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Oct. 13, 2020, 1:28 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: www.icfj.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   October 13, 2020

The Journalism and the Pandemic Project, a partnership between the International Center for Journalists and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, published the first part of their global survey of journalists on Tuesday.

The results were “startling and disturbing,” wrote project authors Julie Posetti, Emily Bell, and Peter Brown:

Based on an analysis of 1,406 vetted survey completions during the pandemic’s first wave, we can conclude that many journalists covering this devastating human story, at great personal risk, were clearly struggling to cope. Seventy percent of our respondents rated the psychological and emotional impacts of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis as the most difficult aspect of their work. A similar number (67%) identified concerns about financial hardship as a significant difficulty, while the intense workload was ranked the third biggest challenge, ahead of social isolation and the risk of actually contracting the virus.

The English-language survey was conducted in May and June, during what we were calling “the first wave” of the pandemic in the U.S., and the vetted respondents came from 125 countries. (The responses collected in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian will be included in a later report.)

The cuts have been deep as the financial fallout of Covid-19 has prompted some newsrooms to reduce spending, layoff or furlough staff, or close up for good. A full 70% of respondents reported that they’d been personally affected by at least one cutback — including 21% who’d had their pay reduced, 6% who’d lost their jobs, and 2% who said their outlets had closed entirely. Of the 38% who said their newsrooms had been “adversely affected” by the pandemic, nearly half said revenues had declined by more than 50%.

It’s not all that surprising, then, that journalists said the number one thing that would help them do their jobs more effectively is more money. More than three-quarters said their publication could use funds to meet basic operating costs (including salaries). Training and equipment for remote reporting also registered high on the wishlists.

The report also showed journalists grappling with a lack of personal protective equipment, increasing online harassment, sources worried about reprisal, and disinformation from public officials, as co-author Julie Posetti summarized in a thread on Twitter:

It wasn’t all bad news. About half of respondents said their audience’s trust in their news organization had increased during the first wave of the pandemic and 38% said they’d experienced an uptick in audience engagement. “These comparatively optimistic findings may be key to reimagining post-pandemic journalism as a more mission-driven and audience-centered public service,” the authors wrote.

You can download the full report here.

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