Health, News & Publishing, Politics & Public Policy, Uncategorized

Digital News Publishers Weather the Storm After COVID-19

I spoke with digital news organizations — and some major metro newspapers, including those that have been so-called “hot zones” for COVID-19 — about how the pandemic has influenced, impeded, affirmed, or transformed content, operations, staffing, revenue, and philosophies.

From the July/August issue of Editor & Publisher magazine:

https://www.editorandpublisher.com/feature/digital-news-publishers-weather-the-storm-after-covid-19/

News & Publishing, Politics & Public Policy

Telling the Story of the Weight of the World

There’s a saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and for good reason. Graphics can be a powerful representation, somehow distilling down what is otherwise complex and difficult to process.

This Sunday morning – on the eve of Memorial Day, when we honor our fallen – readers found The New York Times’ front page free of graphics. Yet, the image of 1,000 printed names, a mere fraction of the American lives stolen by a global pandemic, is shockingly graphic.

You may read about the Times’ editorial decision to publish this stark and poignant representation here.

As of this writing moment, an estimated 342,000 people around the world have perished from COVID-19-related illness. Here in the United States, where everything must be politicized nowadays, the figures are undermined. You’ll hear plenty of pundits trying to shirk government’s blame for its slow response, its dragging of feet when mitigation was critical.

They say things like, “If a person has a heart condition or is dying of old age and they contract the virus, are they really dying of COVID-19, or are they dying of those preexisting conditions?” Dr. Deborah Birx was asked to address this at one of the maddening press briefings. She clarified that, in cases of this kind, it is the virus that’s the acute cause of death.

This is not a controversial medical opinion. If a patient is hospitalized for an injury or illness, and while in the hospital contracts an infection and dies, it is the viral infection that kills the person, not the condition that put them there.

But there is good reason to question the figures, which are flawed and fluid, and may, in fact, be conservative estimates at this point. It is unknown how many Americans during these past few months have been sick and died in their residences, in their workplaces, or in the streets, who were never afforded a post-mortem test for COVID-19. The disease is so wildly unpredictable and adept at subterfuge, with symptoms ranging from fever and the obvious respiratory ailments to neurological and vascular breakdowns. Even younger people with no underlying conditions have died of heart failure and massive stroke.

We still have so much to learn and to understand about this virus – known to be exponentially more contagious than flu-like viruses that have proceeded it. We don’t really know how it so effectively spreads. We don’t know why those symptoms vary widely. We can’t even say with certainty that those who have contracted the virus and lived to see the other side of it cannot be re-infected.

This story is not yet written.

Because everything is so politicized and polarized in the nation today, it is not surprising that pundits have stoked the anti-media flames, accusing the Press of somehow manufacturing the story, of inflating it, and causing people to fear for their lives.

I’m of the opinion that a virus that potentially makes you so sick that you feel that you’re drowning – not for minutes, which is what it usually takes for a person to die by drowning – but hours, days, weeks, deserves a perfectly rational level of fear. But if that’s not enough to give all Americans pause, to consider the seriousness and solemnity, certainly the number of deaths should.

97,426.

Our culture relishes comparison.

Those trying to diminish the virus like to compare it to annual flu deaths. Various strains of flu virus are to blame for 24,000 to 62,000 American deaths each year, measured over the course of 12 months. Nearly 100,000 people have died from COVID-19 in fewer than four.

It is true that more than 600,000 people died from cancers in the U.S. last year. But can you imagine if we simply gave up the quest for answers and cures?

An estimated 58,200 American soldiers died fighting the Vietnam War, a gut-wrenching statistic that erupted the country in protest. Can you imagine if the Press never reported on it, or never published the Pentagon Papers?

Nearly 3,000 people were slain on 9/11. Our government used those dead as opportunity to invade two countries. Can you imagine if the Press merely shrugged it off? Can you imagine if politicians and their “fans” told grieving, frightened Americans to “just move along, nothing to see here?”

I’m in the midst of writing a 2,000-word piece for Editor & Publisher magazine about how news organizations are covering the pandemic, for which I’ve spoken to a number of news organizations – from large national newspapers and broadcast companies to small community and non-profit digital publications. It has flipped newsrooms upside down, shaking them like snow globes, with more stories than they can tell falling down all around them.

Every single story today is colored by COVID-19, because the effects are far-reaching and disturbingly influential: Economics, business, labor force and unemployment. Critical public health and safety. Long-term healthcare. Education and schools. Parenting and caretaking. The food chain and food banks. The supply chain. Personal interest stories, and on and on.

And the Press must cover all these angles. To ignore them is a dereliction of duty.

It more than pains me – it makes me irate – when I see and hear people suggest that the Press shouldn’t cover this virus, that we shouldn’t even tell the stories of the individuals who died – people who lived and loved and contributed to the society in some way.

How completely selfish and vulgar it is to look at Press coverage and find it to be inconvenient and uncomfortable because it doesn’t fit into a preconceived, politically crafted narrative.

It’s insensitive, to put it mildly, to suggest that we shouldn’t tell the stories about the aftermath for their families, of grieving from afar and then alone. It’s foolish to ignore the challenges and burdens it has placed upon us, not just on commerce and businesses, but literally on every single one of us – here and around the world.

Pandemic is profound.

I think of what yet has to be told, what will be written in the weeks, months, years, and decades to come.

This morning, I look at the image of that Times’ front page, and I feel the weight of it all.

