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People are dying alone because of the coronavirus. This journalist told the story of a nurse trying to help families stay connected.
Gannett advised in a memo to staff this morning that it will be instituting furloughs and other cost reductions in response to big advertising declines. The note from operating CEO Paul Bascobert said details would follow as regional executives determine their plans. A separate memo from Maribel Wadsworth, president news at Gannett and publisher of […]
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The Tampa Bay Times announced Monday morning that it will suspend print publication except on Sundays and Wednesdays. It also plans to furlough staffers (though not in the newsroom). Both will begin in a week and are intended to be temporary. The changes were described in a memo to staff, an FAQ and a note […]
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The Tampa Bay Times announced Monday that it would suspend print publication except for Sunday and Wednesday due to coronavirus-related business losses. The publication, which Poynter owns, will furlough some staff while print days are suspended. In a story published to the Tampa Bay Times website, the Times said a growth in subscriptions has not […]
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Yesterday morning, the homepage of the New York Times made for grim reading. “NYC’s 911 system is overwhelmed,” one headline read. “Who should be saved first?” another asked, “Experts offer ethical guidance.” Amid the coverage of the present, horrifying state of things, one prominent story looked back in time, at the period between late January and early March. It did not offer readers any respite; rather, it traced the current problems to a “lost month” during which officials’ failure to test widely for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, “blinded the US” to its advance. Six reporters—Michael D. Shear, Abby Goodnough, Sheila Kaplan, Sheri Fink, Katie Thomas, and Noah Weiland—interviewed more than 50 experts and officials, who attributed the testing failure to “technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, business-as-usual bureaucracies, and lack of leadership at multiple levels.” As Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, of Boston University, told the Times, “Testing is the crack that split apart the rest of the response, when it should have tied everything together.”
Federal officials aren’t the only ones who have questions to answer about their initial response to the spread of the coronavirus; state and local governments do, too. When journalists have asked such questions, they’ve sometimes gotten answers; other times, however, they’ve met with blanket denials, and/or the insinuation that in light of the present emergency, bygones should be allowed to be bygones, at least for now. Yesterday, we heard that reasoning from Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, on CNN. When Jake Tapper played footage of de Blasio saying, as recently as March 13, that New Yorkers should go about their daily lives, de Blasio replied that “We should not be focusing, in my view, on anything looking back on any level of government right now.” Tapper pushed back—de Blasio, he pointed out, had himself made critical remarks about Trump’s early handling of the crisis. “You can ask all the questions you want—they’re fair,” de Blasio said. “But I think the time to deal with these questions is after this war is over, because literally, here in New York City, it feels like a wartime environment.”
Such logic may sound fair, but it’s faulty—and not just because politicians shouldn’t get to write journalists’ questions for them. Assessing the mistakes that got us here isn’t an indulgent distraction and asking officials about them isn’t gotcha journalism. First and foremost, we are, as we speak, living the results of those mistakes—the rising infection and death counts aren’t apropos of nothing, and situating them in context isn’t exactly “looking back.” That’s true of lots of stories, but it’s especially true of this one, since many of the dynamics surrounding the coronavirus—and the measures taken to slow its spread—manifest with a time delay. And sunlight, as the cliché goes, can disinfect—publicizing our leaders’ mistakes to this point increases the odds that they’ll rectify them, or avoid similar mistakes, going forward. Waiting until “after this war is over” is too long to wait.
Instead of listening, some of our leaders are instead choosing to slam the press, or shut it out altogether. President Trump—who has long favored that approach—has bashed news coverage throughout the coronavirus crisis. Yesterday, he was at it again, respectively accusing Yamiche Alcindor, of PBS, and Jeremy Diamond, of CNN, of “threatening” language and of dishonesty, when they were simply asking the president about questionable things he’d said last week. It’s not just Trump. On Saturday, Mary Ellen Klas, a reporter with the Tallahassee bureau of the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, was turned away from a briefing with Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida; state officials said Klas was denied entry in response to concerns she (and others) had raised about social-distancing practices at press conferences, but First Amendment organizations called that a thin excuse to dodge scrutiny. (Last weekend, the Herald’s editorial board criticized DeSantis’s crisis management so far, and called on him to “act like you give a damn.”) Yesterday, another Florida Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, tweeted that “some in the media” have been unable to contain their “glee & delight” about confirmed virus cases in the US surpassing China’s official count.
