Need to Know: April 15, 2020

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


You might have heard: Compared to other federal appeals courts, the Supreme Court ranks last in transparency (American Bar Association Journal)

But did you know: Supreme Court arguments to be broadcast for first time (CNN)

In an unexpected move toward transparency, the Supreme Court plans to stream oral arguments live during the next month as court justices rely on teleconferenced proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic. While congressional proceedings are broadcast live on television and online, the highest court in the nation doesn’t allow cameras and typically has limited public access. Cases with high impact, such as those involving the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage and the 2000 presidential election, weren’t broadcast live.

+ Noted: The Google News Initiative is launching a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to aid small, medium and local news publishers across the world (Google); Los Angeles Times to furlough workers (Variety); Slate cuts pay (Twitter, @davidfolkenflik); Top Scripps execs take pay cuts (Broadcasting and Cable); Fortune laid off 35 and slashed executive pay (The Wrap); The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting is looking for a director (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


Trust Tip: Tell your audience that COVID-19 information might change (Trusting News)

How can you help your audience navigate fast-changing information during a breaking news event like pandemic? One idea from Lynn Walsh is to return to earlier, outdated stories to update them with links to the most recent information. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.

+ Earlier: Why linking back to previous stories can misinform your audience (Arizona State University News Co/Lab)


This J-school is launching a summer news service to help fill gaps in local news coverage (The City University of New York)

Through the virtual newsroom, 70 students graduating from City University of New York’s graduate journalism school will report local stories on public health and the economy in New York and around the country. The journalists will provide multimedia stories in both English and Spanish to local news organizations that may have lost their own internship programs this year. The team will also use tools like WhatsApp to connect to their communities.

+ Newsrooms can pull from The New York Times’ COVID-19 data with this embeddable map (TechCrunch)


Iraq suspends Reuters for three months over report on coronavirus cases (Reuters)

In April, Reuters reported that Iraq had more COVID-19 cases than were reflected in official numbers, drawing from conversations with multiple doctors and a health official. An Iraq media regulator alleged Reuters had broken broadcasting rules, revoked the news agency’s license for three months and issued a $21,000 fine. Reuters stood by its story, adding in a statement that they are “seeking to resolve the matter and are working to ensure we continue to deliver trusted news about Iraq.”

+ Daily Telegraph stops publishing propaganda-filled section paid for by China (The Guardian)


Reddit makes political ads more transparent ahead of 2020 election (Politico)

The “front page of the internet” is creating a subreddit that will detail political ads that have run on the platform since last year. The site will disclose information on advertisers, how they target users and how much their campaigns cost. Reddit also revised its policies to require political ads to be reviewed by Reddit, and advertisers must now verify their identities. The transparency effort follows similar disclosures from Facebook and other tech companies about the political ads they run.


The coronavirus narrative is that it came from the ‘other.’ It’s predictable, dangerous and wrong. (Poynter)

Roy Peter Clark writes that demonizing people with illness is “a dark part of human nature” that can lead to xenophobia, racism and violence. Although some reports suggest the coronavirus may have entered the United States from Europe, COVID-19 is frequently pegged as the “Chinese virus,” prompting some to blame Asian cultures and Asian Americans and deem them outsiders. Clark decries the use of narratives that equate illness with evil, a proposition that corrals feelings of panic, paranoia and hate.

+ Related: Asian-American studies professor Russell Jeung on the impact of this rhetoric on Asian Americans, who he says tend to be neglected and stereotyped in the news (Columbia Journalism Review)


Seattle journalists describe covering COVID-19 as ‘relearning how to do their jobs’ (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Among them is KNKX reporter Will James, who focuses on housing and immigration. Reporting on homelessness became challenging during the pandemic, because his sources don’t have phones and in-person contact is fraught with concerns on how to best protect himself and his contacts. “I’m covering this as a crisis on top of a crisis,” he said. “It’s like there is this immense emergency on the West Coast to begin with—a public health emergency of homelessness—and now there’s a pandemic on top of it, and it is really very complicated.”

+ Taken from a motorcycle, these photos of an empty New York City are “an album of the senses, of what it feels like to do what most of us cannot and would not: wander the city while it is a ghost and see what we find.” (Associated Press)