Need to Know: January 13, 2022


You might have heard: A record number of journalists were arrested in 2020, most covering racial unrest (Forbes) 

But did you know: Press-freedom violations in the U.S. in 2021 were down from 2020’s high (Columbia Journalism Review) 

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which has documented press freedom violations against journalists since 2017, found fewer incidents of aggression in 2021 than in 2020. But, writes Kirstin McCudden, the tracker’s managing editor, it still wasn’t a good year for press freedom; 2021 saw more assaults of journalists than in 2017 to 2019 combined, and the same number of arrests as that three-year period. The number of subpoenas and legal orders against journalists were also down; in June, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice would no longer seize journalists’ records during leak investigations. 

+ Noted: Evan Smith, the leader of The Texas Tribune, says he will step down (The New York Times); Ida B. Wells, Black journalist and suffragist, honored with new Barbie doll (The Washington Post); Most Gannett newspapers will cease home delivery of Saturday editions, replaced with a full digital replica online (The Tennessean) 


Trust Tip: Let’s talk about how (or if) we edit photos and videos (Trusting News) 

When news outlets use photos and videos, they are often accused of manipulating or editing the material to deliberately skew the perception, writes Lynn Walsh. To head off such accusations, outlets should lay out if and how they edit photos or videos and explain some of the decision-making process behind choosing visuals for a story. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here. 


How CapRadio connected with rural audiences during the pandemic (Current) 

When the pandemic hit, the team at CapRadio, a regional broadcaster in Northern California, knew that they weren’t doing enough to cover the unique challenges facing rural residents. They reached out to people in neighboring rural counties and started hosting Zoom meetings to discuss information needs, then launched a digital survey to explore locals’ concerns about COVID-19. From those discussions and surveys came a seven-part series focused on the difficulties of life during the pandemic, covering issues such as the threat of virus transmission from tourists and the effects of the market changes on local ranchers. The stories were then spread far and wide so that rural residents who didn’t ordinarily listen to CapRadio would discover them. 


The Haitian Times is launching a training program for aspiring Haitian journalists (The Haitian Times) 

The Haitian Times, a New York-based news outlet focused on news for the Haitian-American community, is launching a months-long training program in Haiti for aspiring journalists. Journalism is not seen as a viable career option for young people in Haiti, writes founder Garry Pierre-Pierre, and the lack of quality media in Haiti has meant that global coverage of the nation has been lacking. The program will teach classes on core elements of storytelling, the ethics of journalism, and how to use smartphones in reporting. Pierre-Pierre writes that while The Haitian Times will hire out of this program, the goal is to also train journalists to cover Haiti accurately for other global news outlets. 


Fact-checkers from around the world call on YouTube to take action against disinformation and misinformation (Poynter) 

In a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, the International Fact-Checking Network is calling on the social media platform to work with fact-checking organizations to act against misinformation and to “elaborate a roadmap of policy and product interventions to improve the information ecosystem.” Conspiracy theories, hate speech, and dangerous misinformation surrounding human rights abuses and voter fraud have thrived around the world on YouTube, the letter says, in violation of the platform’s policies. The fact-checkers are calling on YouTube to commit to providing transparency about disinformation on the platform by surfacing fact-checked information rather than simply deleting bad content, taking action against repeat offenders and fighting misinformation in languages other than English. 

+ Related: Can fact-checking solve the misinformation pandemic? (Grid) Should we focus our efforts on fighting the spread of misinformation or on supporting the acceptance of reliable information? (Misinformation Review); Scientists and doctors call on Spotify to implement misinformation policy over claims on Joe Rogan show (Tech Policy Press) 


How big a threat is The Athletic to local newspapers under The New York Times? (Nieman Lab) 

When The New York TImes announced that it was purchasing local sports site The Athletic, some worried that local newspapers would suffer now that a Times product would be publishing competing local sports content. But, Joshua Benton argues, the fears are overblown. While The Athletic has hired some top-notch talent away from local papers, there will always be more qualified sports reporters than jobs available, says Benton, so smaller papers will still find talented journalists. At the same time, The Athletic’s offerings are more akin to ESPN than true “local” sports, which includes coverage of high school and college coverage as well as features on local athletes. 

+ Related: A few brief reasons to take Axios Local seriously as a competitor (Poynter) 


Reimagining how we think about local news in 2022 (Columbia Journalism Review) 

When media critics refer to “local news,” they are often thinking of a certain type of small town newspaper, but the current state of local news media is much more varied, writes Lauren Harris. It’s one of several ideas about local journalism that must shift if we are going to accurately describe the issues facing the industry. Another is to stop thinking about a news audience as a single community, and recognize that within broad categories like “the Latino community” are a diverse collection of people forming many different communities. Similarly, people in one geographical region will have many different layers of lived experiences, based on things like neighborhood residency, church attendance and shared languages. And we need to start differentiating between the “labors of love” publications and those that are actually sustainable.