This, of course, was a terrible thing to say—as many in the media pointed out in response, journalists, just like everyone else, have been affected by this crisis, on levels from the financial to the deeply personal. As Rubio’s tweet circulated yesterday, so did the news that Maria Mercader, a veteran of CBS News, had died after contracting the virus. Mercader isn’t the only person our industry has lost since this began. We’re not asking questions about politicians’ failures for fun, or to be difficult; we’re drawing attention to them because we want them to stop. That shouldn’t need to be said, but there we are.
Some of our leaders have taken a different tone toward the press than Trump, Rubio, et al. Yesterday, Phil Scott, the Republican governor of Vermont, posted a video to Twitter in which he called on residents of his state to offer financial support to local news outlets. “We’re fortunate to live in a country where free speech and the freedom of the press are constitutional rights,” Scott said. “It’s a fundamental part of who we are as Americans.” He continued, “There are times I don’t like the way a story comes out, but accountability and facts are so important—especially now—and you deserve transparency and the truth.” The merits of transparency and the truth don’t expire just because the facts are in the past.
Below, more on the coronavirus:
- Not just politicians?: Ming Lin—an emergency room physician in Bellingham, Washington, who publicly accused his employer of failing to protect its staff—has been fired. “Lin said supervisors threatened his employment more than a week ago after he spoke to reporters and made social media posts,” Ron Judd, of the Seattle Times, reports. “Lin said he was told to take down his social media posts about the hospital but refused.”
- Accountability reporting during a pandemic: CJR’s Lauren Harris spoke with Robert Faturechi, of ProPublica, and Lachlan Markay, of the Daily Beast, who broke stories about Republican senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler, respectively, dumping stocks ahead of the coronavirus crash. “We’ve seen the president, a lot of his supporters, and even some of his detractors refer to him as a ‘wartime president,’” Markay told Harris. “One angle is to consider who is getting rich off of the suffering.” Also for CJR, Maria Bustillos, our public editor for MSNBC, argues that the network should completely close its studios at 30 Rock in New York during the coronavirus crisis.
- No Easter miracle: Yesterday, Trump announced plans to extend America’s existing social-distancing guidelines through the end of April—a U-turn on his comments, last week, that the country could be “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter. Also yesterday, Trump bragged, on Twitter, about the ratings for his daily coronavirus briefings, quoting from a story in the Times. As well as being highly inappropriate, Trump’s boasts lacked context. “In relative terms, Trump live *isn’t* a hit at all,” the Post’s Paul Farhi concluded. “He’s actually grossly underperforming the competition.”
- Who should know what?: Thomas Fuller reports, for the Times, that officials across the US are declining to publish detailed data—demographic and location breakdowns, for example—on confirmed coronavirus cases. “American researchers are starved for data, unlike their colleagues in other countries who are harnessing rivers of information from their more centralized medical systems,” Fuller writes. “In the perennial tug-of-war between privacy and transparency in the United States, privacy appears to be winning.”
- Who should get what?: On Friday, Congress passed a $2-trillion coronavirus stimulus package, and Trump signed it into law. For Nieman Lab, Ken Doctor assessed how media companies might benefit (or not) from the legislation; it should “extend a lifeline to many small local publishers,” Doctor wrote, “but for bigger companies and chains, the help they’ll receive is still up in the air.” In his column for the Times, Ben Smith argues that it’s time to “let newspaper chains die.” In their place, he writes, “a national network of nimble new online newsrooms” could rescue “the only thing worth saving about America’s gutted, largely mismanaged local newspaper companies—the journalists.”
- “I couldn’t hear your question”: Last week, RTHK, a public broadcaster in Hong Kong, asked Dr. Bruce Aylward, an adviser to the World Health Organization, about Taiwan’s status with the body. Aylward appeared repeatedly to dodge the question, including by saying, “We’ve already talked about China.” China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory. The World Health Organization said in a statement that “the question of Taiwanese membership in WHO is up to WHO Member States, not WHO staff.”
