Need to Know: May 14, 2020


You might have heard: The names of businesses benefiting from the $2 trillion Cares Act have not been publicly disclosed (Washington Post)

But did you know: News organizations are suing the SBA for information on coronavirus loan payouts (ProPublica)

ProPublica, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Small Business Administration for refusing to release detailed information for loans provided through the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program. Five weeks after the program was launched in an effort to help small businesses weather the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the SBA has yet to name any of the loan recipients. The news organizations have requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

+ The Washington Post has created a database listing the public companies that have reported receiving loans under the Paycheck Protection Program as of May 6 (GitHub)

+ Noted: The International Center for Journalists and the Tow Center launch a survey — that they’re encouraging all news professionals to take — to assess the impact of COVID-19 on journalism’s future (Nieman Reports); Baltimore Sun looks to a local ownership group and non-profit status to stay afloat amid coronavirus threat (The Guardian); Native American Journalists Association will extend memberships for one year and is postponing its annual conference (NAJA); Apple plans to add audio versions of publisher articles to Apple News+ (Digiday)


Trusted Elections Network

API is coordinating a network of newsroom leaders, civic and academic institutions and experts to fight misinformation and other threats to secure, trusted elections in the lead-up to November 2020. The network has so far collaborated on resources including lessons for reporters from Wisconsin’s chaotic spring election, how coronavirus mis- and disinformation can thwart voting, and how to help audiences recognize credible information.

+ Related: Yesterday Hearken announced free election training for journalists, which will focus on designing election coverage built on engagement and trust-building. Applications are now being accepted for training beginning in June. API is a sponsor of the program. (Medium, Hearken)


How engaged journalists are serving communities throughout COVID-19 (Medium, Newmark Graduate School of Journalism)

Alumni of the Social Journalism program at CUNY are trained to listen, empathize with, understand and serve their communities. So in a time of social distancing, many are employing creative ways to “show up” virtually. Kristine Villanueva, audience engagement editor of The Center for Public Integrity, says they’ve been soliciting tips from readers at the top of articles and partnering with affinity groups to spread their callouts to wider audiences. Laura Calçada i Barres, a freelance writer living in Barcelona, suggests posting callouts and other messages in physical locations that are still being visited, like grocery stores. And Sebastián Auyanet, a journalist at NowThis, suggests using online community platforms like NextDoor to “try to help the people you have close by, even if you can’t interact with them.”

+ Mountains of vital stories about the coronavirus are hidden in public records. Here’s how to FOIA for them. (Poynter)


In a time of media cuts, Politico’s U.K. team is poised for growth (Press Gazette)

While Politico is best known for its political news coverage, a large part of its operation is focused on business-to-business publishing. Subscriptions to Politico Pro — a policy intelligence platform that specializes in areas like healthcare and agriculture — are sold to businesses, with prices starting at $10,000 and going up to six figures depending on the package. That part of Politico’s business model will sustain the organization in the long run, and allow Politico Europe to expand its U.K. offices despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, says Editor-in-Chief Matthew Kaminski. It’s also what sets Politico, and other big players like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, apart from news outlets that are mostly reliant on advertising, he adds. “A lot of the really great old brands in American journalism … have pivoted quite successfully to passing the cost of what they do from advertisers to subscribers, and that’s a very stable bedrock for them.”

+ BuzzFeed pulls plug on U.K. and Australian news operations (The Guardian)


How to lead through anxiety (Harvard Business Review)

In an economic crisis, the anxiety that keeps us up at night may help us find a solution to keeping our businesses open, writes Morra Aaron Mele. “When channeled thoughtfully, anxiety can motivate us to make our teams more resourceful, productive, and creative. It can break down barriers and create new bonds.” The trick is to be able to identify how anxiety is manifested in daily thoughts and actions. “You can learn how anxiety informs your behavior and your decisions and what causes it to surge,” writes Mele, “which will equip you to manage it.”


Could there be an information war over a COVID-19 vaccine? (The New York Times)

The anti-vaccination movement is surprisingly sophisticated when it comes to spreading its message online, and anti-vaxxers are already attempting to foment distrust in a potential coronavirus vaccine, writes Kevin Roose. The movement is run like a political campaign, using different messages and outreach strategies to reach different types of undecided “voters.” “Public acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine is far from a sure thing,” Roose writes. “To recover from this pandemic, we need to mobilize a pro-vaccine movement that is as devoted, as internet-savvy and as compelling as the anti-vaccine movement is for its adherents.”


Readers have come through with financial support, but newspapers must still confront big consumer revenue questions around COVID-19 (Local Media Association)

With advertising revenue in a nosedive, editors and journalists at local news outlets have quickly learned to become comfortable speaking frankly about their financial troubles and asking audiences for support, writes Matt DeRienzo. And audiences have responded, finding their way to the “subscribe” button (or donating) even though much of the coverage they’re now reading is unprotected by a paywall. But publishers should be planning ahead, says DeRienzo, asking themselves how to tailor onboarding and engagement strategies for these new audiences, and thinking about pricing and payment policies in a world where unemployment rates are suddenly skyrocketing.

+ “It’s OK to not be OK right now”: TV anchors are setting aside the stoicism and getting personal. (Poynter)