This is truly the season of light and the season of darkness.

Journalism is showing its real value in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Audiences are supporting nonprofits and flocking to trusted sources. Newspapers are lifting their paywalls to deliver on their mission. Service journalism is flourishing around the world. And yet the crisis will be tough for many news organisations. Advertising revenue will drop. Publishers will have to cut salaries and lay people off. If you think your newspaper is helping you and your family, support its mission at this difficult time. 

In this newsletter you'll find some insights from our research on misinformation, several examples of great journalism on COVID–19 and a few tips to protect your mental health while covering the disease.

📌 Remember: you should wash your hands often and thoroughly, pause and think before sharing anything on social media, and practice social distancing as much as you can to flatten the curve


🕒 This newsletter is 1,476 words, an eleven-minute read. Let's get started.

Key findings from our research on misinformation

The problem. As the outbreak unfolds, many voices have warned against the rise of misinformation around the world. “We're not just fighting an epidemic; we're fighting an infodemic”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently.  

The piece. The Reuters Institute doesn’t have new data on how the outbreak is changing news consumption. However, our researchers have investigated for years how media outlets and technologies shape and reflect the global problems of misinformation. Our Research Fellow J. Scott Brennen and our Director, Rasmus Nielsen, gathered seven insights in this piece. A short summary below.

🚪Most people get their news through side-doors. Side-ways access of news via search engines, social media, or other forms of distributed discovery can obscure the producers of news content and create openings for various purveyors of disinformation. 

🤔 News accessed via search and social is less trusted. Average trust in news overall (42%) across all countries studied was higher than reported trust in news from search (33%) and social platforms (23%). Most people treat much of this information with considerable scepticism.

🤥 Many people are concerned about misinformation online. 55% of the people in our sample across 38 countries reported concern about their ability to separate what is real and fake on the internet. This concern varies widely: it's 85% in Brazil and only 38% in Germany.

🧙🏼‍♂️ Poor journalism seems to be a bigger problem than made-up stories. When asked about their experience with misinformation, audiences we surveyed in 2018 reported greater exposure to political propaganda and poor journalism than to made-up stories.

👩‍🏫 Misinformation is pushing people to rely on reputable sources. 26% of the global audiences we surveyed in early 2019 said they had started relying on what they consider to be ‘more reputable’ sources of news. The percentage is even higher in Brazil (36%) and in the US (40%).

👩‍⚕️ Social media can disseminate misinformation on health issues. In the past we have found that sites that regularly shared misinformation had far less online traffic than established news outlets. However, in some cases, a small number of these problematic sites generated a very large number of Facebook interactions.

⏱ If you have five minutes, read the entire piece in this link

Medical personnel wearing protective face masks in Brescia. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
How newsrooms are coping with COVID–19

👩‍⚕️ A big challenge. Newsrooms are dealing with the most complex story in a generation. This creates challenges for any reporter covering the outbreak non-stop. An important one is mental health. You can find great advice on how to stay sane in this piece by journalist Al Tompkins and Sidney Tompkins, a licensed psychotherapist. Here are a few tips:

  • Unplug. Your coverage shouldn't be the last thing you think about before you go to sleep. 
  • Be kind to yourself. Keep things near you that remind you what normal looks like. Soldiers and police officers do this.
  • Remember why you do what you do. Emergency room doctors see awful stuff. Reminding themselves of their mission helps them cope. 
  • Don't eat or drink too much. Confront your discomfort. Don't medicate it with alcohol or binge-eating. 
  • Check frequently on your colleagues. If a coworker has done many tough stories, check on them and ensure they take time off. 

🏠 Working from home. Newsrooms in Spain, Italy and the US are starting to work remotely. Audrey Cooper, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Chronicle, explains why she decided to send everyone home. However, self-isolation is not the best option for everyone, as South African editor Mia Malan points out in this tweet

🚧 The paywall dilemma. COVID–19 presents a big dilemma for newspapers with reader revenue models. Should they lift their paywalls and let everyone read their coverage for free? 

