Free content, tools and funding to help your newsroom cover the 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.

We recognize that newsrooms have very little time to explore these opportunities. For that reason, we are focusing on:

  • tools that you can easily embed in your existing workflow and platforms
  • coronavirus content that your newsroom can republish for free
  • at-a-glance summaries of new grants so that you can see whether you’re eligible, the deadline to apply, and what’s involved in the application process
  • relief funding for individual journalists who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

We will keep this list updated with new tools and grants as they are announced over the following days and weeks. Sign up here to be updated as new opportunities come available. If you would like something to be added to this list, please email stephanie.castellano@pressinstitute.org.

Free tools

COVID Racial Data Tracker

What: The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t affecting all communities the same way. The COVID Racial Data Tracker tracks this inequity by collecting, publishing, and analyzing racial data on the pandemic from across the United States. It is a collaboration of the COVID Tracking Project (from The Atlantic) and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. The full dataset is updated each day between 4pm and 5pm EDT, with limited updates as new information arrives.

How/who: The data is free for journalists and researchers to work with. Here is an FAQ for newsrooms and experts.

 

Paycheck Protection Program loan recipient database

What: The Washington Post has created a database listing the public companies that have reported receiving loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as of May 6, 2020. Given the backlash that occurred after some national hotel and restaurant chains received money before small, local businesses, this database aims to give a clearer picture of how the funds continue to be distributed — especially considering the Small Business Administration has withheld information about companies receiving PPP loans.

How/who: The searchable database is available for anyone to use and download. It is updated regularly, although it does not currently include names of private companies that have received loans or names of public companies that have not disclosed to the SEC that they received loans.

 

COVID-19 Case Mapper

What: Stanford University and the Google News Initiative have partnered to create a new tool that allows local journalists to embed customized, up-to-date maps of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

How/who: Journalists across the U.S. can visit the Case Mapper, identify the area that they want to map, and then copy an embed code that will allow them include the map in their articles or on their website. The map uses data from The New York Times’ COVID-19 county data, and it’s colored based on the number of cases per 100,000 people — so you can see how serious the outbreak is relative to the total population. A global version of the Case Mapper is in the works.

 

COVID-19 data broken down by race and ethnicity

What: The Solutions Journalism Network has compiled a database that lists the state and local governments that are reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths disaggregated by race and ethnicity, with links to the data. “This can help journalists find the numbers in the locations they cover, explore the situation in other areas, and be prepared to evaluate responses to address the disparities.” As COVID-19 has been found to disproportionately impact people of color, this is a critical story to track in your community.

How/who: Some governments are continuously overwriting the data as new numbers come in, so journalists should be aware of that and prepared to keep a daily record if necessary to identify trends going forward. If your state or local government is not providing this data, you can ask your elected officials why that is, when other governments are doing so and taking action based on what they’re finding. Also, be wary of variations in testing and how demographic data is gathered from place to place, as those factors can skew the data. Use caution when making comparisons between locations, and contact Matthew Kauffman at SJN if you need help making sense of the numbers.

 

COVID-19 Data Visualization Toolkit

What: The Power BI team from Microsoft has released a free toolkit for customizing and sharing global COVID-19 data. The data visualizations offered in the toolkit are interactive and can be easily embedded in a news story. The data is aggregated from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local-level public agencies. It is automatically refreshed.

Who: The toolkit is aimed at government agencies but can be used by newsrooms too.

How: Here are step-by-step instructions for using the toolkit.

 

COVID-19 legislation tracking

What: Open States is now tracking coronavirus response-related legislation across all states (unless legislative sessions have been suspended or are not holding sessions this year). Journalists can easily track and monitor legislation right on this site, which is particularly helpful to those having to report on multiple states.

How: Helpful features for journalists include full-text search, so they can search bills and legislation that mention coronavirus or COVID-19. Another feature allows journalists to sign up to receive updates on bills they wish to follow and find out when new legislation has passed. The tool doesn’t cover federal legislation or executive orders, however.

 

AP coronavirus dataset

What: AP’s county-level U.S. coronavirus data is now publicly available through its free data.world platform. The data on COVID-19 cases and deaths comes from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. AP pairs it with population figures and county rural/urban designations, and has calculated caseload and death rates per 100,000 people. The data is updated every 45 minutes.

Who/How: The dataset is now available to any organization that signs up for a free account on data.world. AP is also offering an embeddable interactive visualization that is free for news outlets to use.