- In brief: WHO said that it’s still safe for people to touch their newspaper at the moment. (The Wall Street Journal told its readers as much on the front page of Saturday’s paper.) In the UK, the Daily Mail asked its journalists to talk to vendors about sales of the paper, and check that they’re displaying copies correctly. (Mark Di Stefano, of the Financial Times, has more details.) And Twitter deleted a pair of tweets by Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, because they contravened its rules around public-health information.
Other notable stories:
- Last year, Tara Reade, a former staffer in Joe Biden’s Senate office, accused Biden of inappropriate touching. (Afterward, some commentators accused Reade of shilling for Vladimir Putin, based on a blog post she wrote praising the Russian president.) Last week, Reade told the podcast host Katie Halper that Biden sexually assaulted her. (Biden denies the allegation; “Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims,” his campaign said.) Media outlets on both the left and the right have covered Reade’s claim, yet mainstream news organizations have mostly avoided it. For The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi explores the reasons for that.
- Data handed to The Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner by a whistleblower appears to show that the government of Saudi Arabia is “exploiting weaknesses in the global mobile telecoms network” to surveil Saudi citizens in the US. The “tracking requests” shown in the data can be a legitimate way to register roaming charges, “but excessive use of such messages is known in the mobile telecoms industry to be indicative of location tracking.”
- The government of Togo suspended the publication of two opposition-linked newspapers after France’s embassy in the country complained about their coverage, AFP reports. The papers accused French officials of propping up Togo’s president, Faure Gnassingbé, who was reelected last month amid fraud claims from opposition leaders.
- And The Guardian published the essay that Lyra McKee—a journalist from Northern Ireland who was killed while covering riots in Derry last year—was working on before she died. In the 1990s, politicians promised that “the days of young people disappearing and dying young would be gone,” McKee wrote. “Yet this turned out to be a lie.”
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The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. In this frightening time, one thing matters above all else: facts. What do the numbers say? What does the science show? What do the models predict? What are we seeing on the front lines, especially in hospital emergency […]
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As COVID-19 lockdowns drag on, will the nation’s news interns report for duty? At this point, probably, maybe and yes, said the editors we spoke with. Kim Bates, managing editor of The Toledo (Ohio) Blade, said her newsroom is waiting just a bit longer before making a final decision about its internship program. “We also […]
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Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing about journalism and coronavirus, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The COVID-19 pandemic is going to create desperate rats, which once had restaurant scraps and such to eat but now have to go scrounge elsewhere, […]
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Yesterday afternoon, the United States passed a bleak milestone: it has more confirmed cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, than any other country on earth. As of this morning, more than 85,000 people have tested positive on American soil. At least 1,271 of them have died. New York is now the burning center of the American outbreak, with about 40,000 confirmed cases. But, of course, by the time you read these numbers, they will be out of date. And already, they paint an incomplete picture. The news cycle is a ceaseless eddy of grim statistics, and the fact that we don’t know whether or not they reflect reality is perhaps the scariest thing about them.
For weeks now, the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus data has made journalists’ jobs—already difficult—much harder. On March 3—just a few days after the US saw its first confirmed coronavirus death—Alexis C. Madrigal, a staff writer at The Atlantic, wrote a piece headlined “The Official Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It.” The government’s failure to test widely for the virus, Madrigal noted, has made the official case count a highly unreliable measure of spread on US soil. Yet the figure still has been “constantly printed and quoted.” In different circumstances, “we’d call this what it is: a subtle form of misinformation,” he wrote. “People believe what can be quantified. But data do not always accurately reflect the state of the world.” Since then, officials have conducted many more tests, but (literally) countless numbers of people with covid-like symptoms are still unable to get one. Yesterday, Derek Thompson, Madrigal’s colleague at The Atlantic, wrote that we’re all still laboring under a “fog of pandemic.” “Is the US currently experiencing rapid growth in coronavirus cases, or rapid growth in coronavirus testing, or both?” Thompson asked. “The answer should sound familiar: We don’t know yet, and it will be a while before we do.”
