The coronavirus pandemic threw a ginormous flaming curveball at the news media industry, from turning newsrooms remote to eviscerating whole streams of revenue. It’s really easy to panic when you don’t know what the next day or even the next hour will bring, much less how to plan for it.
As the outbreak worsened, journalists in the Journalists of Color Slack channel started talking about their anxieties and decided they wanted to jump into action to help their colleagues, from freelance reporters to editors and managers.
They tapped some folks from the News Nerdery community (a Slack channel to “foster news nerd collaboration and knowledge sharing”) and Open News and established the core team of 11 journalists who worked together to write the Newsroom Guide to COVID-19.
The guide covers four main topics – general need-to-know info about coronavirus itself and what to do if you’re exposed to it; how to care for your own physical and emotional health as you cover the pandemic; caring for others, whether they’re your colleagues, reporters, or freelancers; and recommendations and tips for event planners.
“Those of us who work in civic spaces, we run towards the fire. There’s something going on and people need to know so they can be safe and take care of each other,” Cordelia Yu, a content strategist and former programs associate for Open News who took the writing lead, said. “It’s an honorable thing to do, but we also do it at the expense of ourselves. It might be okay if it’s a day or two, but this looks like it’s going to be a few months, which means right now we need to set up the infrastructure to take care of ourselves. This isn’t the sprint or a marathon — it’s a relay race, so we need to make sure the baton is there.”
The team is mostly comprised of journalists of color and includes Eba Hamid-Rivera, Tina Ye, Sisi Wei, P. Kim Bui, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Ted Han, Lindsay Muscato, Carolyn Rupar, Jennifer Prior, Ryan Pitts, and Cordelia Yu. It’s built with Library, the New York Times' open-sourced documentation tool we wrote about last year.
The group also recognized that journalists in all sorts of newsrooms haven’t been given streamlined guidance on covering a pandemic, which can leave the door wide open for mistakes and harmful behaviors when you’re under stress and strapped for resources. Ted Han, a product consultant and a board member of the Asian American Journalists Association, said freelance reporters haven’t been given the same guidance that managers might give to their full-time staff, so the guide aims to support them as well.
“It’s not just the political leaders that were caught flat-footed on this,” Han said. “Certain newsrooms had a plan for this, while others didn’t. A lot of newsroom leaders are thinking about how to continue coverage in this right now, so it’s as much taking care of the newsroom as taking care of the public right now.”
Here’s the full guide.
This article was originally published by Nieman Lab.