Need to Know: September 13, 2021

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


You might have heard: In 2019, 65% of summer interns from The New York Times, NPR and other publications attended the most selective universities in the country (Voices)

But did you know: Master’s degrees in journalism leave graduates with hefty student loans (The Wall Street Journal)

A Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data found that after graduating from prestigious graduate programs, many journalism students don’t earn enough to make headway paying off their loans. Graduates of Northwestern’s master’s program in journalism earned less and borrowed three times more than undergraduate students. As the number of available journalism jobs has diminished, the cost to attend elite master’s programs has risen. Columbia University’s nine-month graduate program has a tuition of $70,300, a 26% increase from a decade ago.

+ Noted: Marie Claire ends its U.S. print edition after 27 years (New York Post); Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand pledged $1 million to support Ida B. Wells Society’s efforts to increase diversity in investigative journalism (University of North Carolina); Chattanooga Times Free Press, which will stop daily newspaper delivery next year, is giving iPads to its subscribers (Chattanooga Times Free Press)


How newsrooms can do less work — but have more impact

Most news organizations have a fraction of the staff and resources they once had, and burnout remains a major problem across the industry. So newsrooms need to get smarter about prioritizing the work that really matters — and letting go of the rest. Here’s a simple framework for cutting back on stories and other types of work that aren’t serving audiences or driving revenue.


Honoring accuracy and voice in eyewitness accounts (Nieman Storyboard)

In a piece sharing tips for writing someone’s eyewitness account to a historic event like September 11th, Roy Peter Clark recommends using small details to capture it. For instance, author Jim Dwyer wrote about objects connected to stories from that day, from a squeegee to a family photo. Interviewing an eyewitness is easier when their memory is fresh, but journalists should consider if the subject will find sharing their story helpful or retraumatizing. Clark argues narratives from historic events shouldn’t be dismissed as old news, writing: “Better to think of them as little time machines we now experience with the benefit of new knowledge. Reports may point us there, but it is the story that puts us there.”


Spain’s El Diario offers free and reduced memberships to those who can’t afford the standard plans (World Association of News Publishers)

El Diario has 61,000 members in a program that has different giving levels that allow readers to pay more or less than the standard plan based on what they can afford. Since December, the news outlet has offered reduced and no-fee memberships to readers, with about 19,000 choosing one of those plans. El Diario also has a membership plan for readers who opt to pay more than the amount of the standard plan. Those readers make up 11% of El Diario’s members, and out of that higher-paying group, 14% also pay to support a local edition of the publication.


How to make meetings more accessible and equitable (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

While outlining methods to improve meetings, DEI Coalition founder Sisi Wei writes that collaboration works better when more people can participate in more flexible, equitable ways. During brainstorming meetings, Wei recommends attendees use a tool like Google Docs to share their ideas, then respond to those thoughts during the session. Wei suggests turning the shared document into a worksheet that people who missed the meeting can use to participate in the brainstorming session when they have time.

+ Related: Wei and Sophie Ho write that moderation for Slack, Facebook Groups or other platforms should be structured to share power and guard against burnout (Open News)


RTDNA: The United States needs to make assaulting a journalist a federal crime (Radio Television Digital News Association)

This year so far, 125 assaults against journalists have taken place, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. A bill in Congress would designate assaults against journalists as a federal crime, which RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley compares to a national law barring assaults against government officials. Shelley argues that journalists are as important to democracy as government officials, writing: “We inform the public in times of crisis, ask tough questions, seek and report the truth, and hold those in power accountable. It is our right to do this without fear of violence.”


After Ida, local radio station becomes source of hope for New Orleans residents (The Washington Post)

New Orleans talk radio station WWL, known locally as “hurricane station,” stayed on air 24 hours a day during Hurricane Ida and previous major hurricanes to connect listeners with information while power, television and cell towers were down. During Ida, 19 staffers moved into the station’s office, hosts worked double shifts and the station received thousands of calls from listeners. The station aired updates from elected officials, answered questions about things like how to find gas, and comforted listeners who were struggling during the storm.