 

SciLine’s Expert-Matching Service

What: SciLine’s free expert-matching service connects reporters with credible scientist-sources.

Who: SciLine notes that it is experiencing a high-volume of matching requests due to the pandemic, so it is prioritizing local newsrooms whose audience is mostly U.S.-based.

How: Fill out the short form requesting to be connected with a scientist. SciLine will strive to connect journalists with experts ahead of their deadlines — the more lead time you provide, the likelier they are to get you what you need.

 

‘I need help’ / ‘I can help’ news widget

What/who: The Dallas Morning News has partnered with Vomo, a Dallas-based social impact platform, to embed a widget into every coronavirus article that lets readers submit their needs related to coronavirus or their offers to help. Now Vomo is making this feature available for free to any U.S. news outlet wants to do the same.

How: Newsrooms can get their own configurable widget from Vomo, or they can run a plain version (without branding), available for download here. Or, they can simply link to the Vomo’s own forms for organizations needing volunteers and those wanting to volunteer, which will direct users to geographically relevant opportunities.

When: Newsrooms can download either version of the widget they prefer for free and begin using it right away. When readers submit their information via the widget, they will be taken to a page that connects them with either local resources or volunteer opportunities.

  

ProPublica’s localized data around hospital capacity

What/who: ProPublica has launched a tool that lets journalists see how soon hospitals in their areas could become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Journalists can use the data to write about hospital capacity in their regions, as well as what local officials are doing to increase that capacity.

How: Enter your zip code to see localized data pertaining to hospital capacity in your area, and how that capacity might change under various scenarios. Then call your state health department, as well as your local hospitals, to ask about the situation as it stands and the capacity available at this moment. ProPublica suggests five questions reporters could ask of hospitals and local officials as they’re working on this story.

 

Open News Peer Data Review Program

What: OpenNews is connecting journalists working on COVID-19 data projects with peer coaches who can help them through any challenges they’re experiencing.

Who: The Peer Data Review program is for journalists who:

  • are part of a local or regional newsroom
  • come from an underrepresented background in data journalism
  • or otherwise don’t have many colleagues who do data journalism.

And it’s for stories and projects where you already have the data and:

  • aren’t sure it says what you think it says
  • don’t have a colleague to double-check your analysis
  • or just aren’t quite sure what to do next.

How: Set aside 20-30 minutes and fill out this form with information about your project. OpenNews will be in touch.

When: No deadline; OpenNews will be matching applicants with peer coaches over the coming weeks.

 

Hearken Emergency Engagement Services

What: It’s not exactly free — Hearken is providing four-month access to its engagement technology to newsrooms covering the coronavirus outbreak for $2,850. But as a special pro bono offering, they’re including six consulting calls over a period of 10 weeks to get newsrooms set up with the technology and actively using it to invite audience questions around coronavirus.

Who: Open to all newsrooms covering the coronavirus pandemic and looking to get a better sense of their audience’s information needs around the topic.

When: Access is provided on a rolling basis. The consulting calls began March 26 and run through May 21, but you can review recordings at any time.

How: Fill out the short form on Hearken’s website in one minute, and a representative of Hearken will get in touch.

 

Free content

The COVID-19 SoJo Exchange

What: The Solutions Journalism Network is compiling a list of solutions stories on coronavirus that your newsroom can republish or re-air for free under a Creative Commons license. Newsrooms and independent journalists can also offer their solutions stories to be added to this list.

Who: Any news outlet is welcome to republish the stories on SJN’s growing list for free, provided it follows the rules.

When: This is a running list that SJN will continue to add to. If you want to be alerted when more stories for republishing are added, sign up here.

How: Access the articles (and in some cases, text files and accompanying photos) directly from SJN’s list. Those looking to offer solutions stories for republishing can fill out this submission form.

 

Coronavirus content from The Conversation

What: The Conversation, a nonprofit news organization, publishes articles from academic experts that can be republished for free by other news outlets under a Creative Commons license. Articles on coronavirus range from basic explainers (what is a pandemic?), practical tips (how to stop touching your facehow to deal with anxiety), new research (COVID-19 treatment search in existing drugs), social issues (stresses to Native American healthcare), historical perspectives (ancient Greek cities during plagues), and more. All are written by verified experts.

Who: Any news outlet is welcome to republish stories from The Conversation for free, provided it follows the rules.

When: New coronavirus content is published daily.  If you’d like to get an email advisory with the full lineup, send an email to Joel Abrams.

