Need to Know: April 28, 2020

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Roughly 36,000 workers at news companies in the U.S. have been laid off, been furloughed or had their pay reduced since the arrival of the coronavirus (New York Times)

But did you know: Most American newspapers don’t qualify for federal coronavirus aid (Wall Street Journal)

Newspapers whose parent companies have more than 1,000 employees are not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal government’s rescue package designed to help small businesses weather the economic fallout of the coronavirus. The maximum-employee requirement means that newspapers representing more than 80% of U.S. circulation are disqualified from the program. The issue has prompted a bipartisan push in Congress to either amend PPP rules to make an exception for local news, or get news organizations other forms of aid in the next stimulus bill. “Without it, you are going to see a significant number of newspapers closing,” said Seattle Times Co. President Alan Fisco.

+ Noted: Here’s what we know so far about the layoffs at Gannett (Poynter); Citing concerns about misinformation, journalism professors write an open letter asking news outlets to suspend live coverage of President Trump’s coronavirus press briefings (Google Form)

API UPDATE

20 publishers earn free access to track COVID-19 coverage in Metrics for News

API created a special dashboard in our analytics tool Metrics for News to help newsrooms assess the impact of their COVID-19 coverage. Today we’re excited to announce 20 news organizations are receiving free access to that data to assist in their coronavirus coverage strategies.

TRY THIS AT HOME

How local news ecosystems are supporting newsrooms during the pandemic (Local News Lab)

Regional and statewide networks of local newsrooms, community foundations and other support groups have been coming together to lift up local news in creative ways since the start of the pandemic. In New Jersey, the Center for Cooperative Media has arranged weekly conference calls to build community among New Jersey journalists and share updates from their reporting. In Colorado, the Colorado Trust has commissioned journalists to report on local health inequity during the pandemic, which can then be shared in other local outlets. Similar efforts to meet community information needs are being made in North Carolina, Illinois and New Mexico. “If we are to successfully help local journalism not only survive, but transform in a way that will create systems level impact and longer term transformation, we must understand how these networks have successfully responded to this moment,” writes Christine Schmidt.

+ On April 29, USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism will host a webinar on how Southern California Public Radio’s used informational mailers and a text-message service to keep low-internet audiences informed on COVID-19 (Center for Health Journalism)

OFFSHORE 

FT reporter suspended for accessing private Zoom calls of rival papers in the UK (The Independent)

Last week, British newspapers The Independent and The Evening Standard announced that they would be instituting salary cuts and furloughs as a result of the coronavirus. Financial Times reporter Mark Di Stefano was the first with the scoop — because he had accessed the papers’ private Zoom meetings where employees were told of the cutbacks. Some of that information made it online before other staffers, including those in the U.S., had been given the details by management. Di Stefano has since been suspended by the FT.

+ In Bangladesh, news organizations have partnered to create a platform, Mission Save Bangladesh, to help those who have lost wages due to COVID-19. (International News Media Association)

OFFBEAT 

Internet companies step up to fight coronavirus misinformation — but in doing so, they could change the internet forever (The Atlantic)

With misinformation about COVID-19 running rampant on the internet, companies like Facebook and Google have announced widespread plans to remove harmful posts about the virus. And at the request of state and federal governments, they’re also working to harness user data to help with contract tracing and quarantine enforcement. But some worry that this level of platform interference, which is heavily influenced by government guidance, will be hard to undo when the pandemic is over. Some worry that using the internet in the U.S. might come to resemble China’s strictly regulated access more than the Wild West days of the dot-com boom, when digital speech was a free-for-all.

UP FOR DEBATE

Speculative journalism can help us prepare for what’s to come. Could it also promote misinformation? (Nieman Reports)

Speculative journalism aims to help audiences think through the potential consequences of major, complex events — like climate change or a potentially fatal global pandemic. The reporting is solidly grounded in facts, but relies on prediction and projection to tell a compelling story, which some say should have no role in straight news reporting. In many cases, it’s purposely designed to read like science fiction. At a time when misinformation is rampant and technology makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish between real and fake, speculative journalism can feel like an irresponsible endeavor, critics say.

SHAREABLE 

In the midst of coronavirus, luxury media brands struggle to stay relevant (The New York Times)

While COVID-19 was decimating parts of Europe in February, Anna Wintour and her Vogue magazine staff attended shows at Paris Fashion Week, then returned to New York City and went straight back to work at One World Trade Center. The infamous Vogue editor’s resolve may be part of what made her such an unbeatable figure in publishing, but the coronavirus pandemic could spell the end of her dominance in the magazine world. With ad revenues down and the fashion industry in freefall, Vogue has taken a backseat to The New Yorker as Condé Nast’s strongest unit, and it may have to change radically if it’s going to survive.