Need to Know: March 30, 2020

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


You might have heard: Virus concerns lead to ‘public’ meetings without the public (Associated Press)

But did you know: Florida governor blocks journalist from coronavirus press conference (Miami Herald)

On Saturday, Mary Ellen Klas, the capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, was not allowed to attend a press conference on COVID-19 held by Florida’s governor, lieutenant governor and other state officials. Days before Klas was refused entry, she had asked the governor’s staff to hold virtual briefings to help protect journalists’ health. Editors of the Herald, Times and five other Florida papers also asked the governor’s office to hold virtual press conferences earlier this month. 

+ Noted: Facebook aims $100 million at media hit by the coronavirus (The New York Times); COVID-19 layoffs hit Colorado newsrooms (The Colorado Independent); Podcast downloads declined about 10 percent in March (WWD)


What makes people pay for news

As part of the Media Insight Project, a joint effort between API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, we conducted what may be the largest study ever undertaken of people who have recently subscribed to newspapers. See what “triggers” makes people subscribe, and why they continue to stay subscribed. 


The New York Times is sharing county-level data on coronavirus cases (The New York Times)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have state-level data on COVID-19 cases, and states and counties are also releasing their numbers to the public. However, no government agency offers a public database that details current coronavirus cases across the country and down to the county level. Since January, a team of journalists from The New York Times has been tracking this information, which the paper first published on Friday. Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said the data could help the public understand “how COVID-19 has spread through communities and clusters; which geographic areas may be hit the hardest; and how its spread in hard-hit areas may offer clues for regions that could face wider outbreaks in the future.”

+ Related: How ProPublica and The Daily Beast are covering the coronavirus from an accountability perspective (Columbia Journalism Review)


Coronavirus crisis could force closure of ‘most’ UK hyperlocal news publishers within weeks (Press Gazette)

A recent survey found that 75 percent of UK news outlets said they faced a risk of shutting down because of COVID-19. Another 94 percent believe the pandemic will negatively impact their organization, and 65 percent believe the government should do more to improve the situation. The Independent Community News Network said last week that most of its 108 UK members will fold within weeks without help from the government.

+ Related: UK national newspaper sales plummet under covid-19 lockdown (The Guardian) 


Coronavirus aid package expected to help small publishers, but the picture for chains is unclear (Nieman Lab)

Last week, Congress passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that may provide some aid to the struggling journalism industry. Journalism companies with less than 1,000 employees could pursue Small Business Administration loans of up to $1 million to cover payroll, rent and utilities. Chains, which own most daily newspapers in the United States, will compete with companies from almost every industry for a piece of $454 billion in funding. Big questions remain for this aid, including what the requirements will be. “All these companies still supply vital journalism, but how much will a bailout support that journalism as compared to the maintenance of sometimes significant profit margins?” Ken Doctor writes.

+ Related: Research finds that partisanship is the biggest predictor of public health behavior and attitudes, which “has profound and distressing implications for public health in the coming months.” (

+ Zoom iOS app sends data to Facebook even if you don’t have a Facebook account (Vice)


How NPR is covering the White House’s live press conferences on the coronavirus (NPR)

Last week, Seattle NPR member station KUOW announced plans to stop airing briefings from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, citing concerns that they contained “a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time.” NPR’s recent approach has been to cut from its news magazine show All Things Considered to the beginning of the briefings, then return to the show for analysis. NPR also offers its member stations a live stream to run the events live and unedited. NPR Public Editor Elizabeth Jensen suggests NPR’s journalists should report updates from the briefing “without giving a platform for falsehoods, or speculative comments on as-yet-untested treatments or campaign rally-style rants.”

+ Related: A Yahoo News White House reporter with COVID-19 symptoms argues the White House isn’t doing enough to safeguard people at briefings (Twitter, @hunterw)


How can local newsrooms cover the coronavirus and offer a break from it? Like this. (Poynter)

Last week, High Point, N.C.’s WGHP kicked off a home concert series that the station livestreams online and on Facebook. “We are doing a lot of positive stories to balance out the gloom and doom,” WGHP executive producer of digital media Stephanie Doyle said. The station also is highlighting small businesses and people who are helping the community during the pandemic, including health care workers, educators and emergency response crews.

+ Ross Barkan demystifies New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s moment in the media, which follows his office’s frequent lobbying of journalists (Columbia Journalism Review)