Need to Know: April 14, 2020

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


You might have heard: News companies have laid off, furloughed or cut the pay of an estimated 28,000 workers (The New York Times)

But did you know: Pay cuts come to Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair (The New York Times)

On Monday, Condé Nast CEO Roger J. Lynch sent a staff memo outlining plans to undergo pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs. In May, employees making $100,000 or more will see pay cuts of 10 to 20 percent for five months. Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour will take a 20% pay cut, and non-employee board members will lose half of their compensation. The company, which recently had hundreds of open positions, has also frozen hiring.

+ Related: Vox is expected to furlough about 100 workers for three months (CNBC); ESPN seeks 15% pay cuts from about 100 commentators (Variety)

+ Noted: Trump campaign sues a Northwoods, Wis. TV station for airing a COVID-19 attack ad (Wisconsin Public Radio); Pivot podcast joins New York magazine (New York)


Drive more subscriptions or memberships 

Our Reader Revenue Toolkit is a living resource that guides publishers through the practical challenges of generating reader revenue: designing an attractive subscription offer page, improving registration and payment forms, building email lists and more. Check out the toolkit, and let us know if there’s an additional challenge or step you’d like us to cover. 


7 ways KPCC-LAist is experimenting with its COVID-19 coverage (Engagement at KPCC)

In January, KPCC and LAist’s newsroom used a Hearken embedded form to solicit more than 1,300 questions about the coronavirus from the community. Newsroom leaders developed a system to direct the questions to different journalists depending on the topic. Together, they’ve responded to more than 1,100 questions, some of which prompted their own stories. Audience members can send questions and receive COVID-19 updates by text, as well. The newsroom is also targeting the 30% of Los Angeles County residents who don’t have reliable access to the internet with a mailer that will be delivered to areas with low broadband access.

+ Financial survival tips for newsrooms from the Media Development Investment Fund (Splice)


COVID-19 spurs reduced access to information in Canada (J-Source)

A Maclean’s journalist wanted to get a picture of Canada’s “curve” of daily coronavirus cases, but the government wouldn’t release that historical data. So, the publication relied on cached versions of Canada’s health department website to assemble a graph showing Canada’s daily infection count. Public information specialist Dean Beeby suspects that 2020 will be Canada’s “lost year of FOI,” expressing concerns that requests regarding the coronavirus could take as much as a year to process. The government is increasingly requesting 30-day or indefinite extensions, raising issues of transparency.


How reporters can flatten the stress curve while covering the pandemic (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Journalists are used to covering disasters, but reporting on an event as all-encompassing as COVID-19 can be overwhelming. Reporting may offer journalists a sense of purpose that doubles as a way of coping, but that can also lead to dealing with traumatic subjects. Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística director Maria Teresa Ronderos says that instead of pursuing a scoop alone, journalists should collaborate and examine topics unrelated to the virus. “Hold governments to account in other areas; it gives people a sense that the world will continue,” she said. 

+ Why books are the ultimate respite from a socially distanced life (The Atlantic)


What went wrong with the media’s coronavirus coverage? (Recode)

Early reporting on COVID-19 turned out to be wrong, incomplete or contain conflicting information, leading Peter Kafka to ask, “How do we cover a story where neither we nor the experts we turn to know what isn’t yet known?” Medical and pandemic analysis doesn’t come with complete certainty, but journalists have the option to disclose when their sources don’t know the answer to a question. Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina professor focused on tech and society, believes news outlets missed the boat by initially comparing the coronavirus to the flu and encouraging the public not to overreact.


Glossy magazines sell fantasy. Now they have to reckon with reality. (The New York Times)

Health care workers have become makeshift models in the pages of some fashion magazines, like Vanity Fair Italy and Grazia in Britain. Meanwhile, many covers designed before the pandemic are out of sync with a post-COVID-19 world, bearing celebrities in spring colors and content devoid of references to face masks and social distancing. Coronavirus is expected to breach the fashion magazine world by the summer, while some publications, including InStyle, are addressing the topic online instead of waiting for the opportunity in print. InStyle editor Laura Brown said that delivering escapism is still part of the equation, but readers have said they “want to see the everyday women currently doing extraordinary things being celebrated. We need to show that we are listening to them.”