Not knowing things is always anathema to journalists. Those who lack a solid grounding in data analysis—which is most of us—find it particularly hard to communicate to readers and viewers; journalists like to trade in authority, and uncertainty of this scale makes that almost impossible. (As the techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci wrote this week, we also like simple, linear explanations, which don’t exist right now.) To bolster our authority, we interview experts, asking them to distill complicated knowledge into pithy, understandable quotes. The coronavirus has complicated that practice, too—there’s no shortage of experts to whom we can turn, but because this is a novel virus and disease, they, too, are uncertain, and often disagree with one another about the implications of what they do know.
“Experts are generally considered as monolithic providers of evidence,” Mattia Ferraresi, a journalist with the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, who observed similar dynamics in Italian coverage as the virus spread there, writes for Nieman Reports. “But scientific debate is by definition complicated, nuanced, and even messy—a dispute among competing hypotheses that need to be verified through a great deal of work and time.” Epidemiological arguments otherwise confined to niche science journals and conferences are now being hashed out in real time, on live television, with a “total” cases-and-deaths ticker stamped on the screen.
That’s not to say it isn’t worth interviewing experts about the coronavirus. But even a sophisticated model designed by credible researchers is only as useful as the quality of the data it’s crunching, and we know the available data is seriously flawed. Yesterday, Kai Kupferschmidt, a reporter for Science magazine, copublished a story about the different types of modeling we’re seeing around the world, and how forecasts have guided governments’ decisions to lock down (or not). Sharing the story on Twitter, Kupferschmidt warned that models appeal to reporters’ “worst instincts.” Even science journalists, he wrote, “tend to ignore or gloss over the assumptions that go into a model (if we even understand them).” Scary, worst-case-scenario numbers tend disproportionately to drive headlines. The eye of the reader tends to gloss right over the qualifier (“could”; “may”) to the apocalyptic possible body count.
It’s not wrong to share numbers—confirmed cases; confirmed deaths—that are available, but it’s vital that we adequately contextualize them. The best thing we can do is embrace uncertainty and communicate it willingly to our audiences. That can be unsatisfying. But the current, confusing slew of matter-of-fact data stories is worse. “In the age of pandemic, we are all data journalists. Except we are not,” Ferraresi writes. We need to rediscover “the lost art of admitting that we really don’t know.”
Below, more on the coronavirus:
- New York: For Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo explores how coverage of the coronavirus has changed since New York—“the world’s media capital”—became its target. “Even as we were inundated with news stories about unprecedented Chinese lockdowns, Italian hospitals bursting at the seams, deadly clusters popping up from Seattle to New Rochelle, the crisis still seemed distant, intangible, impossible to fathom,” Pompeo writes. “As of this week, however, the wave has officially crashed ashore.” The intensifying crisis has made a media star of Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor. For CJR, Ross Barkan, who has covered Cuomo for years, argues that the recent glowing coverage has sidestepped tough questions about New York’s preparedness.
- The cost to the country: According to the Labor Department, nearly 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. (The previous weekly record, set in 1982, was 695,000 claims.) The Times printed a striking chart illustrating the spike, with a bar representing the 3.3 million figure filling almost the entire right-hand column of its front page. Also yesterday, Jay Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, gave a rare interview about the state of the economy; he spoke live with Savannah Guthrie, on the Today show. Powell has only given one other TV interview as chair, to 60 Minutes. His predecessors rarely granted them, either.
- The cost to the media: News organizations across the world have seen a sharp dip in advertising revenue as the coronavirus crisis has taken hold. Some businesses can’t afford to buy ads anymore; others, BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman reports, don’t want to be associated with stories about the virus, fearing damage to their brands. This week, Craig Aaron, of the nonprofit Free Press, wrote for CJR that Congress should pass a stimulus package to help the media industry avoid the present financial cliff. Writing for The Atlantic, Steven Waldman, of Report for America, and Charles Sennott, of the GroundTruth Project, argue that the federal government could quickly spend $500 million placing coronavirus public service ads in local news outlets.
- Lower-speed internet: With much of the world now on lockdown, internet use has surged, and average broadband and download speeds have declined as a result; in New York, for example, median download speeds dropped by 24 percent in recent weeks. Cecilia Kang, Davey Alba, and Adam Satariano have more for the Times.
