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April 15, 2020

Newsrooms facing coronavirus need support. Here’s how to navigate it.

Photo of compass leaning up against a window by Jordan Madrid
Compass photo by Jordan Madrid

For news organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic presents both the greatest journalistic opportunity and the greatest journalistic challenge they’ve ever faced. Across the country, these reporters, editors, photojournalists, producers, and more have risen magnificently to meet that journalistic challenge. Smaller news outlets — especially startups in places where newspapers are weakened or gone — have taken on the essential duty of informing their communities about safety measures, disease spread, medical and other needs, closures, the people who’ve lost their lives, and the people on the frontlines. They’re doing a phenomenal job under incredibly difficult circumstances. They are meeting the journalistic challenge, but the economic challenge remains an existential threat.

These news organizations need help, and they need it across three fronts: financial, operational, and psychological. There are a lot of resources on all of these, but they’re spread out and can be hard to find. Democracy Fund asked consultant David Plotz to gather useful resources for grantees and partners, and he pulled together this resource to help news organizations and those who want to assist news organizations. We thought it was useful enough to share more widely. 

First, news organizations need guidance toward financial lifelines. Most revenue, including almost all advertising and event income, vanished overnight. The guide advises organizations how to respectfully ask their audiences for financial support, points to grants and other new sources of philanthropic media funding, and — most critically — describes how to apply for emergency government grants and the $349 billion in “paycheck protection” loans created by the stimulus. If you know of other crisis financial resources for nonprofits and news organizations, please notify us at localnewslab@democracyfund.org

Second, small newsrooms need operational support around how to do their jobs safely and effectively. This resource compiles advice on how to transition effectively to remote work, how to report safely in COVID-19 hot zones, how to navigate legal issues presented by pandemic reporting, and more. Finally, the psychological: The longer the crisis continues, the harder it will be on all of us. Journalists face the same problems everyone in the world does: They are falling sick; their loved ones are falling sick; they can’t pay their bills; they don’t have childcare. The document suggests resources to help journalists stay as healthy as they can, mentally and physically. We’re here with you.

Check out the compilation here. Share any questions or feedback with us at localnewslab@democracyfund.org.