Need to Know: March 26, 2020


You might have heard: 96% of small business owners are already feeling coronavirus impact (Axios)

But did you know: How local news can support local business (Twitter, @KevinLoker)

Local news outlets have found creative ways to support small businesses in their communities, including creating gift cards (Gannett), offering free online classifieds (Mahoning Matters) and ad inventory (WhereBy.Us), creating maps of restaurants offering takeout and delivery (WCPO), launching a virtual stage for local musicians to host concerts (Post and Courier), and creating a service for patrons to find and tip service workers online (WFYI News).

+ Noted: Senate coronavirus bill includes $75 million for Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Fox News); BuzzFeed is cutting back employees’ pay as company attempts to weather coronavirus (Daily Beast); Scroll and Mozilla’s Firefox team up to bring ad-free news to a wider audience (Nieman Lab)


We’re looking for someone to help us write this newsletter

API is looking for a freelancer to help write Need to Know on an occasional basis. Please email Stephanie Castellano, API’s editorial manager and producer of Need to Know, at with questions or interest. Ideally, we’re looking for someone who is a regular reader of Need to Know and would be available to curate, write and produce the newsletter two to three days per week, as well as stand in for Stephanie on an as-needed basis.

+ Yesterday API hosted a live demo of a special analytics dashboard we’ve created to help newsrooms track how their audiences are engaging with their coronavirus coverage. We’re granting up to 20 newsrooms free access to that dashboard — apply by Friday, March 27. 


Fitting into readers’ new routines (Twipe)

Research has shown that building habit — not page views — is what matters most for keeping subscribers. But when people’s routines have drastically changed in a global attempt to combat the coronavirus, many news orgs are finding useful ways to insert themselves into readers’ daily lives, including launching “solidarity pages” where people can go to seek help with grocery shopping or using their computer, creating special sections for children that include puzzles and games, and even — in the wake of a toilet paper shortage — printing special pages to be used “in case of an emergency.”


In Spain, uses public service journalism to fight the coronavirus (Nieman Reports)

The member-supported news outlet is taking a restrained approach to reporting on the pandemic in Spain, where cases are mounting more rapidly than in China, Italy, or Iran. In its daily newsletter, editor Maria Ramirez avoids words like “crisis,” “disaster,” “catastrophe,” “chaos,” and “nightmare.” She refrains from highlighting “the most gory details” and if a piece of news doesn’t add anything immediately useful, it is often set aside. Ramirez also makes a point of including positive news about vaccines, treatments, solidarity and innovation. Members’ responses have been overwhelmingly positive, says Ramirez — 90% have agreed to pay the higher membership fee instituted to help make up for the loss in ad revenue, and it’s gaining news members every day. “At this pace, membership revenue is going to make up for the losses in our worst-case scenario outlook,” Ramirez writes.


At what point might exhausted audiences begin turning away from coronavirus news? (Big If True)

For most news organizations, online traffic has soared, subscriptions are up, and ratings are climbing as people try to stay informed on a pandemic that has impacted nearly every corner of our lives. But for many, the deluge of information — most of it negative — has triggered feelings of anxiety and helplessness, which could eventually lead to news avoidance. Even before the coronavirus took over the news cycle, a third of people around the world said they actively avoided news. Is it better for everyone in the long run if news organizations help readers moderate their information intake? “I think that we all need to learn to moderate to get the information that we need,” said Elana Newman, research director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. “Everybody has a different threshold for what is the necessary … amount of information that I need to be safe, to feel a sense of control, to make good choices.”


How the government could help local news weather the economic fallout from coronavirus (The Atlantic)

In this moment, as the “bottom is falling out economically for local news organizations,” advocacy groups are asking the federal government for a bailout of the news industry. But another, more sustainable idea is to have the government funnel $500 million in spending for public-health ads through local media, writes Steven Waldman. “This is not a bailout; the government will be buying an effective way of getting health messages to the public, and could even customize the notices to specific audiences.” The same could be done for census-related ads, Waldman adds.


Broadcasters adapt to social distancing and the new realities of covering a pandemic (CNN)

“What’s lost: Multi-million dollar studios and the video quality that comes with it. What’s gained: Efficiency and intimacy. Live shots from home are candid and relatable, showing viewers that their favorite TV personalities are stuck in the same stay-at-home boat.” CNN’s Brian Stelter looks at how news anchors and reporters are adapting to teleworking by setting up basement studios, going live with a cellphone “propped up on a stack of books,” and running a TelePrompTer by scrolling on a wireless mouse.