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Newsonomics: What was once unthinkable is quickly becoming reality in the destruction of local news
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March 3, 2020, 2:10 p.m.

Not to alarm you, but coronavirus-focused news products are spreading very quickly

The number of pop-up newsletters and podcasts is expected to keep climbing.

National news outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN are restricting travel for staff because of the coronavirus outbreaks in the United States and around the world. The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani reported that other newsrooms are taking unique precautions to avoid the virus: “Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget sent an email to staff last week suggesting staff try alternatives to shaking hands, including ‘bumping elbows or tapping their feet together’ when meeting with guests.”

But none of this greetings revisionism has stopped anyone from launching pop-up news products. If you’re itching for more information about coronavirus and its specific impacts, there’s a product for you and it’s probably free. There are so many coronavirus newsletters popping up that even the same Twitter jokes are going viral.

A (necessarily partial) list:

Yesterday, CNN launched Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction, a free daily podcast hosted by chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta. In the first episode, Gupta addresses some of the most common questions about the virus. Today’s episode is about the effectiveness of face masks in reducing spread of the virus.

Quartz’s newsletter Coronavirus: Need to Know is also free and will inform subscribers about how the virus is affecting the global economy a few times a week. The first edition is expected to go out today.

The Coronavirus Newsletter by BuzzFeed News breaks down the number of cases in the U.S. and around the world and provides one update a week, including a “tip of the day.” The first one: Don’t go shopping for face masks because they don’t prevent infection. (Another tip: Click on the tweet below to see the payoff at the bottom of the image.)

Morning Consult, which specializes in survey research and polling, is now updating its weekly consumer confidence indices every day to track consumer responses to the virus.

Viral: Coronavirus, a weekly podcast from the studio Three Uncanny Four, launched yesterday with a 28-minute primer on what the virus is, why this virus has a specific name, and the effects it’s had on the market.

The Washington Post’s To Your Health: Coronvirus newsletter is a takeover of the regular To Your Health newsletter and is focused on general interest coronavirus news, with bullet-point updates on major stories and links to other reporting by the Post on the virus.

The New York Times’ Coronavirus Briefing daily newsletter sums up the day’s major developments and offers tips on what you need to know after reading the updates. It also includes an FAQ at the bottom of the newsletter with answers to basic questions about the virus.

USA Today has launched its own Coronavirus Watch newsletter, which includes answering questions from readers. (“Gary in Victorville, Calif., wants to know: Are medical masks effective in preventing infection?”)

In local news, The Dallas Morning News will send out breaking news updates in a newsletter starting tomorrow about “the latest on the coronavirus and how it’s affecting Texans locally, across in the U.S., and internationally.” The DMN’s homepage also lists “Coronavirus Updates” as the top issue under its “What Matters” section.

In the Pacific Northwest, the region of the U.S. hardest hit thus far, The Oregonian is publishing Oregon Coronavirus News each day at 1 p.m. PT, starting out with local updates then spreading out to news from the region, country, and world.

KUOW in Seattle has live blog updates in English and Spanish on its website as there have been 17 confirmed cases of the virus in Washington.

Stephen Stirling, the project editor for Columbia Journalism Investigations, started his own daily newsletter Coronaviral on updates in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (and Pennsylvania, depending what you include in tri-state). Stirling wants to track the fluctuation of people wearing surgical masks on the subway compared to major news updates and asks for submissions.

McClatchy launched a daily update newsletter called Coronavirus: Latest News that rounds up coverage from all of its 29 properties and goes out at 5 p.m. ET. Some of its local newspapers will send out the same daily newsletter to its subscribers while other properties on the west coast will be more locally focused.

And all of that isn’t even counting the various Substack newsletters and podcasts coming from non-media sources, even random citizens. (Searching your favorite podcast app will turn up dozens of shows, a number of them seemingly from people just looking to ride the wave of interest.)

So if you’re sitting in your newsroom right now and wondering if you should jump on this train, here are some tips from the Asian American Journalists Association on how you shouldn’t report on coronavirus.

Now wash your hands.

Illustration of the “ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses” by Alissa Eckert/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

POSTED     March 3, 2020, 2:10 p.m.
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