Need to Know: April 2, 2020

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


You might have heard: Trump’s coronavirus briefings see big audiences. Some argue that’s bad (Axios)

But did you know: Why are journalists skipping Trump’s daily coronavirus briefing? Not enough news to risk their health. (The Washington Post)

After two correspondents were suspected of having COVID-19, reporters from news organizations like The Washington Post, New York Times and CNBC began avoiding the White House’s daily COVID-19 press briefings. Along with health concerns, another reason for skipping them is that they have become less newsworthy, and some news outlets have stopped airing the press conferences live. Before the pandemic led to these daily events, the White House opted not to hold traditionally daily press briefings for a year.

+ Related: One America News Network threatened with removal from White House press room after correspondent Chanel Rion makes unauthorized appearances (The Washington Post)

+ Noted: Barnes & Noble stops selling magazines while coronavirus rages (New York Post); Time swears off layoffs for 90 days (Digiday); Colorado Public Radio launches a podcast on how to cope with life during the pandemic (Colorado Public Radio)


7 ways to get your COVID-19 reporting to those who need it

The public has never needed reliable information more, but aside from dropping your news organization’s paywall, what else can you do to get your work in front of those most affected by the pandemic? API offers ideas for distributing your reporting in new ways, from experimenting with outreach tactics to exploring different formats. In one example, nonprofit news site Carolina Public Press is making its COVID-19 coverage available to radio stations for free to reach people who may not have the internet.


How innovative news outlets are meeting the needs of immigrant communities (City University of New York’s Center for Community Media)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic led to massive losses in advertising revenue, news outlets for immigrants have been struggling. From 2009 to 2019, at least 19 ethnic and community media outlets in New Jersey shut down. The Center for Community Media identified immigrant news organizations that are growing through social media and live streaming, as well as by globalizing their audiences. Orange County’s Vietnamese newspaper Nguoi Viet, for instance, has more YouTube viewers outside of the United States than it does locally. Some outlets also hire editors and other staffers who live overseas, leading to lower production costs.

+ UK street magazine The Big Issue adjusts to COVID-19 by moving sales to supermarkets (The Guardian)


A British newspaper has given Chinese coronavirus propaganda a direct line to the UK (BuzzFeed)

The Daily Telegraph’s website has a section called People’s Daily Online that describes itself as an “advertisement feature” focused on Chinese culture and business. The section is part of the Communist Party of China’s propaganda campaign to push the image that the country is on the forefront of battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The Daily Telegraph, which removed more than a dozen articles in response to BuzzFeed’s reporting, previously received £750,000 annually to run People’s Daily Online content. Publications in the United States have also run advertorial content funded by the Chinese government in the past.

+ UK newspapers to lose £50 million in online ads as firms use coronavirus ‘blacklist’ (The Guardian)


Zoom faces a privacy and security backlash as it surges in popularity (The Verge)

One thing facing heightened scrutiny is the teleconferencing platform’s ID numbers that give users access to meetings. A report from Check Point Research found that the numbers are easy to predict and could allow meetings to be hacked. Because Zoom’s default settings don’t require passwords to attend meetings and allow anyone to share their screens, some users have fallen victim to “zoom-bombing,” where hackers crash the meeting to share racist or otherwise offensive language or videos. Other issues have come to light, like Zoom’s misrepresentation of its encryption ability and how the company shares data about its users.

+ If you’re burning out, carve a new path (Harvard Business Review)


Curing local news for good (Columbia Journalism Review)

In light of Ben Smith’s controversial column on ditching newspaper chains, Report for America co-founder Steve Waldman offers a slew of suggestions on how the government could help the ailing industry. An idea that he believes could be carried out quickly is advertising from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on public health issues, like handwashing. Before the pandemic, the United States spent about $1 billion on public-service ads that focused on the military and the census. Waldman also suggests putting a modest amount of federal funds toward efforts to inform the public, like paying a reporter to answer questions and address misinformation on social media.


The pandemic’s most powerful writer is a surgeon (The Wall Street Journal)

A few weeks ago, surgeon Dr. Craig Smith began writing dispatches from the front lines of the COVID-19 battle to his colleagues at the Columbia University department of surgery. His emails provided updates on the situation, while seeking “the right balance between frightening facts and sunny-day optimism.” Columbia started publishing the accounts online, and they’ve gained an audience for their inspiring spirit, leading Ben Cohen to call them “Winston Churchill’s radio speeches of this war.”