The environmental reporter turned to local meteorologist Jorge Torres, who joined her for a segment to discuss how current climate conditions differs from historic weather. Paskus said that she hoped the collaboration would both help audiences understand climate change and encourage meteorologists to speak up about changing weather patterns. 


How Romania Insider found a niche that helped it grow and diversify (What’s New in Publishing) 

Over the past 11 years, Bucharest-based Romania Insider has established itself as a player in the Romanian media landscape by focusing on a niche — English language news. The publication has focused on diversifying its revenue streams by offering travel guides and business briefings in English, as well as a “community membership program” that encourages consistent engagement on social media. The site also created its own mobile app and put it behind a paywall, aiming it at “readers with a clear propensity to pay.” The site’s co-founder, Volker Moser, said that the goal is to continue to diversify revenue while not letting the outlet’s small team become sidetracked from its core mission. 

+ Report for the World announced the placement of nine journalists for its 2021 reporting corps, doubling its corps size (Report for the World)  


Those cute cats online? They help spread misinformation. (The New York Times) 

Animal memes have been a staple of the internet for decades, but they’re increasingly used by peddlers of misinformation to attract unsuspecting audiences. On Facebook, Chinese religious group Falun Gong, osteopath Dr. Joseph Mercola and right-wing publication Western Journal have all posted cute animal photos that have racked up thousands of interactions. Unsuspecting users may like or follow pages of cute animals, only to end up with conspiracy theories in their newsfeed. This “engagement bait” helps these pages rack up clicks, which makes them more prominent in users’ feeds. The use of these memes also helps pages avoid content moderation, since the animal photos themselves almost never violate social media policies. 


The Local Journalism Initiative: A proposal to protect and extend democracy (Columbia Journalism Review)

Local news is suffering across the country, and one solution is government invention, argue Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, two of the co-founders of Free Press. Under their proposed Local Journalism Initiative, the federal government would provide lump sums to every county in the country to support nonprofit journalism. Residents would be able to vote for which news outlets should receive the funding, and all reporting paid for by these funds would be made available online for free. The process would be overseen by the U.S. Postal Service, due to the agency’s “historic mission of sustaining independent and competitive journalism.” McChesney and Nichols estimate that the proposal would cost about $34 billion annually. 


How researchers used decades of Wall Street Journal articles to predict stock market returns (NiemanLab)

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that news coverage of certain financial topics can help predict fluctuations in the stock market. Analyzing 763,887 articles from the Wall Street Journal between 1984 and 2017, the study found that, when more stories included the word “recession,” the S&P was likely to drop. Comparing predictions based on the Journal’s articles to actual S&P returns, the study found that using news articles was more accurate than some federal macroeconomic data. One of the study’s authors said that the quality of the journalism was key. “In order to get this really good measure of the state of the economy, it needs to be the case that journalists find the information that matters,” said Leland Bybee.