That image – the picture of a thousand words. A thousand names x 100.

NYT-front-page-05-24-20-superJumbo-v2

News & Publishing

The Future of Journalism May Live On Through Family-Owned Newspapers

By Gretchen A. Peck

The stories are familiar now. A longtime newspaper family decides to sell off their publications to a larger public corporation (which then slashes costs and lays off employees), or worse, a longtime newspaper family decides to shut down their 100-year-old paper after losing money for so many years.

But that’s not the story for all families that own newspapers. E&P spoke to a few of these privately held companies that are still going strong to discuss their challenges and their successes, and most importantly, how they plan to sustain their family legacy.

Read more at Editor & Publisher.

 

News & Publishing

Data continues to bulldoze through media advertising hurdles

By Gretchen A. Peck

For news organizations, selling advertising has become a notoriously complicated endeavor as media companies, tech businesses, and platforms compete for a share of the revenue. Though there is still a remarkable amount of money spent on advertising in the U.S.—billions in digital display and programmatic ads last year alone—the competition for ad dollars among print, digital and broadcast media is fast, fierce and sometimes unforgiving. …

Read on at Editor & Publisher magazine

 

News & Publishing

Watchdog journalism is worth it

investigation-702x336By Gretchen A. Peck

Investigative journalism is often the stuff of drama. Exposing corruption, abuse, inequality and crimes are inherently good, juicy stories—not to mention a core competency and duty for newspapers. It wouldn’t surprise anyone in news to hear that investigative journalism is not just popular among broadcast audiences, but with people who read newspapers in print and online. After all, investigative reporting helps people; it informs communities; it changes things; and thankfully, for the news organization, it brings in revenue.

Read more at Editor & Publisher magazine:

https://www.editorandpublisher.com/feature/watchdog-journalism-bites-into-revenue/

News & Publishing

How Encrypted Mobile Messaging Apps Are Helping Journalists Protect and Guard Sources and Their Information

By Gretchen A. Peck

For many of their users, mobile messaging apps are just expedient little tools for texting and sharing photos or videos with friends who use the same app. The fact that those messages and content are encrypted is just an added a perk. But for journalists and their sources—especially sensitive sources like whistleblowers—encrypted messaging apps are an increasingly valuable means of communication, which provide a modicum of assurance that the information being exchanged is private and protected from anyone outside of that conversational relationship.

Read on at Editor & Publisher:

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/feature/how-encrypted-mobile-messaging-apps-are-helping-journalists-protect-and-guard-sources-and-their-information/

Photo: Devlin Barrett. Barrett covers national security and law enforcement for The Washington Post.

 

News & Publishing

The Side Hustle: What Do Newspapers Gain by Having Their Journalists Appear on TV and Radio?

By Gretchen A. Peck

For the penultimate segment on “Hardball with Chris Matthews” each weeknight, Matthews queries his panel of journalists and pundits—often with at least one reporter representing a major-market newspaper—challenging them, “Tell me something I don’t know.”

His branded phrase not only introduces the segment, it exemplifies one of the benefits of having journalists appear as guests on broadcast news programs. Reporters remain excellent sources themselves of researched, vetted and well-sourced information. Their appearances and expertise on the topics of discussion lend both content and credibility to broadcast news programs.

And there are obvious professional gains for the journalist—who has a brand and a byline to protect—and to the newspaper’s brand, which benefits from audience reach and an opportunity to evangelize its reporting.

Still, as some newspaper journalists have learned, appearing on broadcast news programs can occasionally come with some unwanted attention too.

Read more at: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/feature/the-side-hustle-what-do-newspapers-gain-by-having-their-journalists-appear-on-tv-and-radio/

Editor & Publisher magazine, October 2018 issue

 

 

News & Publishing, Printing and Imaging

Data, Technology and Digital Readers are Shaping How the Printed Newspaper Looks Today

By Gretchen A. Peck

If newspaper design had a motto, it might be: “Stick to the format. The design and layout is the brand.”

And that remains true today with iconic titles of newspapers rendered in familiar fonts and layouts that are distinctive in their own right. Think of how familiar and distinctive a title like USA Today is when you flip through the pages. The color, the layout, the way the headlines grab your attention—all part of the brand.

Newspaper publishers, by and large, have always understood this. But the notion that printed newspapers’ design should never deviate from the template is being challenged, and it’s because of digital and mobile publishing and the rising cost to paper. Still, that hasn’t stopped publishers from experimenting with their print product.

Read more at Editor & Publisher magazine: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/feature/data-technology-and-digital-readers-are-shaping-how-the-printed-newspaper-looks-today/

 

 

News & Publishing, Printing and Imaging

Data, Technology and Digital Readers are Shaping How the Printed Newspaper Looks Today

By Gretchen A. Peck

If newspaper design had a motto, it might be: “Stick to the format. The design and layout is the brand.”

And that remains true today with iconic titles of newspapers rendered in familiar fonts and layouts that are distinctive in their own right. Think of how familiar and distinctive a title like USA Today is when you flip through the pages. The color, the layout, the way the headlines grab your attention—all part of the brand.

Newspaper publishers, by and large, have always understood this. But the notion that printed newspapers’ design should never deviate from the template is being challenged, and it’s because of digital and mobile publishing and the rising cost to paper. Still, that hasn’t stopped publishers from experimenting with their print product.

Read more at: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/feature/data-technology-and-digital-readers-are-shaping-how-the-printed-newspaper-looks-today/