- An expulsion: Earlier this month, Ruth Michaelson, who covers Egypt for The Guardian, reported on a scientific study suggesting that the country has thousands more cases of the coronavirus than it has acknowledged. The Egyptian government subsequently revoked Michaelson’s press credentials and forced her to leave the country. Michaelson was the last full-time British newspaper correspondent in Egypt, The Guardian reports.
- “It’s a fucking lockdown”: In the UK, the BBC repurposed a lockdown-themed clip from The Thick of It—an Armando Iannucci sitcom about a foul-mouthed government apparatchik and his incompetent colleagues—as a public service announcement urging viewers to stay at home. The BBC is running the clip between some of its shows.
Other notable stories:
- Last week, China expelled American journalists working for the Times, the Post, and the Journal. The decision provoked anger in the US—but, as Shen Lu reports for CJR, “American journalists weren’t the only ones affected. What has been left out of the news coverage and international condemnation of Beijing’s action are the job losses of at least six Chinese nationals employed at US news outlets: two Times news researchers, one Journal researcher, one Voice of America news assistant, and two CNN staffers.”
- For CJR, Jenni Monet writes that coverage of the climate crisis routinely neglects stories affecting Indigenous communities, including ongoing legal challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline. And Savannah Jacobson traces the troubling history of ExxonMobil’s PR strategy. “Taken in sum,” Jacobson writes, “Exxon’s media shrewdness and its aggressive political lobbying have set back climate action for decades.”
- A court in Texas declined to dismiss a defamation case against Alex Jones, the InfoWars conspiracy theorist, by families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, which Jones has called a hoax. The court said Jones’s appeal to dismiss the case was “frivolous” and ordered him to pay $22,250; added to prior sanctions, Jones, who is yet to face trial, already owes nearly $150,000 in legal fees. HuffPost has more.
- The long-term political gridlock in Israel seems to be nearing an end after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Benny Gantz, moved toward a power-sharing arrangement. Gantz is expected to be able to install a loyalist atop the Justice Ministry, as he seeks to ensure that Netanyahu’s impending trial—on corruption charges linked to his dealings with media companies—goes ahead. Anshel Pfeffer has more for Haaretz.
- And Daniel S. Greenberg—a science journalist who produced the Science & Government Report, a newsletter, for nearly thirty years—died this month. He was eighty-eight. Greenberg’s wife told the Post that the newsletter never had more than two thousand subscribers but was read by “top scientists and science policymakers in the US and around the world.”
China’s expulsion of American journalists also affects Chinese staff—and the future of reporting in China
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact an ever-widening group of cities and states, it is challenging media outlets both big and small — not just because it puts pressure on already stretched newsrooms in terms of reporting resources, but because it is also affecting the financial side of the industry, with advertising revenue declines of 20 percent in some cases. How are metropolitan and regional media outlets handling this kind of pressure, while also reporting on one of the biggest stories in recent memory? How are they making sure that their staff are taking care of themselves, even as newsrooms put in long hours — many of them working remotely in large numbers for the first time? This week on CJR’s Galley platform, we’ve been talking with editors and managers at a number of medium-sized newspapers and websites such as the Arizona Republic, Philadelphia Inquirer, Seattle Times, Dallas Morning News, Maine Today, and Salt Lake Tribune to see how they are coping.
Kim Bui, the director of audience innovation at the Arizona Republic, says her organization was cautious about being too alarmist in covering the virus in its initial stages, since the state only had one case. But as the impact of the pandemic started to become obvious, coverage ramped up, and Bui says she and the rest of the newsroom took their cues about what to cover from readers. “The good thing about interacting with them is that we know that what they are interested in is the impact on their daily lives,” she says. “How does this change my work? My kids’ school? What do I do if I feel sick? We’re trying to base coverage off of that for the core team and I and the other news directors assign out impact stories as relevant.”
Like a lot of newsrooms, the Dallas Morning News has pivoted from longer-term projects to an all-hands-on-deck approach, says Mike Orren, chief product officer at the Morning News and president of Belo Business Intelligence. But unlike some other outlets that have put all their coronavirus coverage outside the paywall, Orren says the Morning News has only made some of its content free. The paper started out with everything virus-related available, he says, but “after a few days, we talked to some of our peers and we found that we weren’t seeing the same subscription bump they were. So we pivoted and made just the ‘public health’ content free, meaning that a school closing was free, but a celebrity’s opinion was in our normal meter.”
