Need to Know: October 16, 2020


You might have heard: Oakland’s El Tímpano experiments with new ways to reach Latino immigrants (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

But did you know: El Tímpano restructures its community-driven reporting flow to go beyond ‘information needs’ (Medium, Madeleine Bair)

For local news outlets trying to engage with their community, providing basic information based on audience members’ questions is a staple of their output. But Madeleine Bair, founder of El Tímpano, discovered this year that simply answering questions wasn’t cutting it — they also need to consider barriers to using that information. For instance, the site’s guide to resources during COVID-19 listed phone numbers for aid organizations and agencies, but actually getting hold of a person at those organizations proved nearly impossible. So when parents wrote in with concerns about remote learning, El Tímpano didn’t simply direct them toward services, but also reached out to those services to explain the barriers their readers were facing when trying to apply for help. Bair describes this as shifting from a feedback loop to a “spiral,” where information is not only relayed but amplified.

+ Noted: The Atlantic is launching Planet, a new section devoted to climate change, along with The Weekly Planet, a new newsletter (The Atlantic); Another round of voluntary buyouts is coming to Gannett newsrooms (Poynter)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

The Catch-22 for journalists in Trump’s pleas for poll-watchers, fact-checking is growing around the world and Pinterest combats disinformation about HPV. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


What Day Is It? This newsletter can help you remember — and recover. (The Washington Post)

Life during the pandemic has been disorienting for many, with the passing of time feeling uneven. In a new pop-up newsletter entitled What Day Is It?, The Washington Post promises to “help you recover your sense of time and redefine your week.” The seven-day email series, informed by conversations with clinical psychologists and researchers, aims to help people orient themselves in time, create new experiences and connect with the larger world. Users can sign up at any time and start their week the following Monday.

+ Earlier: How Newsday’s pop-up newsletters helped grow digital subscriptions (Better News)


How an Indian legacy brand is diversifying revenue during COVID-19 (What’s New In Publishing)

The pandemic has pushed the world’s media even more toward digital, and in India, that means more attention is being paid to smartphones. Srini Srinivasan, managing director of India’s Vikatan Group, said that smartphones are spreading quickly in the country, and they are the sole source of internet connection for many people. As a result, digital advertising revenue has dropped less than revenue for traditional mediums, while digital subscriptions have risen by 50%. Srinivasan sees a particular growth opportunity for news in Indic languages that focuses on regional news, such as local lockdown rules.


FCC Chairman says he will move to ‘clarify’ Section 230, threatening tech’s legal shield (CNBC)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that he plans to “clarify” the scope of Section 230, a regulation that protects tech companies from being liable for user’s posts, and allows them to moderate content on their platforms. Politicians on both sides of the aisle see the need for revisions, but with different goals — Democrats focused on removing harassing or dangerous content, Republicans limiting protections to moderate content based on what they call an anti-conservative bias. The announcement follows an executive order by President Trump, in which he claimed that the platforms were acting as censors.

+ YouTube bans QAnon, other conspiracy content that targets individuals (NBC News)


The difference between false equivalency and a cautious approach to politics (NPR)

In the midst of a contentious, and strange, election year, NPR’s Public Editor Kelly McBride reflects on whether the network’s even-handed approach to politics still makes sense. She argues that there are times, like in the wake of President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, when the station’s sober matter-of-factness is a plus, while other times, like the first presidential debate between Trump and Joe Biden, when down-the-middle reporting can feel like it distorts the truth. She says the network needs to focus on both tone and accuracy, aiming for truth over both-sidesism.


How entrepreneurial local journalists are fighting back against Alden Global Capital (Nieman Lab)

Over the past decade, hedge funds like Alden Global Capital have been frequently blamed for the decimation of local newspapers. Now, journalists from these papers are launching their own local news outlets, with a focus on community and fair workplaces. Larry Ryckman left The Denver Post to create The Colorado Sun, which prizes the type of public service journalism that Alden refused to fund, while Kate Maxwell and Adrian Fernandez Baumann left Willits News to found The Mendocino Voice, which is converting to cooperative ownership. Similar transitions are happening across the country as smaller outlets try to fill the gaps that diminished Alden newspapers have left.

+ Related: The NewStart initiative is in search of the next generation of local media owners (Columbia Journalism Review); A peer group launches to examine cooperative ownership and governance of news organizations (Twitter, @oliviamqhenry)


+ What The Babylon Bee, a conservative answer to The Onion, thinks is so funny about liberals (The New York Times)

+ “It’s on the writers”: How The Correspondent drives interaction between members and its journalists (Digiday)

+ Margaret Sullivan declares her list of the 10 greatest works of journalism of the past 10 years (The Washington Post)