Need to Know: April 27, 2020

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


You might have heard: Last month, Gannett announced furloughs and pay cuts (The Daily Beast)

But did you know: Gannett newspapers lay off journalists around the country (Poynter)

Details surrounding the layoffs, which took place on Friday, are still hazy. Gannett would not provide Poynter with the number of workers laid off or an explanation on why the cuts were made, raising questions as to whether the decision was connected to COVID-19 or the company’s merger with GateHouse. Last year, GateHouse acquired Gannett, and the reenvisioned company, which took on the Gannett name, became the largest newspaper chain in the United States.

+ Related: Philadelphia Inquirer offers voluntary buyouts in sales, newsroom (Poynter); Minnesota’s Eden Prairie News and Lakeshore Weekly News to shut down (Bring Me the News); Cheddar permanently shuts down Los Angeles studio amid layoffs (The Wrap)

+ Noted: NABJ and NAHJ’s 2020 joint convention will be virtual (NAHJ); Institute for Nonprofit News to partner with Nextdoor to distribute local, statewide journalism (Institute for Nonprofit News)


Free content, tools and funding to help your newsroom cover the coronavirus

API is highlighting some of the free tools and grant funding available to help newsrooms cover the biggest story of our time. This resource rundown includes COVID-19 content that your newsroom can republish for free, workflow and platform tools, and relief funding for individual journalists.


Be nimble, relevant with subscription messaging (Trusting News)

Last year, the Fort Collins Coloradoan began experimenting with personalized subscription asks from reporters. At first, they ran with every story, but the paper’s approach has evolved to limit the appeals to topics and stories that have historically led to the most subscriptions. With its COVID-19 stories, the paper runs an evolving editor’s note that emphasizes its coverage goals, leading to more than two dozen subscriptions. The paper also has developed asks specific to certain topics. For instance, crime stories include a note that explains the costs of public records and other expenses for that kind of reporting.

+ As part of its story on race, class and the coronavirus, Kaiser Health News is releasing county-level data that reporters can use to localize the story (Twitter, @hannah_recht)


As Europe confronts coronavirus, the media faces a trust test (Nieman Reports)

By and large, European COVID-19 coverage is not increasing the public’s trust in the media. In an Edelman survey, journalists were the least trusted information source on the coronavirus, falling behind politicians and healthcare CEOs. This response follows five years of declining trust in the European Union’s media, and in some countries, the numbers are quite stark. About a week into Italy’s COVID-19 lockdown, a TradeLab study found that only 16 percent of those surveyed believed news on the pandemic was balanced and transparent.

+ Jeremy Klaszys says that Canada’s journalism bailout program “is still crafted by, and mostly for, legacy newspapers—a dying model. Innovation is penalized.” (Twitter, @klaszus)


How can we emerge from the pandemic with the journalism we need? (Nonprofit Quarterly)

Peggy Holman writes that journalism is beginning to emphasize its role in fostering participation in civic life. Much of that involves viewing audiences from a community perspective, learning to listen to your community’s diverse needs and exploring solutions to problems. Some newsrooms are encouraging civic engagement with forums, panels and other events that create a space for dialogue. For instance, California’s Capital Public Radio paired a project on suicide with roundtable discussions addressing the issue.


When science loses its voice (Columbia Journalism Review)

As public relations grew, federal agencies began what is now a commonplace practice to limit reporters’ access to staff. During the pandemic, this tactic of blocking interviews to control messaging is epitomized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which frequently rejects requests for comment and doesn’t have transparent policies on employees’ ability to speak with journalists and the public. Back in 2015, the Society of Professional Journalists reported that half of journalists polled said CDC barriers on reporting caused the public to miss out on important information.

+ Colorado Gov. Jared Polis suggested that government support would compromise the independence of the press (The Colorado Independent)


Writing about the dead during a pandemic: ‘They are not a statistic or data point’ (CNN)

Some papers are expanding their obituary desks or assigning reporters to memorialize victims of the coronavirus to humanize their experiences and get away from abstract death tolls. At The Chicago Tribune, the obituaries team has grown from four reporters to 19. The Seattle Times and Detroit Free Press recently launched their own remembrance series. Chicago Tribune reporter Christy Gutowski, who left the crime and social justice beat for this mission, said each obit aims to honor the victim, comfort their family and increase understanding of the human toll of the pandemic. “I am writing a life story to ensure history properly remembers someone’s loved one,” she said. “They are not a statistic or data point.”

+ Almost three in four senators and more than half the House want the federal government to use ads to support local news (CNN)