Need to Know: March 17, 2020


You might have heard: “If ever there was a time for journalists to put aside business as usual, for the greater good, it’s right now”: why newsrooms need to stop competing and start collaborating on coronavirus coverage (Medium, Dan Gillmor)

But did you know: How journalists are working together to cover the COVID-19 pandemic (Nieman Lab)

More than a dozen newsrooms in Oregon are sharing and cross-promoting their coronavirus coverage. First Draft, a fact-checking organization, is pulling together a global collaborative to help newsrooms stay ahead of disinformation related to the pandemic. In North Carolina, the NC News Collaborative is sharing content as well as working on a large statewide reporting project that is set to publish next week. And in New Jersey, two news collaboratives have arranged group calls to discuss their coverage and share tips. Those are just some examples of how local news collaborations are working to cover the virus from all angles, avoid duplication of efforts (and overworking staff), and amplify individual newsrooms’ reach.

+ Noted: After the initial shock, ad industry grimly prepares for a prolonged downturn (Digiday); Warren Buffett finalizes sale of BH Media Group to Lee Enterprises (AdWeek)


Podcast: Is it time to rethink your arts coverage? (It’s All Journalism)

KCUR, Kansas City’s public radio station, knew that traffic to its online arts content was lagging. So the editorial team developed a new strategy that grew audiences and even helped “soccer dads” care about Kansas City’s arts scene. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative.


How to demonstrate trustworthiness with your coronavirus coverage (Trusting News)

You’re blowing this out of proportion. You’re sensationalizing news to get more people on your website. You don’t care about getting it right. People working in newsrooms may have seen some of these accusations and complaints land in their inboxes or comment sections — and while they’re working overtime just to stay on top of coronavirus updates, it may be tempting to brush them aside. But it’s more important than ever to address public distrust around this issue, writes Mollie Muchna. Newsrooms need to be clear about the goals of their coronavirus coverage — “We want to inform you, not scare you,” is the message many publishers have been putting out, on-air, in newsletters, and on social media. Others have been increasing transparency around everything from editorial decisions, to how they correct information, to how the pandemic will affect their bottom line.

+ While newsrooms are working flat-out to cover coronavirus, “leaders need to be good listeners and also role models of self-care” (Twitter, @tomthuang)


How ‘members getting members’ brought Zetland to financial sustainability (Membership Puzzle Project)

Three years after launching, despite building a strong member base of 10,500, Danish member-supported newsroom Zetland was still operating in the red. They needed to get to 14,000 members if they were going to be financially sustainable. So they developed a “members getting members” campaign that relied on “emotional vulnerability and brutal financial transparency” to move people to take action. The team told the story of Zetland’s founding and its mission, and laid bare their financial difficulties. Then they created an ambassador program that helped current members recruit new members, who could pay whatever they wanted for the first month. The appeal worked: By the end of the campaign, they had surpassed 14,000 members to become a financially sustainable newsroom.

+ How a small Ukrainian town was torn apart by coronavirus rumors (BuzzFeed News)


Publishers put virtual events to the test as in-person gatherings disappear (Digiday)

As coronavirus continues to threaten publishers’ events business, publishers like the Texas Tribune and Protocol are turning to virtual events as an alternative. However, virtual events don’t offer all the benefits of in-person events — networking is more difficult, attendees can’t experience physical products, and there’s no live entertainment. For those reasons, a virtual event will likely bring in one-third to one-half the revenue of a physical event, said Larry Weil, an events sponsorship consultant. “I don’t believe you can take a three-day conference and put it online,” he added. “Sponsorship is definitely going to take a hit. But those who have a digital strategy, and can scramble, can defer a lot of that loss.”


When should you name COVID-19 patients and other ethical decisions U.S. newsrooms will face this week (Poynter)

As testing becomes available, confirmed coronavirus infections are going to skyrocket, which means newsrooms need to be prepared with a policy around naming patients who test positive. Here are a couple recommendations from Poynter’s Kelly McBride: Don’t repeat the reporting of another newsroom when it comes to revealing an individual who is infected, and restrict sourcing to the individual, his or her family and other official representatives. When documenting the outbreak, journalists should also take care to provide context — for example, show images of grocery-store shelves being restocked, if that is the case, rather than being ransacked, and share stories of recovery to show the full range of affliction, not just the most dramatic cases.


How election-year misinformation challenges local news (ABC News)

Political misinformation is often considered a national and international challenge — we’re used to hearing about how Russian trolls and bots attempted to sway the 2016 election, and evidence suggests they’re at it again in 2020. But misinformation is increasingly a problem on Main Street, too: Local candidates and politicians are adopting misinformation tactics at the same time local news organizations are shrinking or shutting down completely. Surviving media organizations, however, are still finding ways to respond by partnering with fact-checking organizations such as the Better Government Association, as well as re-purposing traditional reporting techniques to work around doctored videos, online impersonators and partisan sites masquerading as news.

+ Related: API is building a real-time network of newsroom leaders and misinformation experts to help local newsrooms combat election-related misinformation. Join us.

+ The Seattle Times newsroom is at the center of the pandemic (New York Times)