Lockdown journalism digest: reporting, engaging and planning for the future

The Covid-19 lockdown is changing journalism. Here's a few signposts on that road.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

A busy and slightly surreal day today, as I run online strategy workshops across three continents for a client - from my tiny study in Shoreham-by-Sea. I'm in the lull between the Asia time zone workshop and the US one, so here's a handful of interesting and useful reading for you.

Positivity isn't the media's role

Paul Bradshaw has written an interesting and challenging take on the "journalists should be more positive" idea that's circulating. This is related to the good news trend I wrote about last week, but is distinct from it. Paul's point — and it is a good one — is that holding government to account is necessary even at times like this.

And possibly especially at times like this:

When journalists reported on the lack of attention being paid to deaths in social care it forced the authorities to pay more attention and communicate what they were doing; when journalists reported on a lack of PPE, it pushed the politicians into action. It was questions about help for the self-employed that were followed by the announcement of an initiative to support them.
Yes, journalists have asked dumb questions at the daily briefing too, and not every piece of journalism has been great, but journalists have been identified as key workers by the Government itself for a reason: their contribution is needed.

This actually sits alongside my piece from last week quite nicely. Paul is arguing for better and more focused news reporting on critical issues. I'm arguing that other journalists need to do other things, too.

There's a danger of the absolutely critical reporting around the novel coronavirus being drowned out in the deluge of second and third order pieces. But that's something I'll delve into later in the week.

Is the press missing the mood of the country over coronavirus?
If you’re in a WhatsApp group or following social media right now, chances are that you’ve seen someone complaining about journalists “missing the mood” in the country. As someone who teaches…

Lockdown Audience Engagement

Nice idea from one publisher here:

Dalesman Publishing challenges readers to design magazine covers - Journalism News from HoldtheFrontPage
Budding artists and graphic designers urged to enter contest

One of the challenges of the transition to the post-Lockdown world is maintaining and developing the enhanced relationships some publishers are developing with their readers during the crisis. But to do that, you need to find ways of helping and supporting your community through this crisis.

And many publishers are suddenly remembering that they are, at their heart, serving a community. And that involving that community is a good idea.

This is about more than consumer mags, of course.

On a related note, I had my first “online only” issue of an otherwise print magazineOutdoor Swimmer — this weekend. That's a mag whose entire raison d'être is pretty much banned at the moment. And yet, they're leaning into the community aspect of the magazine's identity, and including some fun reader contributions.

It's worth bagging a digital copy, for the learning, even if the idea of swimming in anything other than a nice heated pool gives you hives.

Content production in the age of Coronavirus

A few countries are beginning to ease lockdown, but absent something major like a vaccine or the discovery that infection is far more widespread than expected, we're likely to be dealing with social distancing until next year at the very least.

This is my gentle prompt to start thinking about how you're going to run production in a world where you're not in the same office - and your journalists might struggle to do face-to-face interviews.

5 changes to expect in the workplace after COVID-19
A senior partner of a leadership consultancy says, “Rather than waiting for reentry and being reactive, leaders need to prepare, setting expectations for the ways of working that will benefit the organization down the road.”

Incidentally, I've been thinking about this at one level or another for 15 years now, since the days when I became slightly over-obsessed with the fact that it was very odd that Farmers Weekly journalists spent most of their time in suburban Sutton, and ended up helping facilitate liveblogging from the ring-side of agricultural shows.

If I can help your publication or website navigate this transition, do drop me a line.

My friends over at the Media Voices Podcast (who were, of course, the last editorial team of the late, lamented Media Briefing) are launching a daily morning newsletter, curating the most important media stories each day.

Worth a sub:

Introducing The Media Roundup from Media Voices - Media Voices Podcast
The internet is awash with breaking news, analysis, deep dives and hot takes on the media industry. But there’s little …
lockdowncoronavirus pandemicaudience engagementremote workingreporting

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.