Need to Know: March 25, 2020


You might have heard: ‘The coronavirus is a media extinction event’ (BuzzFeed News)

But did you know: Journalism needs a stimulus. Here’s what it should look like. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Airlines, oil companies and other industries have been lobbying Congress for their share of the trillion-dollar stimulus package that is expected to pass today. But journalism advocates haven’t been pushing hard enough for a recovery bill that could help save local news — even as it provides a crucial public service in the midst of the crisis, writes Craig Aaron. Free Press, a nonprofit advocacy organization that Aaron leads, is asking Congress for at least $5 billion in emergency funds for public media and local news — which would be less than half of 1% of a trillion-dollar recovery package — and that Congress put a foundation in place to help sustain journalism over the long term.

+ Noted: “Journalism is core to our service and we have a deep and enduring responsibility to protect that work” — Twitter donates $1 million to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation (Twitter); Meet the Reynolds Journalism Institute 2020-21 class of fellows (Reynolds Journalism Institute); Facing deep cuts as it struggles to cover coronavirus, the New Orleans Advocate asks for donations (The Advocate)


Free content, tools and funding to help your newsroom cover the coronavirus

API is highlighting free tools and content-sharing opportunities to quickly and easily supplement your newsroom’s coronavirus coverage, as well as funding for coronavirus-related projects. We’ll update this guide as new opportunities emerge. If you would like something added to this list, please email

+ Today at 12 p.m. ET, API will host a live demo of our “Coronavirus Dashboard,” an analytics tool that provides insights into how your audience is interacting with your COVID-19 coverage. We will be granting free access to that dashboard to 20 newsrooms — apply by Friday, March 27.


How journalists can avoid spreading coronavirus misinformation (Journalist’s Resource)

Don’t go into detail on misleading claims, and remember that for most readers on social media, your headline is all they will ever see. Make sure it conveys accurate — and as much as possible — contextualized information. “There is a baseline tendency to make headlines that are more sensational and less accurate than the content of the article, to get people to click in,” says David Rand, a misinformation researcher at MIT. “That is a huge problem in the era of social media.”

+ For journalism educators: Here’s a list of experts in journalism and journalism-adjacent topics who are available to give free one-hour presentations to your classes (Fathm)

+ Creative ways newsrooms are going beyond straight delivery of coronavirus information, and “connecting people who have needs with those who have means” (Twitter, @azirulnick)


European publishers see subscriptions rise by 267% in the last week (Digiday)

Unlike their U.S. counterparts, many European news outlets have kept their paywalls intact around their coronavirus coverage. That, and the fact that Europe — Italy in particular — has become a global hot spot for the pandemic — are likely contributing to the massive bump in subscriptions, said Michael Silberman, senior vice president of strategy at Piano. By comparison, digital subscriptions in the U.S. rose 63% in the past week compared with the same period the year before.


Overwhelmed by coronavirus, Snopes is scaling back (Snopes)

While the fact-checking site has seen record traffic related to coronavirus, the magnitude of misinformation around the pandemic has overwhelmed its small team. In a statement posted to its website, Snopes says it is rolling out new policies that increase employees’ paid leave and provide cash bonuses to help employees defray unexpected costs that may arise from the crisis. It is also scaling back routine content production, including reducing its Daily Debunker newsletter to two days per week. “We recognize there has never been a greater need for the service our fact-checkers provide, so publishing less may seem counterintuitive,” the team wrote. “But exhausting our staff in this crisis is not the cure for what is ailing our industry.”


Should news orgs stop using the term ‘paywall’? (Twitter, @heytimgriggs)

“The word is both unnecessarily negative and usually descriptively inaccurate,” writes Tim Griggs. “Most local news sites do not have hard ‘walls.’ Most use some variation of metering.” The term “paywall” doesn’t convey the reality that readers can typically sample articles for free before they are asked to pay (or register), or that in times of crisis, relevant information is made available for free, argues Griggs. “I’d urge folks to stop using the term paywall when that’s not really what you mean. Language matters, and it creeps into how you communicate with your audiences.”


‘Just catch me up, quick’: How The Wall Street Journal is trying to reach non-news junkies (Nieman Lab)

The Wall Street Journal has adapted a suite of new tools designed to engage readers around election coverage to keep them informed on the coronavirus instead. It includes a live Q&A tool, which allows readers to get their coronavirus questions answered by reporters, and a “catch-up module” on its homepage that lets readers quickly see the latest updates on the pandemic. Live coverage is particularly effective at bringing in new audiences of non-subscribers, said Louise Story, the Journal’s chief news strategist and chief product and technology officer. The catch-up module, which can be completed without leaving the homepage, has been performing especially well with occasional readers.