The Salt Lake Tribune is in an even more challenging position than some other outlets, because the paper recently transformed itself into a non-profit enterprise, one of the first to do so. “Before COVID-19 struck, we were busy getting the business functions ready, setting up a board of directors, updating the website — then coronavirus and an earthquake last week complicated things. But we’re still moving ahead,” said Jennifer Napier-Pearce, editor of the Tribune. Since we got our nonprofit approval, we’ve been fundraising so those donations and philanthropy will give us a much-needed cushion right now. But the long-term economic effects of coronavirus remain to be seen. Certainly, much of our advertising involved live events and retail, and those sectors are being hit very hard right now.”
Lisa DeSisto is the CEO of Masthead Maine, which owns the Portland Press Herald, Morning Sentinel, Kennebec Journal, Sun Journal and Times Record. She said that even though the group’s coronavirus coverage is all free of charge, all the papers have been seeing a significant increase in subscriptions, with many readers saying “Your coverage is more vital than ever and I want to support you.” However, she also said that because of the decline in advertising, the group is trying to reduce the number of pages in its print editions to save money (all of the chain’s daily papers moved to digital-only Monday editions earlier this month).
CJR will be continuing this week’s discussion with a roundtable on Thursday and Friday, involving some or all of the interviewees we’ve been speaking with, as well as questions from readers of the Lenfest Institute’s Solution Set newsletter, written by Joseph Lichterman, and trusted members of the Galley and CJR communities.
Here’s more on how newsrooms are handling COVID-19:
- Story of a lifetime: Kim Bui said at the Arizona Republic “we’re trying to be as kind as we can, and I’ve repeated that leaders need to model the behavior that we expect from others — Sign off, take a break, over-communicate, do video chats as often as you can. Over the weekend I did some origami and wrote some letters. I’m trying to remember that this is…….extraordinary. This is the story of a lifetime, so we need to pace ourselves through it so we can help people understand the world around them, and how its’ changing.” Steve Greenlee, managing editor of the Portland Press Herald, said “We’re making it clear that we don’t want everyone working 24/7, and we’ll continue to do that. We’ve also told our folks that we don’t want them putting themselves at risk. No story, no photograph is worth risking your health.”
- Subscriptions strong: Kati Erwert, senior vice-president of product, marketing, and public service at the Seattle Times, says that readership stats at the paper have been “off the charts.” Many news stories are seeing two to three times as many unique visitors as they would normally, she says, and in some cases they are at 10 times normal levels. “Subscriptions are incredibly strong, trending about two to three times where we normally are at this time,” she said. Although the paper has reduced its reliance on advertising to the point where subscriptions now account for 60 percent of revenue, however, Erwert said the drop in ads still has an impact, and “the declines are alarming.”
- Philanthropy matters: Gabriel Escobar, editor and vice-president of the Philadelphia Inquirer LLC, which includes the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer.com, says he isn’t concerned about the financial impact of the ad slowdown as a result of the coronavirus. “We are owned by the non-profit Lenfest Institute for Journalism so philanthropy is an important part of our present and our future,” he says. Katie Erwert of the Seattle Times said being family-owned (the publisher is the fourth generation of the Blethen family to run the paper) “is a key differentiator in so many ways. They live here. They work here. The impact to our community is felt deeply because they are of this community.”
- Texting the news: Bui says the Arizona Republic has been experimenting with a number of different ways of interacting with readers, including a subscription text-messaging service called Subtext. There are now about 500 people using the service, which allows them to get news headlines, but also reply to Republic staffers with their experiences or perspective. “We text roughly twice a day, once with case numbers, and then another with something else I think people need to know about,” says Bui. “I’m trying to answer most replies and people really love the one-on-one feeling. I think people are really scared and overwhelmed, so I’ve gotten a bunch of comments about how nice it is that we have an upbeat tone. I write it like I’m texting my friends.”