  • 🇺🇸 The New York Times has a page accesible for everyone without a subscription and a free coronavirus-centric newsletter. Bloomberg News, The Atlantic and others have opened they're coverage too. 
  • 🇪🇸 El País has lifted its paywall entirely and made its printed edition available to everyone as a PDF. has asked its paying members to increase their contributions to survive the crisis.
  • 🇮🇳 "I support the idea of a paywall for a simple reason: public interest journalism needs public investment," wrote A. S. Panneerselvan, readers' editor of The Hindu, when he was asked why his newspaper wasn't lifting it.  
📻 Public service news. Audiences are flocking to the digital products of public broadcasters in countries such as Germany and the UK. "Traffic to the BBC News website is surging to extraordinary levels. Over the past month, 12 February to 11 March, there have been over 575m page views globally to stories about coronavirus," writes Amol Rajan in this piece
Great journalism on COVID–19

A call to arms. "We in journalism should learn to develop new muscles to convene communities, to bring people together just as they are feeling most isolated," writes Jeff Jarvis in this wonderful piece. Here are a few examples of great journalism on COVID–19: 

👮‍♀️ The Marshall Project, an American nonprofit whose reporting focuses on criminal justice, is tracking the response to coronavirus both in prisons and immigrant detention centers

🦠These animated simulations created by visual journalist Harry Stevens for The Washington Post explain brilliantly why social distancing is important to prevent the spread of the outbreak. The piece was translated into Spanish, Italian, French and Arabic.

📊 This comprehensive data-feed from Norwegian tabloid VG constantly updates the infection figures by county. VG is getting its number directly from the counties (the official numbers are issued only once a day). The feed also shows the sex of the infected and their age.

🙋🏽‍♀️News startup Hearken explains in this thread how journalists are answering questions from their readers. Here are excellent examples from Il Post and The Seattle Times.

🔧 Our friends at First Draft have prepared these resources for journalists to better cover the outbreak, including tools and webinars. First Draft's Claire Wardle mentions the most common rumours about COVID–19 in this thread

An opportunity. The International Fact-Checking Network and Facebook have partnered to support the fact-checking community working on pandemic-related misinformation with a budget of $1 million. The budget will be distributed as flash grants. All proposals should emphasize increasing the reach and impact of the fight against health misinformation related to COVID-19 only. Apply here

You need to know...

📱 The future of the BBC. "To ensure its future, the BBC needs to demonstrate what truly impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services look like in a digital, mobile, and platform-dominated media environment not just to politicians, but also to the public," writes our Director, Rasmus Nielsen. | CJR

🎮 Censorship. Articles by censored journalists are being made available to readers in countries with limited press freedom through The Uncensored Library in video game Minecraft. A producer on the project said: “With so many people playing the game, there’s always a version live, so they cannot take it down.” | Fast Company

🇺🇸 USA. Paul Farhi asks what Ben Smith's and Lydia Polgreen's recent departures from Buzzfeed and HuffPost say about the troubled state of the digital news media. Smith left to become the media columnist of The New York Times. Polgreen left to head up podcast giant Gimlet, recently bought by Spotify. | Washington Post

👂 Deep listening. "We need to open ourselves up to a broader, ground-up set of stories and perspectives by listening more deeply, and directing attention to what is heard," writes our Journalist Fellow Daniel J. Clarke, Deputy Editor of BBC Newsnight. His piece is a transcript of a talk inspired by American composer Pauline Oliveros. | Reuters Institute  

🙋🏽‍♀️ Russia. A “new ecosystem” of independent news outlets is emerging in a very challenging environment for the free press. Hard-hitting investigations and news (rather than clickbait) is being rewarded with loyal audiences, while solid cybersecurity measures and decentralised staffing make them harder to shut down. | Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

More information on what we do...

Journalist Fellowship Programmes | Leadership ProgrammesResearch

Today's email was written by Eduardo Suárez and Matthew Leake.  

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