Need to Know: June 9, 2023


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On Wednesday, Chris Licht stepped down as CEO of CNN. It followed a brutally damaging profile in the Atlantic over the weekend that angered staffers, and more broadly, a 13-month reign that was plagued by chaos. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said that he “took responsibility” for Licht’s unsuccessful term. In the wake of his dismissal, Margaret Sullivan wrote that the real problem was that Licht couldn’t bring in ratings for the network, while Peter Kakfa argues that Licht and Zaslav’s attempt at political centrism was doomed because “there’s no cheering section for ‘neutrality’.” Brian Stelter, who was let go from CNN by Licht, writes that the next CNN CEO needs to be able to answer the question, “What should an anchor do when a guest says something untrue?” (Puck News, The Atlantic, Axios, The Wrap, The Guardian, Vox, The Washington Post) 


These are the stories that captured the most interest from Need to Know subscribers this week. 

The Sun-Times introduces a ‘right to be forgotten’ policy. The paper has created a form for users to request an article be de-indexed, and requests will be reviewed monthly. The policy says de-indexing will not be available for public officials. (The Chicago Sun-Times) 

Is local news failing to hold public officials accountable? In a new survey of more than 1,000 Americans, only 30% said that they agreed that their local news outlets did so; nearly 40% weren’t sure. (Medill Local News Initiative) 

Meta says it will block news on Facebook in California if a recently advanced bill becomes law. The company said it will remove news from Facebook and Instagram if the California Journalism Preservation Act passes, which would hugely impact newsrooms in California, and likely the rest of the country to follow. (CNBC) 


Opinion journalism and sustainability: Publishers find out what works (American Press Institute) 

What is the relationship between opinion journalism and revenue? Opinion editors today are actively engaged in demonstrating to their publishers that their content contributes to the bottom line. While they say their primary mission is to inform the community, engage in meaningful discourse and influence outcomes, they also see reader data, and reader revenue, as an important part of their work. In terms of what drives subscribers, they say, three common themes stand out: opinion content that is locally focused,  helps people with their lives and is not divisive.

Better News: How a ‘substantial lifestyle’ inspires and uplifts Black audiences (It’s All Journalism) 

Greg Hedgepeth is president and CEO of Substantial Media LLC, a Black-owned and operated online subscription-based platform that promotes the “substantial lifestyle” as a way to inspire and uplift its Black audience. Better News recently published a report written by Hedgepeth about Substantial Magazine’s journey to sustainable revenue and growth through partnerships and highly selective content for targeted audiences. 

On this episode of It’s All Journalism’s Better News podcast, Hedgepeth discusses Substantial Media’s mission and the strategies it uses to grow its audience among the Black community with host Michael O’Connell. 

SPECIAL EDITION: Engage to build trust 

Each Monday, Need to Know shares a special edition series focusing on top issues impacting today’s newsrooms. 

Ask for audience input (and act on it!)

As journalists, we often feel like we’re getting lots of feedback. Whether through inboxes or comment sections, on the surface, it seems like we’re hearing A LOT from people in our communities. But a lot of that feedback isn’t particularly helpful, right? Much of it is snarky remarks or accusations that are all too easy to write off or disregard. This week we want to talk about good faith reflections on how well your local news is serving your community. Are you getting enough of that kind of feedback? Are you really understanding whether your community finds your work useful, and if they think you’re covering them in a thoughtful, accurate, inclusive way? 


If journalists want to provide the best possible public service to our communities, we have to start regularly asking for our audience’s input (in an authentic, meaningful way). Then we have to use what we hear to shape our coverage. 

+ We have a Trust Kit to help. Our new training tool, Trust Kits, offers guidance and strategies for journalists trying to work to build trust. We just published a Trust Kit all about how journalists can thoughtfully ask for (and act upon) audience input. Check it out here.

+ We love this example from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When reporting on a senate race, they tied their coverage to their mission and included an ask for audience questions.

+ Here’s a look at how a local newsroom we worked with used an audience survey to learn about their community’s frustrations and confusion around the news.  


+ Broke in Philly: Five years of collaborative journalism (Resolve Philly) 

+ How a titan of 20th-century journalism transformed the AP — and the news (Nieman Lab) 

+ Inside Snopes: The rise, fall, and rebirth of an internet icon (Fast Company) 

+ Ted Koppel on covering — and befriending — Henry Kissinger (The New Yorker)