Other notable stories:
- BuzzFeed is cutting salaries as the company attempts to weather the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal memo obtained by The Daily Beast. The company announced a graduated salary reduction for the majority of employees for the months of April and May. Those in the lowest group, including anyone making under $65,000 a year, would see their salaries cut by five percent, while those whose pay is between $65,000 and $90,000 would see a reduction of seven percent. Executives will see their pay cut by between 14 and 25 percent, the memo said, and CEO Jonah Peretti told staff that he “will not be taking a salary until we are on the other side of this crisis.” The Spanish newspaper El Diario said that it will cut newsroom salaries by between 10 and 30 percent “to avoid dismissals while we have another option.”
- A public radio station in Washington state, KUOW, will no longer be airing White House press briefings on the coronavirus live as a result of what it called “a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time,” according to a report by The Hill. The station said in a statement posted on Twitter that it would be monitoring White House briefings for the latest news on the coronavirus, and would “continue to share all news relevant to Washington State with our listeners.” Producers for CNN and MSNBC told The Daily Beast they are considering cutting away from Trump’s briefings. “We might take it from the top and then cut away after the first lie, and return when the lies stop,” said one cable-network producer.
- Many small towns in the UK will be without a newspaper after JPI Media, which owns dozens of titles, told staff on Wednesday that all of its free newspapers delivered door-to-door would temporarily stop printing due to the logistical challenges of arranging delivery during the coronavirus pandemic, alongside the catastrophic collapse in the local advertising market. It will leave hundreds of thousands of people without their only local print newspaper, cutting off many self-isolating older readers from a key trusted source of news during the crisis.
- The pressure on advertising revenue is also hitting a lot of small dailies and weeklies in the US, writes Dan Kennedy, an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University. “Already under pressure from changes in technology and the decline of advertising, alternative weeklies and small dailies are teetering on the brink,” he says. “Reporters have been laid off. Print editions have been suspended or cut back. Donations are being sought. And journalists everywhere are wondering if they have a future.”
- A newspaper chain in Canada’s Atlantic provinces says it is laying off 40 percent of its workforce and shutting down all of its weekly newspapers in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in Nova Scotia, as advertising revenues have plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SaltWire Network said it will continue to publish its four daily publications in St. John’s, Halifax, Cape Breton, and Prince Edward Island. In addition to laying off 40 percent of its staff, the company said that remaining employees who earn “over a certain amount” will also have their work week reduced.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the 2020 presidential race, Tom Kludt of Vanity Fair writes, leaving many of the “boys (and girls) on the bus” to watch the campaigns via Zoom teleconferencing, or sit at their laptops to see Joe Biden stream a press conference from his Wilmington rec room. “So much of politics is what happens behind-the-scenes or along the sidelines of these events,” Ken Thomas of the Wall Street Journal told Kludt. “It’s much more of a challenge to capture all the things that are happening in this campaign when you’re forced to stay in your house.”
- Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, writes for CJR about how the coronavirus is “spawning a global press-freedom crackdown.” Governments around the world are cracking down on journalists and implementing sweeping restrictions under the guise of combating misinformation and “fake news,” he writes. Police in Venezuela violently detained a journalist and social media commentator, Darvinson Rojas, in reprisal for reporting on COVID-19 in Miranda State. And in Iran, the government has imposed sweeping restrictions on coverage as part of a systematic effort to downplay the scope of the public health crisis.
- Those who follow the news via social media are the least likely to be informed about the coronavirus, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center on Journalism and the Media. About 40 percent of those who say they depend on social media for their political and election news are likely to say they are following news about the outbreak very closely, the lowest percentage of any news pathway the Pew survey asked about. The next lowest in the rankings are those who mostly rely on local TV and radio for their news, with 44 percent saying they are following COVID-19 coverage very closely. That compares with 65 percent of cable news watchers.
- A tweet by conservative online magazine The Federalist, which suggested people should deliberately infect themselves with the coronavirus strain COVID-19, has been pulled after it “violated” Twitter’s recently updated rules on health-related misinformation, according to a report at TechCrunch. The infringing tweet, posted on Wednesday morning, said: “It is time to think outside the box and seriously consider a somewhat unconventional approach to COVID-19: controlled voluntary infection.” A spokesperson for Twitter confirmed the tweet violated its new coronavirus-related rules.