Need to Know: July 26, 2022


You might have heard: In Tuskegee, painful history shadows efforts to vaccinate African Americans (NPR) 

But did you know: How an AP reporter broke the Tuskegee syphilis story (Associated Press)

In 1972, Edith Lederer of the Associated Press learned about the Tuskegee Study from a friend in public health, and knew that it was a story worth pursuing, but felt it should be handled by an “investigative” reporter. So, while visiting family in Florida, she passed the documents to Jean Heller, the only woman on wire’s new Special Assignment Team. Heller eventually tracked down proof that the U.S. Public Health Service had been observing, but not treating, the effects of syphilis on a hundred of unwitting Black men in the south. The story — one of the most consequential public health stories of all time — came together in a few weeks. 

+ Related: The AP is republishing the original report (Associated Press) 

+ Noted: The Atlantic’s tech and business workers intend to unionize (HuffPost); Chartbeat bought by investment firm Cuadrilla Capital (Axios); Erin Overbey, archives editor at The New Yorker, announces that she has been fired (Twitter, @erinoverbey)  


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On Twitter, The Times dips a toe into live audio (The New York Times) 

The New York Times has been using Twitter Spaces to produce live audio conversations on breaking news topics such as Boris Johnson’s resignation, as well as curated arts and culture talks. The talks are moved along by carefully written scripts, but the inability to edit gives the sessions a less produced feeling. The Times’ audience team began thinking about live audio when Clubhouse emerged, but found that it was easier to integrate an option from Twitter — where the Times has more than 50 million followers — into the workflow. Now, newsroom leaders are developing an audio app “as an alternative to the highly polished podcast.” 


New Zealand publishers band together to end ‘lose, lose, lose’ relationship with digital platforms (International News Media Alliance) 

New Zealand’s Newspaper Publishers’ Association (NPA) has received provisional government permission to begin collectively bargaining with Google and Meta, writes L. Carol Christopher. The NPA’s membership has more than doubled since it filed for permission to negotiate, and in April, the group announced that it had hired two Australian news executives with experience dealing with Big Tech. The country’s Commerce Commission said it would consider adopting a code that would permanently allow such collective bargaining. 


Still giving Apple 30% of your news subscription revenue? You no longer have to, and here’s how to stop (Nieman Lab) 

In 2011, Apple began allowing news outlet to sell subscriptions within iPhone or iPad apps — and took 30% of the subscriber’s payment in the process. Now, Joshua Benton writes, Apple will allow news apps to link directly to a publication’s website to purchase a subscription. Benton argues that news apps should stop offering in-app subscriptions through Apple, saying that the ease-of-use argument is “no longer a good enough reason.” Instead, publishers should make their own subscription pages as easy to use as Apple does, and continue to test different subscription offerings to see what works. 


Why Republicans stopped talking to the press (New York Magazine, Intelligencer) 

Republican politicians are not only dismissive of mainstream media; they are “actively courting the media’s scorn,” writes David Freedlander. While media coverage was once a regular part of a campaign, Republican candidates for office are refusing to participate in articles — sometimes even profiles of them. One GOP strategist accused news outlets of “just chasing resistance rage-clicks,” but reporters suspect that politicians really just don’t want to have to answer questions about Donald Trump. And with so many conservative outlets available, there is little need for these candidates to appear outside of the right-wing media bubble. One study apparently found that getting endorse by a newspaper editorial board — even a local one — hurts Republicans in a primary rather than helps. 


Crestone Eagle newspaper transitions to a nonprofit in rural Colorado (Substack, Inside the News in Colorado) 

After more than 30 years, The Crestone Eagle in Saguache County, Colorado, will transition to a nonprofit in September, writes Corey Hutchins. The monthly paper’s longtime editor is retiring, and a group of residents has formed the Crestone Eagle Community Media group to raise money and sustain the paper into its next phase. The Eagle has already worked with outside groups, including Saguache County commissioners, the Colorado Media Project and Colorado College’s Journalism Institute, who have provided financial and editorial support. One supporter said that new development in the area is likely to lead to growth and the need for more robust local news coverage.