Need to Know: March 18, 2020


You might have heard: ESPN was left scrambling to figure out programming while live sports shut down indefinitely (CNBC) 

But did you know: Even without sports, TV viewership is up — but the spike may be short-lived (New York Times)

The more Americans stay at home to wait out the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, the more they’re glued to their TVs. But the threat of a global recession could mean that the spike in TV viewership is short-lived. As the effects of the pandemic begin to hit wallets, Americans’ media subscriptions will be one of the first items on the budgetary chopping block. “Cord cutting will accelerate with a vengeance,” said Craig Moffett, a co-founder of the research firm MoffettNathanson, and streaming companies will likely find themselves in a price war.

+ Noted: China announces that it will expel American journalists (New York Times); Flash grants of up to $50K are now available for fact-checkers fighting coronavirus misinformation (Poynter); The Facebook Journalism Project is partnering with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association to offer $1 million in grants to local news organizations covering the coronavirus (Lenfest Institute); If Facebook blocked you from sharing reputable news content yesterday, here’s why (BuzzFeed News)


Trust Tip: Explain how coronavirus coverage affects your bottom line (Trusting News)

Assumptions that news outlets overhype crises like the coronavirus just to drive page views and ratings are all too common. This week’s edition of Trust Tips covers how to have a transparent conversation with your audience about how the pandemic is truly affecting your financials, including advertising, subscriptions and donations — whether it’s been good or bad. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


How news orgs can help people ‘live their changed lives’ (Twitter, @KevinLoker)

Staying on top of coronavirus updates like confirmed local cases and new community restrictions is important, but news orgs can also help people navigate the ways their lives have changed as a result of the pandemic. A new newsletter from PBS Kids, for example, offers daily activities and tips for entertaining and educating homebound children. In Akron, Ohio, The Devil Strip is covering the virus’s impact on the local economy — and how readers can support local businesses and artists online.

+ Related: See what questions people in your community have about coronavirus with this Google Trends dashboard. (Twitter, @cward1e)

+ There is now a wealth of resources out there for reporters covering coronavirus. This Twitter thread is rounding them up. (Twitter, @corinne_podger)


From this Austrian newspaper, creative and inspiring resources to rally your community (INMA)

With the government of Vorarlberg, a state in western Austria, preparing extreme measures to limit public life, it would have been all too easy for the state’s leading newspaper Vorarlberger Nachrichten to turn to “gloom-and-doom” coverage. Instead, the newspaper created #VorarlbergSticksTogether — not only a social media hashtag, but a rallying point for its reporting. Vorarlberger Nachrichten is facilitating ways for readers to fight the pandemic, including launching a microsite where people can volunteer to do things like grocery shopping for high-risk populations, and tripling its Sudoku and crossword sections — something readers very much appreciated. It is also building a campaign to support local businesses, and, with churches closing, broadcasted Sunday mass from a local bishop’s house.


Tips for hosting online conversation (Medium, Journalism That Matters)

There are multiple tools out there for holding virtual meetings, but no matter which you choose, there are a few fundamentals to making sure those meetings go smoothly. In a nutshell: Set clear, tightly-focused goals for the meeting, support interaction by limiting the main speaker’s time and designating someone to track and respond to participants’ comments, and — before the meeting — provide people with clear instructions for participating.


Why Tucker Carlson took his message on coronavirus to Mar-a-Lago (Vanity Fair)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was covering the threat posed by coronavirus well before the government had fully acknowledged it, spoke with Vanity Fair’s Joe Hagan on why he undertook a personal mission to convince the president — and his own conservative viewership — to take the threat seriously. The current politically charged environment means that everyone sees every major development through an ideological lens, he said. “It’s hard to get people’s attention if you know you’re saying something that they suspect is political propaganda. It’s something that people have worried about for a long time. What if there’s a crisis, no one will believe the coverage. Well, okay, that’s where we are.”


The Dispatch surpassed $1 million in revenue by being newsletters-and-podcasts first and taking it slow (Nieman Lab)

The Dispatch, a conservative politics and news site, has generated nearly $1.4 million in revenue since its launch six months ago. Publishing on Substack, an email platform designed for individuals (The Dispatch was actually the first news organization to launch on Substack) has proved to be a competitive advantage. It allowed its reporters to build more meaningful relationships with audiences via the more intimate channels of newsletters and podcasts. They don’t care if readers don’t make it to The Dispatch’s website, says Stephen Hayes, the CEO, editor and co-founder. “We’ve just said to people we want to provide you with … really good content, and we otherwise want to leave you alone.”