Need to Know: January 15, 2021


You might have heard: Anti-vaccination groups are targeting local media after social media crackdowns (NBC News)

But did you know: This online toolkit helps local journalists craft vaccine education messages (National Association of Broadcasters)

A joint effort from the National Association of Broadcasters, the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores has produced a COVID-19 vaccine toolkit for journalists. The website includes “research, sample messaging and suggested tactics” to help local journalists find the vaccine messaging that best targets their audience(s). In the “Reaching Key Audiences” section, the site provides links to research on how to best communicate with different communities of color, people in different regions and audiences in rural areas. The site also identifies national and local experts who can serve as sources, and up-to-date information on the vaccine.

+ Related: The media needs to be discerning about the vaccination-related events it reports, and how it does so, and avoid sensationalizing incidents like allergic reactions or post-vaccine illnesses (Poynter)

+ Noted: Newspapers challenge new rate-setting system that could raise postal rates for newspapers dramatically (News Media Alliance); Introducing LION’s 2021 Advisory Council (Medium, LION Publishers); Voice of America journalists demand resignation of news agency’s top leadership (The Washington Post)


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‘Queens man impeached’: The New York City paper getting press for giving Trump the local treatment (The New York Times)

The Queens Daily Eagle, a local newspaper covering the borough where President Trump was born and raised, has drawn widespread attention for its droll headlines about the president. “Queens man impeached,” blared the front page in December of 2019, “Queens man evicted” after the presidential election in November, and recently, “Queens man impeached — again.” It’s brought national attention to the two-year-old paper, which is the only English-language daily newspaper in the borough. The site’s managing editor, and one of its only two newsroom employees, says he hopes the publicity will attract local readers who will then discover the “really substantive writing” they do on issues like courts, transportation and neighborhood politics.

+ Next week Reframe and the Markulla Center for Applied Ethics will host free online workshops on “Covering Insurrection: News Frames, Word Choice, & Deciding Whose Story to Tell” (Eventbrite)


This Indian newsletter is building direct relationships outside of social media (What’s New In Publishing)

Lakshmi Chaudhry launched Splainer, a subscription-based newsletter aimed at women, in June 2020. In her first month, it amassed 600 paying subscribers, and that number has since tripled. In an interview, she says there’s still the perception in India that women don’t care about the news, but she was inspired by the American newsletter The Skimm and thought there would be an audience in India for a similar product. After a failed newsletter called Broadsheet, which she says had angel funding but no viable business model, she pivoted to Splainer, where she focused on building a relationship with the audience to sustain the business. Chaudry says they eschew marketing on social media and focus on appealing to women through their networks and institutions, offering perks such as a 40% discount for students.


Empathy, inclusivity and chemistry: How to become a better mentor (Fortune)

Mentoring programs are increasingly common in corporations, and S. Mitra Kalita offers several pieces of advice on how to be a better mentor. One is to have faith that your mentoree(s) really will succeed, even if it’s not immediately clear that they will. Being a compassionate, empathetic leader allows employees to feel more confident in themselves. Another tip is to prioritize helping people of color, as a way to counteract the implicit biases they face in other areas of work. A third is to encourage employees who don’t get along to “reset” their chemistry, often by simply referencing the tension that has built up between them.


Ad-supported free newsletters are a better bet for most than subscription content (MediaPost)

Email newsletters are all the rage, but very few people are willing to pay for them, writes Ray Schultz. In a study from the What If Media Group, 84% of customers said they were unwilling to pay for newsletters, and 80% would rather have free ad-supported content than paid, ad-free content. Fewer than half of the respondents subscribed to any newsletters at all, and the ones that did found the ads irrelevant — or didn’t notice them at all.


The 80-year-old who started a retirement community newsletter during the pandemic (The New York Times)

Diana Wiener, an 80-year-old resident of a retirement community in Yonkers, New York, was frustrated last spring that her building’s management was keeping residents in the dark about COVID-19 cases. So she decided to start her own newsletter. The first issue in May, which was slipped under every door of the building, included the previously unreported death toll of residents — 13 in less than three months. Later issues included the names of the deceased and those who had been hospitalized, as well as government health bulletins, book reviews and poems from residents. Neighbors began donating cash to cover her printing costs, and in a survey asking residents whether they wanted the newsletter to continue, the answer was an overwhelming (though not unanimous) yes. 


+ Ben Smith uncovers the path that led a BuzzFeed social media producer to participate in the attack on the Capitol (The New York Times)

+ Three steps to help treat America’s debilitating information disorder (The Washington Post