Need to Know: March 23, 2020

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


You might have heard: How declining ad sales and other coronavirus side effects could impact the journalism industry (Nieman Lab) 

But did you know: Publishers complain about media buyers blacklisting coronavirus content (Ad Age)

Although news outlets are getting a boost from their COVID-19 coverage, media buyers are using companies like DoubleVerify to block ads from appearing next to stories about the coronavirus. This decision, which was made in an effort to protect brands’ reputations, has at times left blank ad spots on the homepages for sites such as the New York Times and Vox. Because of blacklisting, the Times expects a 10 percent decline to digital ad revenue, and Business Insider’s cost per thousand impressions has fallen 10 percent.

+ Noted: NBC News employee Larry Edgeworth dies after testing positive for coronavirus (NBC News); The Week Junior launches (MediaPost); App downloads are up for The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal (Apptopia); 166-year-old Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper terminates all employees (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


Apply for free access to Metrics for News to track COVID-19 coverage

The American Press Institute created a special dashboard in its analytics tool Metrics for News to help newsrooms assess the impact of their COVID-19 coverage. This coronavirus dashboard can help you learn which coronavirus stories your community is connecting with, if that content is engaging some audiences more than others, and how your COVID-19 coverage intersects with other topics you cover. Apply by March 27 to get at least four months of free access to Metrics for News’ coronavirus dashboard.


How newsrooms are staying in touch on Zoom while working from home (The New York Times)

As newsrooms go remote, videoconferencing is becoming a lifeline for touching base about work, but also for finding much-needed human contact. Vox Media will have virtual reading hours for parents and their children, and staff members for The Verge are even using the gaming chat app Discord to catch up over an off-the-clock round of Mario Kart. Noah Shachtman, The Daily Beast’s editor in chief, recommends newsrooms speak on Zoom at least once a day to foster a feeling of being connected. “It’s key to avoid feeling isolated and staying motivated,” he said. 

+ Related: As hard-hit alt-weeklies deal with declining ad revenue, Vermont’s Seven Days makes an appeal for reader support (Seven Days) How to make your COVID-19 writing as easy to understand as possible (Poynter)


New BBC explainer feature helps news readers understand complex topics (

In the BBC News prototype, readers search for frequently asked questions, which allows the news outlet to reduce the use of background material that some may find repetitive. The tool also gives readers an entry point to complicated topics, like Brexit, that they may be unfamiliar with, while serving as a more succinct, straightforward substitute for 1,000-word explainer articles. “If you are reading an article and you’re not particularly clued up on all the terminology, it can be quite alienating,” BBC News Labs senior software engineer Roo Hutton said. On the BBC’s COVID-19 coverage, 60 percent of readers have engaged with the tool.

+ Latin American publications ran identical covers as a sign of unity amid the coronavirus pandemic (Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas); South Africa enacts regulations criminalizing “disinformation” on COVID-19 (Committee to Protect Journalists)


YouTube will start displaying trustworthy coronavirus videos on its homepage (The Verge)

With the goal to increase access to reliable information on COVID-19, YouTube will use an algorithm to place the string of videos from news outlets and local health organizations. Since late last year, videos on the platform have pushed conspiracy theories and hoaxes about the virus, such as the false claim that the virus is caused by 5G radiation. Some of the largest tech companies, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, recently said they’re working together to fight misinformation on COVID-19. 

+ Related: Twitter will ban Tweets that spread misinformation about coronavirus (HuffPost)

+ How to make your work-from-home space ergonomic (CNBC); How bad times bring out the best in people (Harvard Business Review)


Pandemic, photography, and psychological distance (Columbia Journalism Review)

Following sustained criticism of news outlets’ use of photography during the coronavirus pandemic, Fred Ritchin reframes the issue. Initial coverage relied on images showing Asians wearing masks, which he compares to photos of Guantanamo Bay detainees in orange jumpsuits. “Once you saw the orange jumpsuits, the people wearing them are dehumanized, thought of as guilty, although most were later released,” he says. Ritchin argues that photojournalists should find ways to convey a fuller picture of people during the crisis by turning to alternatives like portraits of frontline health care workers and people who survived the virus.


Stuck at home, 94-year-old DJ keeps the music playing (Current)

For more than 30 years, 94-year-old Art Ackerman has been a DJ at KDNK, a Carbondale, Colo., radio station that airs news and music shows hosted by volunteers. Station Manager Gavin Dahl decided the COVID-19 pandemic made it too risky for Ackerman to visit the studio to host his show, a tribute to swing jazz from the 1930s and 1940s. But the pair came up with the next-best thing. Dahl spun records from Count Basie, Bing Crosby and Doris Day, and Ackerman hosted the show by phone. The episode hit a vein with listeners, who helped KDNK reach an $80,000 pledge drive goal during the show. Colorado Public Radio CEO Stewart Vanderbilt said Ackerman and Dahl “(created) a sense of community by keeping radio live.”

+ The last page of the Los Angeles Times is now dedicated to kids (Twitter, @ArashMarkazi)