Classroom connection: COVID-19 news coverage


As news organizations have continued to lay off, furlough or cut the pay of their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic (28,000 and counting, The New York Times reported last week), fundraisers and other supportive efforts are emerging to assist affected journalists and newsrooms. For example, Microloans for Journalists, a program created by journalists, connects journalists in the United States who need financial assistance with other U.S. journalists who are willing to lend them $500, interest-free. The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund is providing more than $2.5 million in grants to several local news organizations to support their coverage of the pandemic.

On April 7, the News Media Alliance, a trade association for news publishers, noted that the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency had refined its language about “essential” businesses to include “publishing news.” The next day, 19 Senate Democrats sent a letter (PDF) to the chamber’s Republican and Democratic leaders and the chairman and the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, requesting that any additional COVID-19 stimulus package include financial support for local news outlets, which have been hit particularly hard in this crisis, even as their work becomes more important.

Discuss news outlets’ roles

What role do news outlets play during a public health crisis? What are some of the ways that you can support local journalism in your community? Are you seeking out more local news coverage now than you were before the pandemic? What are some differences between national news coverage of the pandemic and the news provided by your local outlets?

Track COVID-19 news coverage

Ask students to track local news coverage of the pandemic and select what they believe is the most valuable piece of coronavirus-related local news. Then have students share their selections in small groups and agree on one story to share with the entire class. Finally, have the class vote on the best local story about the pandemic, then email or message the journalist to see if they would be willing to join the class for a short video conference about their reporting.

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