Need to Know: March 24, 2020

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: Coronavirus may just be the end for many alt-weeklies (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: 88% of publishers say they will miss forecasts this year (Digiday)

Canceled events, declining ad sales and difficult-to-monetize COVID-19 coverage are expected to throttle the journalism industry at a time when it’s critically needed. In a survey from Digiday Research, 88 percent of publishing executives said the coronavirus pandemic will cause their organizations to miss business forecasts. Another 85 percent anticipate losing ad revenue, 79 expect lost revenue from events and 38 percent said the situation will lead to layoffs at their publication.

+ Related: Industry analyst Ken Doctor called the situation a “full extinction event. I don’t know how they come back.” (BuzzFeed News); The Times-Picayune and The Advocate temporarily furloughed one-tenth of their workers and put in place four-day workweeks (The Advocate); Vermont alt-weekly Seven Days lays off seven (Seven Days)

+ Noted: States that have deemed news publishers “essential” businesses during pandemic (News Media Alliance); Oprah to launch a COVID-19 talk show series (The Wrap); Woody Allen’s memoir was blocked by its original publisher but has found another (Associated Press); The New York Times Co. acquires audio app Audm (The New York Times Company)


Are you fighting misinformation? Tell your audience

In a post from API’s 2020 election network, Joy Mayer of Trusting News explains how you can tell your audience about the role your newsroom plays in policing misinformation. One of her tips is to help people navigate the news and show them what credible information looks like. Minnesota Public Radio, for instance, has a toolkit that goes over the basics of misinformation and how listeners can combat it.

+ To help newsrooms track how their audiences are engaging with their coronavirus coverage, API is offering 20 newsrooms free access to a limited version of its news analytics tool. Register for our Wednesday webinar to see a live demo of the “Coronavirus Dashboard.”


The Dallas Morning News connects needs and helpers during coronavirus crisis (The Dallas Morning News)

Inspired by The Boston Globe’s efforts to connect readers in need with resources, the Morning News geared up its marketing initiative, FWD>DFW, to do something similar. Each of the paper’s COVID-19 stories, most of which are not paywalled, includes a widget that allows readers to offer help or submit the help they need. The widget, designed by the Dallas-based platform Vomo, will be available to media companies to adapt to their own sites.

+ Related: How newsrooms can use a ProPublica tool to localize stories about hospital capacity during the coronavirus pandemic (ProPublica); A North Carolina nonprofit assembled an emergency team to report on COVID-19 across the state (Poynter)


A diminished foreign press corps means less visibility for the rest of the world (Nieman Reports)

As a result of China’s move last week, at least 13 journalists will lose their reporting credentials, following the forced departure of three journalists for the Wall Street Journal last month. Beijing and other Chinese cities were home to about 700 foreign correspondents in 2008, and 11 years later, the entire country had just 536 foreign correspondents. Lucy Hornby, who previously covered China for the Financial Times, questions if it’s possible to report on the country from abroad. She suspects such coverage will be molded by political interests from beyond Beijing, while also becoming more dependent on Chinese state media and other government sources.


Facebook executives allegedly ‘knew for years’ about misleading metric (Financial Times)

New filings in a class action lawsuit allege that Facebook was aware for years that its “potential reach” metric inflated the possible audience size for ads. Facebook considers the number an estimate, but its potential reach figures for some states occasionally were bigger than their actual populations. Part of the issue, court records claim, is that the potential reach includes duplicate and fake accounts. According to estimates from Facebook, 11 percent of its active users last year were duplicate accounts and 5 percent were fake. 

+ A case for turning off phone notifications (The Guardian)


Do news sites have an ethical duty to remove paywalls on coronavirus coverage? (Poynter)

Some papers, like The Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe, have kept their COVID-19 coverage behind paywalls. Kelly McBride believes that journalists have a responsibility to make public-service journalism available to readers who can’t afford to buy it. Providing coronavirus stories to the public for free sends a message that newsrooms have a mission outside of making a profit, she says. Another option for publications is using COVID-19 newsletters to give readers a free, regular digest of the headlines. News organizations could also put the stories in front of the paywall, but open a line of communication by asking readers to register to access them.

+ Arguments continue against airing the president’s briefings on COVID-19 live (The Washington Post); Why “media is the core tenet of our social bonds” (The Drum)


With live sports gone, announcer offers play by play of the everyday (The New York Times)

Freelance rugby announcer Nick Heath is filling a sports-sized void with short videos where he provides a running commentary on regular life in London. In one clip, four women walking with strollers are suddenly competing in the “international four-by-four pushchair formation final.” Pedestrians using a crosswalk are in the “2020 crossroad dash.” Heath thinks people have latched onto the videos because they’re “scratching that itch and being some kind of placebo for the sport they are missing.” Each clip is also an absurd delight that’s both funny and very British.