Need to Know: May 4, 2020


You might have heard: In April, freelance journalists reported lost revenue or work opportunities (New York Post)

But did you know: Poll: Most freelance workers still haven’t gotten unemployment or government loans (Vox)

According to a survey from the Freelancers Union, 85 percent of freelancers who applied for government relief have not received it yet, while 22 percent were denied funding. The COVID-19 relief package known as the CARES Act created an unemployment relief program for freelancers and self-employed individuals. Freelancers qualify for that program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, as well as the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. 

+ Noted: L.A. Times guild accepts 20% reduction in pay, hours for 12 weeks (Los Angeles Times); Inside Higher Ed formed a union (Twitter, @IHEGuild); Outlook Newspapers owner to acquire Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun two weeks after they shut down (Los Angeles Times)


How news organizations are asking for audience support in the time of coronavirus

Asking audiences to pay for subscriptions while simultaneously cutting back on coverage or print days is a tricky business. Here’s how some publishers are crafting that message.


How news organizations are informing (and comforting) kids about coronavirus (Nieman Lab)

As parents search for how to explain the pandemic to their children without scaring them, some publications are finding ways to help. San Francisco-based freelance journalist Chris Colin started a newspaper made “by kids and for kids” in his neighborhood called Six Feet of Separation. With coaching from Colin, children submitted 30 pages of stories, advice columns, cartoons and other content. Politico launched a newsletter for its employees’ children, but interest was high enough that they wound up opening up subscriptions to the public. 

+ Journalists can use this Washington Post database to localize stories about companies receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans (Twitter, @ZivaBranstetter); How photographers can cover COVID-19 safely (The Groundtruth Project)


Tech companies and others join effort to provide coordinated emergency funding for media (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)

The Independent News Emergency Relief Coordination, which will be chaired by the Reuters Institute, aims to help funders identify areas with the greatest need for financial support and coordinate their efforts. Other founding members include Facebook, Google and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The temporary project, with an initial six-month timeline, hopes to connect millions of dollars in support to news organizations around the world.

+ Google ordered to pay $40,000 in Australian dollars to attorney in defamation ruling that cast the tech company as a publisher (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)


To apply machine learning responsibly, The New York Times uses it in moderation (NYT Open)

The New York Times fed its machine-learning system, Perspective, fake comments and found that names associated with different racial groups received different scores. Machine-learning tools can unintentionally enable discrimination and bias, and Perspective isn’t immune. University of Washington researchers found that Tweets using African-American English were twice as likely to be labeled offensive by Perspective. One solution to this issue is moderator training that encourages them to “push back” against the software when it’s appropriate.


The Post and Courier is requiring staff return to the newsroom (Poynter)

Last week, the executive editor of South Carolina’s Post and Courier emailed staff that they must work one day per week at the office in staggered shifts with less than 10 people at a time. Three journalists from the paper told Poynter that members of the newsroom were concerned and frustrated with the decision, which was scaled back from initial plans for workers to spend at least 15 hours a week in the office. Tom Jones asks, “If the journalists are doing ‘outstanding, vital work without skipping a beat,’ why force them to come into the office when they don’t want to because of the risk of catching and/or passing along a potentially deadly virus?”

+ Vincent Schilling of Indian Country Today says that Native Americans’ experiences have been “incredibly underreported” during the pandemic. (PEN America)


NYT Cooking is inviting you to a dinner party on Instagram (AdWeek)

In March, NYT Cooking abandoned previous plans as the team realized how broadly the coronavirus was impacting grocery shopping, cooking and eating. Just as home cooks have adapted to the situation, NYT Cooking rolled with the punches with an emphasis on simple recipes that contain uncomplicated ingredients that can easily be substituted. This approach has led to articles like this encyclopedic food substitution guide that even covers stocks, herbs and spices. During the pandemic, NYT Cooking has expanded its Instagram strategy to include daily recipes and high-engagement Instagram Stories.

+ In Alabama, Consolidated Publishing’s publisher retired and its executive editor furloughed himself to avoid layoffs (Folio)