Need to Know: October 26, 2020

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: Some high-profile journalists have left newsrooms to run newsletters on platforms like Substack or TinyLetter (Axios)

But did you know: Ads have become a revenue source on Substack (Digiday)

On Substack, newsletters like The Hustle have begun running advertisements, while media-focused Deez Links and Study Hall have both started running classified ads. Popular newsletter writers often receive pitches for ad partnerships from companies, and advertising on Substack has become the main source of income for some authors on the platform. The newsletter Not Boring makes at least $6,000 per week from a mix of daily sponsorships, ads that run at the end of each issue and advertorial.

+ Noted: In Nantucket, Mass., Gannett is selling The Inquirer and Mirror to local ownership (The Inquirer and Mirror); Lawsuit claims former New York Daily News reporter was fired for asking why a male colleague was earning more on the same beat (Gothamist)


Tips from API’s Trusted Election Network on covering the 2020 vote

Heading into the final week before the Nov. 3 election, our Trusted Election Network is publishing two pieces aimed at helping reporters covering the voting. The first is a series of guideposts for doing accurate stories that inform rather than alarm voters about problems that will almost certainly arise. The second is a collection of tips for reporting on potential scenarios involving the voting: how they are likely to come up, their misinformation potential and how reporters can be ready for them.


Why Chalkbeat ventured into election coverage (Nieman Reports)

Education-focused news nonprofit Chalkbeat is publishing stories about local education integrity and voting access through its pop-up newsroom, Votebeat. Armed with 13 local reporters from eight states and $1 million in funding, Votebeat aspires to fill in missing local election coverage for the next three months. After that, Chalkbeat will take into account the existing financial support for the pop-up and may extend the project to become year-round and permanent.


How media startup Dataphyte is making data accessible to journalists in Nigeria (Jamlab)

Nigerian journalists have faced an issue that will be familiar to American data reporters: Maybe the data they’re looking for is out there, but it might be in a format that makes it difficult to analyze. Since last year, Dataphyte has worked to fill a data gap so that Nigerian journalists can write more accountability stories that examine topics like government spending and corruption. To make that data accessible to newsrooms and the public at large, Dataphyte puts it in machine-readable formats. The start-up also provides data training and publishes its own stories and infographics based on its data.

+ In Canada, the pandemic has led 141 news outlets to lay off staff and 51 to shut down or suspend publication (J-Source)


Facebook seeks shutdown of NYU research project into political ad targeting (The Wall Street Journal)

In September, New York University’s engineering school launched the NYU Ad Observatory, which gives volunteers a browser extension that collects data on the political ads in their Facebook feeds. Earlier this month in a letter to the project’s researchers, Facebook alleged that the Ad Observatory violates its terms of service, which bars scraping data from the social media site. Facebook created an ad archive after the last election, but it excludes information on who the ads were targeting.

+ Earlier: Facebook plans to temporarily stop running political ads after polls close on Election Day (The Verge)


How the press covered the last four years of Trump (Columbia Journalism Review)

The Columbia Journalism Review examined every issue of its daily newsletter, The Media Today, since 2017, to identify and reflect on journalism trends during the Trump administration. Jon Allsop and Pete Vernon write that the industry has minimized demagoguery, diverted attention away from more important stories and “simply not learned its lesson.” Since Trump’s term began the news cycle has accelerated to a breakneck speed, and topics that deserved sustained coverage have been neglected, they say. One reason for that, Allsop and Vernon argue, is that journalists have devoted energy to responding to Trump’s many insults and “insidery” political stories.

+ Earlier: Last year, Heidi N. Moore recommended ways for national newsrooms to overhaul political coverage after “a slow-motion car crash of failed ethics and corrupt news judgment.” (Twitter, @moorehn)


Why there is a market for solutions journalism (Medium, The Whole Story)

Founded by musician David Byrne, online magazine Reasons to Be Cheerful is focused on solutions-based reporting like its We Are Not Divided collaboration about how to find unity. Editor-in-chief Christine McLaren says that editors may assume audiences won’t be interested in solution-centered stories, but she’s learned that “people have a real hunger for truly good, rigorous, honest stories about things that are working.” She adds that leaving solutions out of the reporting process “almost feels negligent,” because part of a journalist’s job is to explore things that are working and could be used to address community problems.

+ Earlier: Why Byrne started Reasons to Be Cheerful (NPR)