How: Access the content by clicking the “Republish this article” button next to every article; the stories are also distributed to AP clients.

 

SciLine’s Quotes From Experts, Media Briefings and Embeddable Infographics

What:

  • Expert quotes and media briefings: SciLine tracks the most common science questions that reporters have about the coronavirus pandemic and reaches out to its network of scientific experts for quotable comments in response. The comments are compiled and organized by topic, and journalists are free to copy and paste them into their news stories as needed, with attribution to the scientists. The same goes for SciLine’s media briefings — journalists are full to clip from briefing content as needed.
  • State-by-state infographic: The graphic shows COVID-19 cases in the United States, with options to view state by state and filter for particular case-type (Confirmed and Deaths). These data come from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, are updated daily, and track the number of cases through the previous day. Journalists can tailor the graphic for their local audiences and then follow the instructions to embed it on their site.

 

Steal Our Stories — ProPublica

What/who: ProPublica allows other news outlets to republish most of its articles and graphics for free under a Creative Commons license, provided they follow the rules.

How: Grab the HTML code for ProPublica’s content by clicking on the Creative Commons logo on the left sidebar of every story.

 

Grants

USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism 2020 National Fellowship

Eligibility: Journalists (including freelancers) working for U.S.-based news outlets. Applicants do not need to be full-time health reporters, but should have a demonstrated interest in health issues impacting communities. This year’s focus will be COVID-19. The Center is especially interested in proposals that investigate and explore the racial, ethnic and geographic health disparities that are emerging each day as the pandemic proceeds. Journalists writing for ethnic media are strongly encouraged to apply.

Deadline: Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Overview: USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism will offer training, grants and six months of mentoring in 2020 to help journalists and their newsrooms report on the impact of COVID-19 on the health, welfare and well-being of vulnerable children, youth, families and communities. The fellowship “offers journalists a chance to step back from breaking news and take a deeper look at how the coronavirus pandemic is laying bare pervasive social and economic inequities in the United States.” An initial training will take place during a four-day online program held from July 20-24, with monthly follow-up trainings through November. Reporting grants will be in the range of $2,000-$10,000, and engagement grants will go up to $2,000. Fellows will also receive six months of expert mentoring as they work on ambitious explanatory or investigative projects.

Application requirements: The application asks for the following:

  • A personal statement
  • A Fellowship project proposal
  • Three samples of professional work
  • A letter of reference
  • A resume
  • An Editor’s Checklist signed by a supervising editor and confirming the media outlet’s intent to publish or broadcast the Fellowship project

 

COVID-19 Local News Fund

From: Local Media Association

Eligibility: For-profit, independent and family-owned local media companies

Deadline: There is no deadline; news outlets can get involved as soon as they want.

Overview: LMA has launched an initiative to help funnel tax-deductible donations to local news organizations through its 501(c)(3) foundation. LMA will essentially set up a fundraising campaign — for free — for each participating news outlet. It will handle almost all of the work in getting the fundraising pages launched. Publishers are then responsible for promoting their campaigns. The Local Media Foundation will distribute the funds raised on a monthly basis. Participating news outlets are required to report back on how they used the payments to report on COVID-19 issues. This FAQ offers more information.

Application requirements: News outlets can fill out this one-minute form to indicate their interest, and a representative from LMA will reach out with next steps. Not much work is involved in launching the campaign, since LMA takes care of that. However, publishers will need to provide a fundraising message, logo and similar materials to help LMA create a customized campaign page for their outlet. LMA will also need a signed W-9 form, payment contact information to transfer funds, and eventually, some confirmation that the money was spent to cover the costs of COVID-19 coverage.

 

COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists

From: National Geographic Society

Eligibility: Journalists around the world covering COVID-19 at a local or hyperlocal level, particularly in underserved communities and/or populations at high risk or hit especially hard by the virus

Deadline: Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Applications may be submitted until further notice.

Overview: The fund will distribute support ranging from $1,000–8,000 USD for local, evidence-based reporting on the preparation, response, and impact of this global pandemic. Beyond reporting on medical and physical health related to COVID-19, National Geographic especially encourages reporting that covers social, emotional, economic, and equity issues. Narratives around the pandemic necessarily include facts and numbers, but ultimately, must also go deeper—telling the stories of inequities that COVID-19 has brought to light.

