Need to Know: June 30, 2022


You might have heard: Local news deserts are expanding. Here’s what we’ll lose (The Washington Post)

But did you know: Every week, two more newspapers close — and ‘news deserts’ grow larger (The Washington Post) 

A new report from Northwestern University’s Medill School says that since 2005, the United States has lost more than a fourth of its newspapers (2,500) and is on track to lose a third by 2025. These closures, writes Margaret Sullivan, leave people unaware of what’s going on in their own communities and thus less able to participate in democracy as informed citizens. Penelope Muse Abernathy, a visiting professor at Medill and principal author of the report, told Sullivan she’s worried that the polarization stemming from the news divide in America will only worsen as more papers shut down. In particular, poorer and less connected places are likely to be hurt the most, because new investment and innovation that’s occurring up in some places is not going to reach the neediest areas, Sullivan writes.

+ Related: Read the 2022 report, The State of Local News, and accompanying article, A Call to Action, which provides a sampling of efforts across the country to help save local news (Medill Local News Initiative) 

+ Noted: First Amendment confrontation may loom in post-Roe fight (The New York Times); Journalist killed in latest attack on Mexico media workers (Reuters); Substack is laying off 14% of its staff (The New York Times); Thomson Reuters names ex-Gannett CEO as Reuters News president (Reuters) 


How The Buffalo News used social videos on the Buffalo Bills to increase engagement (Better News) 

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: With the end of a partnership in which its reporters appeared on local TV segments, The Buffalo News saw an opportunity to create new content that would generate advertising, grow its audience and use a signature beat of intense interest to its community — the Buffalo Bills — to increase engagement. The resulting PlayAction project successfully uses video to showcase the X’s and O’s play analysis that longtime News sports reporter Mark Gaughan excels at. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program, and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


What the Miami Herald learned in putting together its ‘House of Cards’ interactive (INMA)

After a 12-story condo building collapsed a year ago, killing 98 people, the Miami Herald assigned a team to explain the disaster in depth. It took months of investigation, writes Sarah Blaskey, an investigative reporter who was part of the team. The result was an interactive narrative using 2D and 3D animation, photos and videos to explain the collapse. Blaskey outlines her five big takeaways from the project, including the reason the team chose “scrollytelling” as opposed to animated video. The scrolling format, she writes, “allows readers to absorb information at their own pace and, as such, it was a better format for such a complex topic.” The project was the Best in Show winner of the 2022 INMA Global Media Awards.


iWatch Africa unveils measure to equip 20 newsrooms to tackle online abuse & harassment of journalists in West Africa (News Ghana)

The nonprofit organization iWatch Africa is launching a new initiative to help news organizations deal with online abuse and harassment of journalists. The program, the second phase of a digital rights initiative by iWatch, will help 20 newsrooms in Ghana and Nigeria develop online safety units to tackle the evolving threat against journalists online, a particular problem for women journalists and rights activists. The initiative will include reporting protocols for participating news organizations and a digital campaign to address threats that have the potential to erode press freedom in West Africa, said Gideon Sarpong, whose work as a Reuters Fellow will be leveraged for the project. 

+ Related: For Ghanaian journalists, physical attacks and legal battles are on the rise (DW Akademie)


The story behind AP report that caused Trump to throw his lunch (Associated Press)

Cassidy Hutchinson, the Jan. 6 committee’s star witness, testified on Tuesday that President Trump threw his lunch against the wall when he heard that Attorney General William Barr said there was no evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Trump was reacting to a story from the AP’s Michael Balsamo, who had been invited to lunch with Barr, writes David Bauder. “Recognizing the importance of the statement when Barr said the department had uncovered no evidence of voter fraud, Balsamo asked him to repeat it, and he did,” Bauder writes, and Balsamo quickly filed his exclusive story. Hutchinson testified that after the White House lunch incident, she grabbed a towel to clean ketchup from the wall.  

+ Related: Hutchinson’s bombshell Jan. 6 testimony sways legal experts and conservative media (NPR)


Drop the debates and just tell stories (Columbia Journalism Review) 

After touring New York newsrooms as part of an award she won, Mridula Amin, a Dhaka-born Australian photojournalist and reporter, wonders if her view of journalism may be “too simplistic” for the current times. “I don’t think debates about objectivity and democracy can solve the pressing issues we face,” she writes. Instead, she says, stories that paint “an honest portrait with no grand overtures” are better able to cut through. Her U.S. tour, she writes, gave her the sense that the hostile environment in which American journalists operate makes them feel “they have to be a touch above everyone else, or at the very least ahead of them.” But she reaches a different conclusion: “To survive, and to build trust, maybe it’s better to remember how to be with people. To hear and understand them, without judgment or sentimentality.”


Twitter is the go-to social media site for U.S. journalists, but not for the public (Pew Research Center) 

Digging further into results of its recent survey of journalists, researchers at Pew report that 94% of U.S. journalists use social media for their jobs, with 69% of them saying Twitter is the platform they use most or second most for their jobs. That contrasts with usage from Americans overall, who turn most often to Facebook for news; only 13% of them say they regularly get news on Twitter, write Mark Jurkowitz and Jeffrey Gottfried. Among journalists who say they work at a news organization with a community, city or county focus, Facebook is the most commonly used social media platform, with 73% saying it is one of their top sites.