February 28, 2020

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A guide to responsible coronavirus reporting

Remarkable that we’ve come across a bigger story than the presidential election, even as we approach a pivotal primary this weekend and Super Tuesday next week.

Yet the lead story on each of the network evening news broadcasts on Thursday — as well as the websites of The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal — was the coronavirus.

So where is the best place to get coronavirus news?

Let’s start with this: It’s a science story, not a political one. So listening to spin on the coronavirus from the Democratic presidential nominees or the Fox News primetime hosts or, especially, from someone such as Rush Limbaugh, who compared it to the common cold, is not the smart place to go.

Instead, the outlets dealing in facts should be your go-to sources.

The New York Times is offering constant live updates on one webpage, including a particularly useful FAQ section with questions such as “What is coronavirus?” and “How worried should I be?” The site also includes an interactive map that’s tracking where the coronavirus has been confirmed and where travelers should avoid. It has dozens of well-sourced stories with no political agenda or opinion —just fact-based reports.

Like the Times, The Wall Street Journal has a live coverage coronavirus page, including its possible impact on the stock market.

NPR has a guide on how to prepare your home for the coronavirus. And, of course, the Washington Post’s coverage is superb.

There are plenty of other places as well — and the Associated Press to name a few — with coronavirus-specific pages providing constant updates. All appear to have responsible, straight-forward coverage that deals in facts.

And if you’re wondering if what you’re hearing about the coronavirus is true, you can always check the International Fact Checking Network’s  #CoronaVirusFacts / #DatosCoronaVirus alliance, which brings together 90 fact-checkers from 39 countries.

There will be time enough later to evaluate the politics of this story, but for now, information is what’s critical. Start there. And stay there.


More bad news about the news

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, file)

Another rough week for print journalism with layoffs at Gannett, which come after a rough earnings call on Thursday morning. Revenues were down about 10% and print advertising was down 18.4% compared to a year ago.

Print advertising also led to issues at the Tampa Bay Times. In a memo to staff this week announcing a three-month 10% pay reduction, the Times said, “While we anticipated declines in print advertising, they are deeper than we expected, primarily in display advertising for some large accounts.”

After news started spreading about the Times and then Gannett, Twitter had a run of tweets from people encouraging others to subscribe to their local newspapers. While those sentiments are well-intentioned (I, too, would encourage subscribing to your local paper), HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen tweeted:

“People keep urging citizens to subscribe to newspapers, but the real collapse here is advertising. As I wrote last year, businesses have perhaps an even bigger responsibility to support a stable information ecosystem.”

What Polgreen was referring to was a piece for The Guardian in November of 2019.

And there’s more

Gannett and the Tampa Bay Times weren’t the only ones to have a rough week. There were more changes at the Chicago Tribune. Publisher and editor-in-chief Bruce Dold is being pushed out after 42 years. Dold, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for editorial writing, will be replaced by Colin McMahon, the Tribune company’s chief content manager. In addition, Peter Kendall, one of the Tribune’s two managing editors, is also out and won’t be replaced.

One Tribune source told the New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly, “The Trib folks are pretty shaken up. They are interpreting this as very bad news.”

In the past few weeks, dozens of Tribune staffers have taken buyouts, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.


On second thought …

Elizabeth Warren. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Boston Globe is endorsing Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic presidential nomination — a year after it said she shouldn’t even run. The Massachusetts senator is getting the hometown endorsement because she, the Globe wrote, “stands out as a leader with the qualifications, the track record, and the tenacity to defend the principles of democracy, bring fairness to an economy that is excluding too many Americans, and advance a progressive agenda.”

Cover girl

I mention this item simply because it’s interesting. New York magazine has a section called Press Room — a behind-the-scenes look at its stories. Over the years, the magazine has published issues and stories around Valentine’s Day, devoted to dating in New York City. In 2002, the magazine did a takeoff of the famous V-J Day Times Square photo of a sailor and nurse kissing. In the magazine’s cover photo, it was a woman and member of the New York City Fire Department. (This was just a few months after 9/11.)

The model was a woman by the name of Melania Knauss. We now know her as, of course, Melanie Trump, the First Lady of the United States.

New York magazine points out that Melania actually appeared on the cover of New York magazine a second time — in 2005 in a story about the Met Gala.

Here’s the “Press Room” story and photo.

Media tidbits

  • Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan is working on a book about local news called “Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy.” It’s due out in July. She tweeted the cover design Thursday.
  • Chris Wallace will interview Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on this Sunday’s “Fox News Sunday.” It will be the first time Wallace has interviewed Biden since 2007.
  • NBC News and MSNBC have launched a new podcast called “Into America.” Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Trymaine Lee, the pod “explores the central themes of life in America — and discovers what matters most to everyday Americans.” Topics include healthcare, criminal justice, manufacturing and climate change. New episodes drop each Thursday.

  • The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, who is pretty connected about these things, is reporting that ESPN and reporter Josina Anderson could be headed for a breakup when her contract expires this summer. Marchand writes, “Though nothing is done yet, it would be unsurprising if the two sides agree to part ways with Anderson moving on to a new job.” Meanwhile, ESPN announced Hannah Storm has signed a multi-year extension to stay at the network.

Hot type

Lady Gaga. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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