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How journalists are working together to cover the COVID-19 pandemic

Collaborative journalism has the power to make a big difference during times of crisis like this

Stefanie Murray
Mar 16 · 7 min read

Having access to accurate information can mean the difference between life and death during a crisis.

That’s why right now, journalists around the globe are working around the clock to make sure people in their communities are informed as the COVID-19 virus ricochets through our countries, our towns, and our families.

It’s especially in times like these that collaboration can help.

There are so many reasons why collaboration makes sense for journalism right now: we can better support each other, avoid duplication, diversify our coverage, amplify each other’s work and expand our own reach. I started collecting examples so you can see for yourself what’s happening and perhaps get inspired to join (virtual) hands with other media-makers in your community.

Here’s what I found so far:

Oregon news orgs share, cross-promote stories

John Schrag, executive editor of Pamplin Media Group, emailed me last week to note that more than a dozen news orgs there have all agreed to share and cross-promote COVID-19 coverage. The idea was first floated by Les Zaitz, editor of the Salem Reporter and Malheur Enterprise.

As of late last week, the collaborators included Bend Bulletin, Statesman Journal, Pamplin Media Group, KGW-TV, Malheur Enterprise, KOBI TV, Lund Report, Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Oregonian/OregonLive, Salem Reporter, Street Roots, Eugene Weekly, East Oregonian, Jefferson Public Radio, Beyond Well and Patch.com.

“Coronavirus will strain even the largest newsrooms as news breaks continuously and into the nights and weekends.” Therese Bottomly, editor of The Oregonian/OregonLive, wrote in a column about the effort. “The collaboration will allow newsrooms to pick up good information from other sources, so they will not need to re-report the same story. We can cover more angles this way.”

First Draft plans large new global COVID-19 collaborative

This is the largest such effort I know about to date related to COVID-19. Journalists that would like to join may nominate their newsroom using this form.

First Draft has also compiled useful tutorials and guides for responsible reporting on the outbreak.

Resolve Philadelphia launches digital guide to reframe COVID-19 reporting

In response, Resolve build a digital guide to reframe reporting on coronavirus.

“Our has team hustled to make this resource available to journalists and newsrooms around the country who are responding to the urgent and developing news and information needs of their communities,” Cassie Haynes, co-executive director of Resolve, wrote in an email.

The guide will be updated regularly and includes:

  1. A guide to responsibly presenting your story.
  2. Language recommendations for word choices that improve comprehension.
  3. A set of sharable, social media graphics with quick tips for framing your story.

Resolve is also running a private COVID-19 Slack channel for its partners to share and coordinate reporting, and has offered its editing, data journalism and community engagement editors to the group, along with its SMS texting platform. One of Resolve’s partners is working to translate the collaborative’s reporting into Spanish to help widen its reach to a critical local audience.

Granite State News Collaborative postpones project launch to focus on COVID-19 coverage

“The discussion quickly turned to the growing reality that our outlets were starting to see more demand for COVID-19 coverage,” Melanie Plenda, project manager for the collaborative, told me in an email. “One of the partners said she’d take anyone’s coverage they wanted to share. Right then, we sort of shifted gears.”

The group decided to postpone the launch of its latest project to entirely focus their collective effort on COVID-19 coverage. It also quickly reached out to its funders to see if the group could use its resources to help our outlets report on the crisis, and all agreed.

Among the things the group is doing:

  • All partners agreed to share content, using a shared Google folder that includes stories, press releases and a plan to coordinate that sharing.
  • The collaborative put together a survey to collect questions the public had about the virus in one place, then they are disseminating that info to the partners.
  • Assigned additional stories to freelancers that the partners weren’t able to do themselves.

Next up, the collaborative is considering how it could coordinate pooled coverage of events and announcements that have statewide importance and share a daily news budget.

New North Carolina collaborative mobilizes for statewide project

The collaborative is a fairly new group comprised of more than 20 newspapers across the state. Robyn Tomlin, the executive editor of The (Raleigh) News & Observer and The (Durham) Herald-Sun, said the group is also working on a large, statewide reporting effort.

That project is likely to publish in the next week.

Public radio stations across the Midwest team up, offer shared content

The group quickly developed a series of features reporting on COVID-19’s impact on schools, senior centers and churches. It also is doing a daily roundup of coronavirus news from the Midwest and compiled a popular FAQ, Dave Rosenthal, managing editor for Side Effects, told me in an email.

It collected questions from audience members and set out to answers the most commons questions it was seeing in reported radio and online stories.

Local Voices Network setting up database for virtual conversations

Max Resnik, Cortico’s lead for media and journalism, told me that the organization is working on a Zoom recording protocol to encourage more LVN-style conversations.

“(We) would love to have our database serve as a collaborative location for conversations for newsrooms working on virus coverage,” Resnik told me in an email. He expects to share more soon.

NJ New Commons and NJ College News Commons sharing stories and tips

We’re also working to organize group calls and virtual peer-to-peer sessions to give our partners a chance to ask each other questions and share tips as they continue to cover the pandemic, including an AMA later this week with Steve Stirling of the Coronaviral newsletter.

Ensia shares content with The Guardian, others to come

Mary told me that French and German outlets have reached out for (and received) permission to translate and republish the story, as well.

Ensia, which describes itself as a “a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet,” regularly partners with other news organizations on content-sharing and collaboration. More info if you’re interested can be found here.

Carolina Public Press activates its Emergency News Team

The team is focused in part on increasing the amount of coverage of COVID-19 for the Carolina Public Press, but is also available to collaborate with other North Carolina news outlets to help expand their ability to produce news related to the virus.

The team works on first-come, first-serve basis, with first priority given to news organizations located in and serving rural North Carolina. All content will also be available to news organizations across the state for republication and/or rebroadcast.

Covering Climate Now adds coronavirus angle to coverage

What else? Let me know!


👋 Want to learn more about collaborative journalism?


Stefanie Murray is director of the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact her at murrayst@montclair.edu.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair…

Stefanie Murray

Written by

Director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

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