Need to Know: April 9, 2020


You might have heard: U.S. newsroom employment has dropped by a quarter since 2008, with greatest decline at newspapers (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Decade-long decline in newsroom employment hit midcareer workers the hardest (Pew Research Center)

The job cuts across the news industry were not shouldered equally by journalists of all ages, new data from Pew shows. Midcareer news workers — those ages 35 to 54 — were hit the hardest, accounting for the bulk of the decline. In the last decade, the number of full-time midcareer newsroom employees in the U.S. dropped by 42%; while the number of newsroom workers ages 55 and older actually increased by 31% (although not enough to offset the losses of midcareer workers). The number of younger newsroom employees (ages 18 to 34) remained relatively stable, with no significant change occurring over the decade.

+ Noted: Hearst promises journalists at its newspapers no furloughs, no pay cuts (Poynter); Philadelphia newsrooms to receive $2.5 million in funding to cover COVID-19 (Lenfest Institute); University of Oregon’s Agora Journalism Center is calling for participants in a study on online engagement during a time of crisis (Agora Journalism Center); Pulitzer Prize Board postpones announcement of 2020 awards to May (


The Raleigh News & Observer shares its playbook on grant writing in journalism (Better News)

The News & Observer created a comprehensive directory of grants and training opportunities for journalists; launched a Salesforce application to track its own grant efforts; and wrote a guidebook for those who are new to grant-seeking. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.


Making distributed newsrooms the ‘new normal’ (Fathm)

Even after the coronavirus pandemic is over, it is unlikely that newsrooms will fully return to the way things were. Many will retain some aspects of distributed work, which will allow them to be more flexible and effective in the face of future disruptions. Supported by the Google News Initiative, the media consulting company Fathm put together a free guide to harnessing the benefits of distributed work and avoiding its common pitfalls. The guide is divided into six modules: managing distributed teams, workflows and structures, editorial, training, audience engagement, and technology and tools.

+ Journalists can now find COVID-19 response related legislation from across country on the Open States website (Reynolds Journalism Institute); AP makes its coronavirus dataset available to all, including county-level numbers of cases, deaths and infection rates (AP)


Brazilian fact-checkers excoriate the country’s leaders for promoting disinformation about COVID-19 (Poynter)

Representatives from five Brazilian fact-checking organizations wrote an open letter, published by two of the country’s leading newspapers, accusing Brazil’s leadership of spreading dangerous falsehoods about COVID-19. The letter was published after President Jair Bolsonaro and other politicians pushed the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine for treating coronavirus, although the durg’s impact on the virus has not been properly tested. “It didn’t take long for the drug to disappear from pharmacies, harming those who, in fact, need it for conditions like lupus or malaria,” the letter read.

+ Related: A Reuters Institute report examining the types and sources of COVID-19 misinformation found that little of it is completely fabricated — more often, true information is “spun, twisted, recontextualised, or reworked” (Reuters Institute)


It’s the disappearance of the morning commute that seems to be hurting podcast listening most (Nieman Lab)

Data from podcast companies like Stitcher indicate an overall decline in podcast consumption by 9 to 11%. Average listening between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. (morning commute time) dropped about 20% in March while average listening in other hours was down just 4%. By the start of April, Stitcher’s data showed a slight uptick in listening during non-commute hours, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the commute loss.


Democratic senators call for funding for local media in coronavirus stimulus (The Hill)

More than a dozen senators are calling for future coronavirus stimulus packages to include funding for local journalism, saying that communities across the U.S. are at risk of losing their source of news because of the pandemic. They write that any new stimulus package should include a provision that is “tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a long-term commitment to high quality local news.” Although some local news outlets may be able to benefit from the $349 billion in small business funding that Congress released last week, there have been reports that technical and logistical issues are standing in the way of them accessing the funds.

+ Related: A coalition of nearly 50 organizations is calling on Congress to include funding for local news in the next coronavirus stimulus package (PEN America)


A day in the life of a local TV newsroom covering coronavirus (RTDNA)

Like other newsrooms, the reporting staff at CBS4 in Denver are all working the coronavirus beat. To maintain a sense of structure, the reporters have taken over various sub-beats, like local medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic, information coming from local politicians and the state health department, and how e-learning is going in homes across Colorado. The editorial meetings are now peppered with the usual awkward sounds accompanying a video conference call. (“There moments we call “mute shaming” like, “Michael, your dogs are barking again” and “Who’s listening to smooth jazz?”) Overall, writes news director Tim Wieland, “We’re all keeping our sense of humor, being patient, and making it work.”

+ Related: Join a webinar about how to protect staff mental wellness as they monitor and report on coronavirus, today at 11 a.m. ET (Twitter, @firstdraftnews)