This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can subscribe here.
“We were all just in shock, like, you’re kidding,” an elementary and special ed teacher told WGBH’s Arun Rath on his new show Tuesday night about finding out schools were shutting down because of the spread of the coronavirus. “We had nothing prepared.”
Gina Garro, that teacher, told Rath about talking individually to her students and the ways she’s trying to ease anxiety and stay connected.
The new show, “In It Together,” airs weeknights and invites people to call in with their questions and talk with experts. And it captures what so many local newsrooms are doing right now — showing their communities that they’re in this together.
Here are some other examples of work that can only happen at the local level:
- The Miami Herald launched People Helping People, an initiative to connect people who want to help with people who need it. “…We are strong, and as we distance ourselves to get through this, we can also come together,” Connie Ogle reported on March 23. “Maybe you need or have to offer food, a job or housing. Some agencies stand ready to help as well.” It includes ways to help and a Google Form to get started.
- Eagle Radio operates stations and news sites in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. On Monday, it launched a site that asks local businesses to pledge to follow World Health Organization guidelines to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. I counted 350 businesses so far that signed up for Help Stop The Spread.
- The Long Beach Post, a daily online newsroom in Long Beach, California, has built a lot of cool things, including making all coronavirus coverage free to reuse and republish and an online hub for Long Beach neighborhoods to organize and communicate.
- And as music festivals and events started announcing cancellations, Vanessa Franko, digital director of entertainment at Southern California News Group, included this for newsletter subscribers: “Are you bummed about the cancellations and postponements? Have they made you rethink everything? I’m here for you. Reply to the email and I’ll send you some soothing yacht rock jams, which is how I’m getting through this week.” Franko told me she’s gotten a lot of requests since. “I don’t know if it speaks to the human condition or that we all need to be there for each other right now,” she told me in an email, ‘but it’s been nice as a break from all things coronavirus.”
As the coronavirus hits public health and the economy, it’s already caused the end of several alt-weeklies. Other publications that rely on a mix of revenue sources are in great danger as they’re also in great demand. One way Poynter wants to help is to share and amplify all the resources we can. Please send me more.
- Check out these webinars from the Solutions Journalism Network: Solutions Journalism 101: Covering the Coronavirus Outbreak takes place at 2 p.m. today, March 26, and Advancing Solutions Journalism Coverage Amid Coronavirus Outbreak takes place at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 27.
- The American Press Institute is offering free access to its Metrics For News program in tracking COVID-19 coverage. This tool is an essential piece of the Table Stakes project. Apply by Friday.
- Check out this Covering COVID-19 Media Briefing Webinar from SciLine, and this one on Social Isolation, Mental Health and COVID-19, which takes place on March 30. SciLine also has quotable statements from experts, tips for covering the pandemic, a state-by-state embeddable infographic showing cases and a set of links to other credible sources.
- The Institute for Nonprofit News has a robust list of resources for nonprofit newsrooms covering COVID-19.
- You’ll find answers to many questions you might have now about covering the coronavirus and the right to public access and information from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
- The Pulitzer Center is looking for grant proposals from newsrooms working together to cover the coronavirus.
- Poynter is collecting live coronavirus coverage training opportunities, if you have them, you can share them here. And Al Tompkins’ daily media briefing is always full of great ideas.
- These are strange times and this newsletter will adjust for them. Stay tuned and safe, and please let me know what you’d like to see here.
- I spoke with my coworkers about how to work from home, and I’ve made a video on Instagram every day this week with one simple tip. To sum up: Don’t work in your PJs, but it’s OK to do housework.
- Project Oasis will be a guide “to help entrepreneurs start local news businesses, and existing local news startup founders learn from the successes of their peers.” What a perfect name.
- One personal bright spot: I’m among the newest class of RJI fellows! I’ll be working on a local obituary project with the Tampa Bay Times, and can’t wait to see the work of my fellow… um… fellows.
- One idea to borrow from the bigs: I love this photo series from The Washington Post on empty spaces. What do the empty spaces look like where you live? How can you safely show it to your community? Can they share what they’re seeing? Seeing these empty places this morning reminded me that they’re still there and made me feel solidarity that so many people are staying home.
- And big congrats to the newsrooms who will be getting a total of $1 million in grants to support their coronavirus coverage. This project is from the Facebook Journalism Project, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association, and in this first round, it will give $5,000 each to 50 local newsrooms in the U.S. and Canada. According to a press release, “the grants will help fulfill needs such as increasing frequency of publishing, combating misinformation and serving vulnerable and at-risk groups.” Grantees include Madison365, QCityMetro, The Post and Courier and WURD Radio.
That’s it for me. I’m going to close with my new mantra, something I’ve stitched into my brain:
Unlock your jaw, lower your shoulders, roll your neck.