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July 13, 2020, 12:06 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: documentingcovid19.io  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   July 13, 2020

If you’re The New York Times, you have the money and the resources to, say, sue the CDC for federal data on how Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting people of color. Most newsrooms, it probably goes without saying, aren’t in that position, especially since the advertising downturn caused by the pandemic leads to cuts and layoffs.

Here’s something that might help those strapped newsrooms report on Covid-19 for their communities: On Monday, Columbia’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation launched Documenting Covid-19, a repository of local, state, and federal documents related to the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Monday, the site had compiled 54 document sets across 29 states. In some cases, the Brown Institute itself is filing FOIA requests for the records itself; in other cases, it’s working with local and national newsrooms to file the requests (and is covering the fees), flagging possibly newsworthy findings, and collaborating on projects. It’s also inviting newsrooms and the public to submit any FOIA materials they already have.

So far, the collaboration is mostly with larger newsrooms: The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Atlantic’s Covid Tracking Project. But “we hope that local newsrooms, in particular, use the site to help with their ongoing Covid-19 coverage,” said project lead Derek Kravitz. Get in there!

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