TOP NEWS THIS WEEK

Last summer, The Houston Landing launched with more than $20 million in funding. This week, staffers at the start-up were shocked to learn that their popular editor-in-chief, Mizanur Rahman, had been fired, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Stuckey. Journalists at the outlet called on the board to reverse the decision, but CEO Peter Bhatia said the decision was his alone. His only explanation was that the newsroom needed a “reset.” (Nieman Lab) 

Also this week, Los Angeles Times editor Kevin Merida stepped down after less than three years in the role, saying he had done “considerable soul-searching about my career.” Merida had had some conflicts with family members of the paper’s owner Patrick Soon-Shiong over editorial and business choices, including his decision to restrict journalists who signed a letter condemning Israel’s actions in the war in Gaza from covering the conflict. (The New York Times)

MOST POPULAR STORIES THIS WEEK

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

How fact-checking journalism is evolving – and having a real impact on the world. Mitigating approaches such as “warning labels” attached to false online content reduces the spread of that information, and fact-checking organizations are now more likely to contact media outlets or political campaigns to correct the record. (The Conversation)  

Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2024. In a new industry survey of 300 newsroom leaders from 50 countries, less than half (47%) said they were optimistic about the prospects of journalism in the next year. (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)  

From the inside, a nonprofit news leader says the sector is several years away from its potential. Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project, says they haven’t made a dent in “news deserts” and have instead focused on pockets of underserved communities in larger cities. (Poynter) 

NEW FROM API

Beyond stress: What journalists covering the 2024 election should know about burnout 

70% of local journalists have experienced work-related burnout. In this self-reflective session hosted by API and the Atlanta Press Club, journalists will contribute anonymously to a series of prompts to learn actionable insights for reassessing and repairing their relationships with work. The free webinar is on Thursday, Jan. 18 at 12 p.m. Eastern time. Register here.

Better News: Food and drink reporting drives revenue to The Sacramento Bee

Benjy Egil became The Sacramento Bee’s food and drink reporter in 2018. For the next five years, he watched the city’s culinary scene blossom, attracting Michelin stars and James Beard Award nominations. Egil’s reporting drew more than 1,000 new subscribers to The Bee who wanted to learn the latest about Sacramento’s new cultural heartbeat.

Sacramentans’ love for the city’s local restaurants inspired Egil to write “Sacramento Eats: Recipes from the Capital Region’s Favorite Restaurants.” The cookbook not only highlights the city’s award-winning chefs, it also includes their recipes so that readers can prepare their favorite dishes at home.

Egil recently wrote a piece for Better News on how other news organizations can create a regional keepsake that drives revenue toward their newsroom. Egil discusses that with host Michael O’Connell on this week’s Better News podcast. Read the full study.

Trust Tip: Use these checklists to start (or level up) your trust building (Trusting News)

For journalists who care about building trust but who might be feeling strapped for time, Trusting News has put together a checklist of foundational things news organizations can do to build trust. It includes suggestions for building trust from the beginning, such as inserting transparency into daily coverage and creating a corrections policy, as well as ideas for leveling up your engagement, such as explaining your funding and ownership structure. 

API Tech Talks x Table Stakes: Engaging audiences amid social platform flux

Table Stakes alumni are invited to join the American Press Institute’s newsroom success manager, Shay Totten, in a conversation on how to engage local news audiences and find ways to build trust, loyalty and community amid social media uncertainty. You’ll come away with some concrete ideas — as well as a printable ‘zine — to start connecting with your community of readers. The virtual event will be held on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Not sure if your news organization is on the list? Check here.

SPECIAL EDITION: Journalism With Care 

Welcome to January’s Special Edition on care in the storytelling process. This month, community-engaged journalism consultant jesikah maria ross explores how we enact care in our reporting processes in and with communities. 

How journalists benefit from questions, too

Journalists are curious and excel at asking questions. But given the demands most of us work under – from deadline pressure to distributing our reporting to actively and relationally engaging our community – it’s rare that we deploy the skill set of asking good questions on ourselves. We aren’t the story and there is so little time, and yet exploring questions is one of the best ways to expand our thinking and try on new perspectives. Questions are an act of care, both for our communities, our journalism and ourselves.

Pick a few of these questions to discuss with a friend or colleague, free-write your responses or maybe just meditate on them. Your answers might change how you approach your journalism.

+ Personal questions to warm up and connect to your individual experience and purpose: If you were a vending machine what advice would you dispense? What brought you joy as a kid? What did you love to do?

+ Questions to reflect on the purpose and practices of journalism: How do your natural interests and biases influence how much care you take with sources and stories? What creative tactics have you used to listen better?

+ Radical questions that may shift how you think about journalism: What would it look like to be able to bring WOO WOO (heart, love, etc.) into the newsroom and not have to apologize? How, as a source, could you tell your full, true story if you have no connection with the person interviewing you?

FOR THE WEEKEND

+ Which rights do AI and journalists have in common? (Nieman Lab) 

+ Talking with Tom Scocca about journalism and mortality (How Things Work) 

+ La Gordiloca goes to court: An unconventional citizen journalist stands up for free speech by suing the Laredo public officials who had her arrested. (Texas Observer) 

+ “The Taylor Swift season”: How football writers made peace with covering Travis Kelce’s love life (Vanity Fair)