 

Coronavirus Rolling Grant

From: Fund for Investigative Journalism

Eligibility: U.S.-based freelance investigative journalists working on coronavirus accountability stories for U.S. media outlets. FIJ encourages proposals written for ethnic media as well as those submitted by journalists of color and involving the impact of the coronavirus in U.S. ethnic communities.

Deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

Overview: FIJ is providing immediate emergency grants to U.S.-based freelance investigative journalists working on stories that “break new ground” in coronavirus accountability reporting and expose wrongdoing in the American public or private sector. Grants will average $5,000 but can be as high as $10,000.

Application requirements: Applicants should submit a proposal of no more than two pages, a letter of commitment from a publication, and a budget. FIJ will approve grants on a rolling basis until further notice. Apply here.

 

Relief funding for individual journalists

Microloans for Journalists

From: Journalists who want to help other journalists

Eligibility: Professional journalists who have been laid off, furloughed, or had their pay cut and urgently need assistance

Deadline: Requests for assistance are reviewed on a rolling basis

Overview: Journalists impacted by the pandemic can apply to receive an interest-free $500 loan, to be repaid in one year. “The money will come solely from fellow journalists. The money is a loan, not a donation, but since we’re only matching [borrowers and lenders] together, there are no mechanisms to ensure repayment. That said, this is a community in which honesty is paramount, so we’re expecting that borrowers will make good faith efforts to pay their loans back within a year.”

Application requirements: Fill out this short form that asks for basic information about yourself and for some proof that you have been laid off, furloughed, or had your pay cut. Those interested in providing assistance can also apply to be a lender.

 

Brechner Reporting Fellowship

From: Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, University of Florida

Eligibility: U.S.-based journalists who have involuntarily lost employment or suffered a reduction in pay since January 1, 2020, as a result of economic factors (layoff, downsizing, furlough).

Deadline: May 15, 2020

Overview: This fellowship will offer up to 10 journalists the opportunity to earn a $2,500 stipend to produce research papers about contemporary legal issues involved in the gathering of news. Working with the legal staff of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, Reporting Fellows will create publishable work that (1) contributes to public understanding about the need for access to civically actionable information and (2) points toward solutions in technology, law and public policy that would improve accessibility and usefulness.

Application requirements: Applicants should provide the following professional information: (1) Current or most recent journalistic employer, (2) date of loss of employment or compensation, (3) a professional resume with copies of, or links to, three samples of journalistic work, and (4) a statement of interest in open-government issues as well as any specific research projects of interest. The application form is here and should take about an hour to complete.

 

IWMF Journalism Relief Fund

From: International Women’s Media Foundation

Eligibility: Women-identifying journalists who are experiencing significant financial hardship as a direct result of the pandemic, who urgently need assistance to avoid severe, irreversible outcomes. Journalists whose financial needs are not urgent are not encouraged to apply. “We have limited staff capacity to review applications. Please do not delay help to your peers in need by submitting a request that is not urgent.”

Deadline: First come, first served; requests reviewed daily

Overview: The fund will provide small grants of up to $2,000 USD per request. However, special consideration will be given on a case-by-case basis to those who have greater financial need. The fund aims to provide women-identifying journalists with the following: living assistance to prevent homelessness and food insecurity; acute medical care and mental health services; childcare; and legal support.

Application requirements: Complete a preliminary questionnaire via Submittable. Those deemed eligible for assistance will be contacted by IWMF.

 

The Photographer Fund

From: Format, an online portfolio platform for photographers

Eligibility: Self-employed photographers experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19

Deadline: First come, first served

Overview: Format created the Photographer Fund to help independent photographers who are facing unprecedented financial hardships in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Format will offer assistance of up to $500 per person. Payments will be made via PayPal. The fund now stands at $25,000.

Application requirements: Fill out the short form and a representative from Format will be in touch.

 

Journalist Furlough Fund

From: “Journalists who want to help other journalists”

Eligibility: Journalists across the U.S. who have been temporarily laid off or had their hours reduced amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Deadline: Submit your request for assistance as soon as possible. Administrators will distribute the funds at their discretion to applicants. As of April 24, the fund currently stands at $66,000 but is still growing.

Overview: This funding is not intended to make up for a journalists’ entire financial loss, but to provide a few hundred dollars that may help them in the next month with rent, bills and equipment. Recipients can have funds sent through their platform of choice (Venmo, bank transfer. etc.)

Application requirements: Take five minutes to fill out this form explaining your current situation, desired funding amount and how it will help you.

 

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If you know of something else that should be added to this list, please email stephanie.castellano@pressinstitute.org.