Weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, here are some tools that are actually worth using

This week in digital tools for journalism

April 28, 2020
Category: Tech & Tools

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Tuesday? Sign up here.

Welcome! This is Jeremy Caplan writing. I’m director of teaching and learning for the Newmark Grad School of Journalism and a former Time magazine reporter. I’m also a tools aficionado who writes about cool tools in this mini newsletter called Wonder Tools. While Ren is serving as managing editor for Poynter, I’m helping him out this week by sharing some tools and tips.

Ariel Zirulnick recently highlighted creative live online event approaches in her terrific piece about how 15 membership-based news organizations are adapting to the coronavirus. To explore how these kinds of news organizations build loyalty, check out the European Journalism Accelerator’s database of 145 community-driven news organizations. You can filter it by revenue stream, country, or engagement approach.

Some creative news organizations are leaning on services like GroundSource and Subtext to address readers’ coronavirus questions through text messaging. 150,000 people are getting COVID-19 text updates from more than a dozen news organizations using Subtext. They’re riding a broader trend: A recent M+R study noted that audiences for nonprofit text messaging grew by 26% in 2019. That growth came even as Facebook audiences grew by just 4% and email list sizes declined by 2%.

Elsewhere in the realm of messaging the American Press Institute recently profiled NYC publication Documented’s use of WhatsApp to address coronavirus questions from local Spanish speakers.

To ramp up your outreach skills, register for the Center for Health Journalists’ April 29 webinar. You’ll hear from Ashley Alvarado about Southern California Public Radio’s impressive recent engagement efforts. The station has received more than 1,800 COVID-19 questions so far. They’ve responded personally to 1,500 of them. In addition to its COVID-19 text message service, the station is sending out 10,000 mailers to low-internet neighborhoods.

For those in need of funding to experiment with messaging or other community engagement efforts, the Community Listening and Engagement Fund opened a COVID-19 Response Fund to subsidize news organizations working with tools like Hearken, GroundSource, Coral by Vox Media, The Listening Post Collective, and DocumentCloud/MuckRock.

Universities and student newsrooms are adapting to the virus in creative ways. A new #SaveStudentNewsrooms Twitter campaign highlights some of their efforts. The job market they’ll graduate into continues to wobble, with recent Gannett layoffs adding to a growing list of journalism job losses.

If you’ve been impacted by cuts or if you’re a student looking ahead to a job search, join Poynter’s Samantha Ragland and Barbara Allen on April 30 at 2 p.m. Eastern time for a webinar on hunting for journalism jobs during the pandemic.

Journalists facing financial struggles may also appreciate this list of journalism emergency relief funds compiled by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. It includes local, national and international funding options, with links to apply. The Lenfest Institute also hosts an updated list. Local news organizations looking for help can apply for free strategic coaching from local news consultants selected by the Local Independent Online News Publishers.

To boost crisis coverage visuals, newsrooms can freely embed the polished COVID-19 mobile-friendly data visualizations at Flourish Studio. Or use Flourish Stories to create an elegant series of linked data visualizations that can be embedded into your site in a new kind of narrative data presentation. Journalists can also draw on or embed data from Airtable’s collection of COVID-19 resources and projects, like volunteer coordination efforts and a national free food data collection.

Hunting for Zoom alternatives? The Guardian assessed StarLeaf, Jitsi Meet, Microsoft Teams and BlueJeans, which Verizon bought last week for an estimated $400 million. And Splice, which calls itself the Nieman Lab of Asia, outlined why it ended up using Google Meet for its recent online conference. Zoom has made numerous fixes since Columbia Journalism Review advised that “journalists would be wise to use Zoom with caution.” One approach is to supplement with other services, as WBUR has done by using Slido.com, a free polling tool I just wrote about, to collect questions in advance of its online events.

With or without Zoom, you can polish up your meetings. Tools like the new Prezi Video can help amp up your remote gatherings by letting you float slides, text or images next to your camera. Here’s an example.

Krisp helps block out background home noise during your remote meetings. SnapCam filters can add levity to story meetings, as long as you avoid showing up as a digital potato, like this boss.

To add creativity and collaboration to your Zoom meetings, try Miro or Whimsical free for digital Post-It idea-sharing sessions. These are great for visualizing creative story formats or whiteboarding new layout ideas.

Take a break from Netflix fare and check out the Dig Awards, a festival highlighting the best international investigative journalism in video format. The Lockdown Tapes is the festival’s playlist of a dozen award-winning documentaries produced by The Guardian, RAI, Deutsche Welle, The Correspondent and Al Jazeera. They can be viewed free online until May 3.

If you have your own COVID-19 project to pitch, the Global Investigative Journalism Network just launched a secure online tool for pitching your long-form video projects to commissioning editors in six countries.

If you’re looking to add cool stuff to your toolkit, check out YourStack.com, where people share their favorite (mostly digital) tools and explain how and why they love something.

For more useful tools and resources for journalists, and an inside look at what I find most useful, sign up for my new Wonder Tools mini newsletter. I recently wrote about the best free transcription and polling tools. Subscribe and you’ll get my list of 21 useful free tools for working at home, plus an upcoming post about the new tools I’m using for all of my note-taking.

Thanks for reading! Wishing the best for you and your loved ones.

Jeremy Caplan

Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Comments

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  • Thanks for sharing the useful tools. However, the pandemic has only one solutions, keep distance from everyone. Be safe at home and protect our family.