Need to Know: May 12, 2020


You might have heard: Most American newspapers don’t qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program (The Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: The House is expected to introduce a bill in the next week to expand news outlets’ eligibility for small business loans (The Wall Street Journal)

Under the current eligibility rules for the Paycheck Protection Program, newspapers whose parent companies have more than 1,000 employees are not eligible for the federal government’s rescue package, designed to help small businesses handle the economic fallout of the coronavirus. The maximum-employee requirement means that newspapers representing more than 80% of U.S. circulation are disqualified from the program. Under the new legislation, the size provision would be waived for local newspapers and broadcasters, though broadcasters making more than $41.5 million per year would not be eligible. Senators Maria Cantwell and Amy Klobuchar are reportedly looking to move the proposal forward in the Senate.

+ Related: 65% of Americans favor federal assistance to news organizations (Knight Foundation)

+ Noted: States Newsroom will launch a new statewide digital outlet covering Colorado (Colorado Independent); Finalists announced in the 2020 Mirror Awards honoring excellence in media industry reporting (Newhouse School); Twitter will begin adding labels and warning messages to tweets with misleading coronavirus information (Reuters)


More data tools to help newsrooms cover racial disparities and government aid during coronavirus

As newsrooms work flat-out to cover the biggest story of our time, API is highlighting some of the free tools and grant funding that are being developed to supplement newsrooms’ existing resources around coronavirus coverage. Among the new resources available are the Atlantic’s Racial Data Tracker, which tracks and analyzes racial data on the pandemic, the Washington Post’s Paycheck Protection Program loan recipient database, which lists all public companies that have received loans through the PPP, and the Microsoft/Power BI toolkit for custom COVID-19 data visualizations.


Coronavirus data is inherently unreliable and other things journalists covering research should know (Journalist’s Resource)

Researchers and politicians have been using epidemiological models to help predict the transmission of COVID-19, but with a host of untested ideas flooding the market, journalists need a basic understanding of what these models can and cannot do and how to explain the results. It’s important for journalists to make certain facts clear, including that underlying data for models is often unreliable and that different models are designed to answer different questions.

+ Marshall Allen at ProPublica explains the questions he asked to make a sound judgment about the viral “Plandemic” video (ProPublica)


In Finland, a pro-social distancing newspaper ad that could only be read from six feet away (Ad Week)

After Finland’s government announced that it would be lifting some pandemic restrictions, an ad agency in Helsinki teamed up two clients — a grocery and restaurant chain, and a newspaper — to remind Finns that social distancing is still important. Viewed up close, the ad on the front of the newspaper is just a grey box, but from six feet away, an optical illusion reveals the message: “Keeping it safe. From a distance.”

+ African governments are attempting to limit the spread of dangerous coronavirus information — and taking advantage of the pandemic to crack down on critics and satirists (Nieman Lab)


How Google led the internet to mistake a journalist for MacKenzie Bezos (Wired)

After Louise Matsakis wrote a piece for Wired about MacKenzie Bezos’s philanthropy, Google’s algorithm scraped her phone number and email and began associating it with the billionaire’s name on its “featured snippets.” As a result, Matsakis received hundreds of calls, texts and emails from people around the world, most asking for money in one way or another. Her attempts to contact Google to fix the issue have so far been unsuccessful.

+ Six months after a glitzy launch announcement, Facebook News is still not showing up as a tab for some users in the U.S. (Digiday)


The Reuters Digital News Report is a ‘problem,’ says German publisher (What’s New In Publishing)

Sometime soon, The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism will release its annual Digital News Report, a trusted evaluation of the state of global media. But Markus Schöberl, publisher of German journalism site pv digest, says the Reuters report’s data collection and reporting is flawed. While other surveys show vast growth in digital reader revenue, the Reuters study consistently shows little-to-no movement, which Schöberl believes reflects methodological problems with its multilingual survey. He also argues that the study’s use of the median average of news subscriptions per person versus the mean average leads to undercounting.

+ The pandemic may be reviving the flashy newspaper stunt in the U.K. (The Economist)


With ad revenue down, Barstool Sports adapts its strategy to focus on smaller ad deals (Digiday)

With live sporting events on hold during the pandemic, Barstool Sports is trying a new strategy for ad revenue — building relationships with smaller advertisers at lower price points with the hope of expanding those deals in the future. The focus has switched to selling ads for digital editorial products, like live streaming shows created by Barstool talent. The publication is even dropping its subscription business and pivoting to maximizing its total audience numbers.