Need to Know: May 15, 2020


You might have heard: Overall, more Americans hold positive than negative views of the news media’s coverage of the COVID-19 crisis (Pew Research Center)

But did you know:

Journalists covering the pandemic have faced the wrath of people who are against social-distancing restrictions (The New York Times)

Journalists around the country, and the world, have been involved in physical and verbal altercations at anti-lockdown protests in recent weeks. Antagonism towards the media has blended with a denial of COVID-19 facts to create a hostile environment for reporters who are trying to cover reactions to the pandemic. Even basic public safety measures like social-distancing and mask-wearing have become fodder for the current culture wars, with local journalists often caught in the crossfire.

+ Noted: Twin Cities weekly newspapers are shutting down in the face of pandemic (Star Tribune); Conde Nast will lay off 100 employees in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal); Quartz is laying off 80 people (Talking Biz News);  People Magazine’s digital team intends to form a union (Hollywood Reporter); The Center for Public Integrity is partnering with Flint Beat to strengthen reporting in Michigan (The Center for Public Integrity)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Seven ways to fight a conspiracy theory, including methodical fact-checking, diving deep into the protagonist, exploring the technical implications and providing context about the false claims. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


Los Angeles journalists use snail mail to reach thousands of families without internet during the pandemic (Medium, Engagement at KPCC)

Since KPCC-LAist started seeking coronavirus questions online from locals in January, they knew that plenty of people, including 250,000 families with school-aged children, don’t have access to the internet at home. So they teamed up with a local designer to make kid-friendly mailers that they hoped would catch the eye, while also containing crucial information on testing and local resources. They added a phone number that readers could text to ask questions, developed a Spanish-language version, and sent out the mailers to more than 12,000 families in zip codes with low-levels of internet access.

+ Earlier: Seven ways to get your COVID-19 reporting to those who need it


UK journalists are pushing to make it easier for news outlets to become charities (The Conversation)

With ad revenue drying up for newspapers, British publishers are looking for new revenue streams, including donations from readers and well-wishers. But for a journalistic organization in the U.K. to receive donations, it must register with the Charity Commission, a government agency that oversees which groups qualify for the tax and financial benefits. And research has shown that few news organizations succeed in registering as charities, as the commission has high standards for what is deemed beneficial to the community. Now the Public Benefit Journalism Research Centre is pushing for high-quality journalism to be recognized as a charitable endeavor.


NewsGuard and Microsoft expand news ratings system to all Microsoft Edge users (MediaPost)

NewsGuard, a platform where trained journalists review and rate the credibility of news websites, will now be available to all users of the Microsoft Edge browser for free. NewsGuard’s browser extension, which shows ratings and “nutrition labels” for news sites, is currently available for $2.95 per month on other browsers. The ratings system will also be available on the search engine Bing and projects like Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, which works to fight disinformation.

+ HBO has launched a browser extension to allow streaming watch parties (Variety)


Investigative journalism, long criticized for a lack of diversity, has made significant developments (Poynter)

As the journalism industry as a whole has struggled to make newsrooms more reflective of the communities, and the country, that they cover, investigative journalism stubbornly remained the remit of white journalists — until recently. In the last year, people of color have assumed some of the most important roles in investigative journalism. The timing has been crucial, as the pandemic has hit African American communities around the country particularly hard.


This Dallas Morning News reporter tweeted the weather every day for a year — via song (The Dallas Morning News)

On April 18, 2019, Dallas Morning News climate and weather reporter Jesus Jimenez celebrated a break in gloomy weather by tweeting the weather forecast in the form of a song: “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. On a challenge from his boss, he kept up the musical meteorology for a year, compiling a nearly 24-hour Spotify playlist that documented 12 months worth of weather in North Texas. The process made him realize how much weather is part of our shared experience and our pop culture.


+ How cryptocurrency-based model Civil didn’t save journalism (Study Hall) 

+ Newspaper carrier and her daughter deliver paper — and free masks for coronavirus protection (Seattle Times)

+ When news media start-ups mature: Lessons from 20 years of Asia’s original media start-up (Medium, The Story)