News and information that journalists need to serve the public and stay safe.
April 3, 2020
AP editor dies from COVID-19
Nick Jesdanun, a deputy technology editor for the Associated Press, has died from coronavirus in New York, AP CEO Gary Pruitt announced to the staff on Friday. Jesdanun, known as an avid marathoner , joined the AP in 1991 as an intern in the wire service’s Philadelphia office. He was the first AP staffer to earn the title of “Internet Writer.”  

“He was a quiet, humble and kind person with deep expertise in his subject matter,” Pruitt said. Colleagues mourned him as “ generous and patient ,” an “ absolutely treasured colleague ,” and a “gentle and sweet” co-worker.

“As this pandemic sweeps across the globe, it is affecting all of us in profound and personal ways,” Pruitt said.
Medical professionals are developing health policy on the fly, as the coronavirus forces quick decisions. Journalists are reporting on the impact as soon as it's visible.

New York Times investigative reporter Sarah Kliff likens policy to the vegetables of news coverage. It’s the thing you should read, but can seem a little...nutritious, while politics are like the dessert.  

At the National Press Club Journalism Institute’s “ Covering Policy for the Public ” writing workshop earlier this year, Kliff offered advice on how to make policy coverage more palatable. 

  • Draw readers in with a personal connection instead of dryly reciting facts and figures. Show real examples of what is happening around the country. There are clear, personal effects of every policy, so find a character who reflects the consequences of policymaking. Kliff’s piece, “The case of the $629 Band-Aid — and what it reveals about American health care,” is an example. One family’s trip to the emergency room for a cut finger resulted in a high medical bill. This snapshot emphasizes the way facility fees can vex the American healthcare system and the people who use it.
  • Use real people to explain a particular policy. “Experts” can be less informed than those affected by a certain policy. Talk to every player in the situation to get a complete picture. “If you collect enough stories, anecdotes start turning into a data set,” Kliff said.
  • Keep the article focused by highlighting only the most compelling narratives, even if you talk to dozens of sources. (You can always save characters for a follow-up piece.) For example, Kliff’s article on a “$20,243 bike crash” uses the story of injured cyclist Nina Dang to illustrate how Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center’s billing practices can cost privately insured patients tens of thousands of dollars for care that would likely cost them significantly less at other hospitals. 

Click here to read more of Kliff's tips on telling policy stories.

Coming Monday: Kliff’s tips on how to find the right people for your policy story.
NYT reporter Sarah Kliff shares advice during “Covering Policy for the Public,” an Institute workshop held Feb. 28, 2020.

Working from home these days consists of Zoom meetings, recording coronavirus briefings off TV and conducting remote interviews. That can mean a lot of transcribing. But you no longer have to spend an eternity adjusting ear phones and thumbing the replay button on your recorder. With the help of technology, there are many tools available for journalists to transcribe audio on a deadline (and a budget). 

Here are tools you can use for free:

Google Docs Voice Typing . This tool comes pre-installed in the Google Docs software. Its purpose is to serve those who cannot easily type or who prefer to dictate notes, but reporters can use it to play back audio files and the Voice Typing tool will automatically transcribe the words in real time. Quartz reporter Leah Fessler tested it for an hour-long interview and noted the accuracy, including proper names and grammar. 

  • To begin, start a new Google Doc. Under the “Tools” dropdown menu, select “Voice Typing.” You will now see the recording icon. (Note, you can also switch languages at the top dropdown menu.)
  • Click on the microphone to start the dictation. You’ll need to have your computer’s microphone turned on for it to work.

Two tips: Make sure to keep the Google Doc window open during the entire interview, otherwise the recording will stop, and make sure to work in a quiet space, or excessive background noise will result in reduced accuracy.  

Otter . This free app offers a real-time transcript of dictation, conversations or even a meeting. Simply hit record on the web site and the app will start transcribing the session. It also allows the user to download recordings that the app can transcribe while the user completes other tasks. 

The transcript features timestamps throughout the text, which are essential because the transcription still requires careful review. However, the app will play the recording and follow the transcript. Moreover, you can advance to a portion of the transcript and automatically play the sound to check accuracy. The app also distinguishes between two speakers and identifies them separately in the transcript. Here’s a PCMag review from 2018.

Read on to learn about another free tool , and share your favorite  transcription tools. We'll feature them in a future newsletter.

Advice from  Jill Geisler ,
Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago
Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

We treasure our journalism superstars; the master muckrakers, sense-makers and storytellers. Always will.

Now, let’s give some love to a few other newsroom heroes, whose efforts, in the midst of chaos, make everyone better. They lift the team. They lead from wherever they are.

Here’s a salute to:

The MacGyvers : They are the wizards of workarounds. They revive hardware, revitalize software, find substitute tools and reroute systems – all when budgets are tight and options seemingly limited. Their resourcefulness not only solves production problems, it’s protecting the physical and mental health of co-workers.

The Planners : They ensure that we’re looking beyond today. Stories, staffing, supplies. Their backups and follow-ups reduce our screwups.

The Calm in the Storm: They anchor us during stress with their clarity, focus and unflappability. Their very presence in the room reduces tension; their cool heads are contagious.

The Coaches : They’re the ones we turn to when we’re frustrated or fearful. They’re the listeners and the encouragers. They know when to let us vent, how to help us figure things out for ourselves, and when to challenge our perspectives – all the while making us feel better for the conversation.

The Catalysts: They are the organizers of social moments when distance is damaging us, the groupthink-challengers who get us to look at different perspectives and the rascals who love to make us laugh (including at the boss.)

If you’re blessed to work with any of these heroes, don’t take them for granted. Don’t assume they know how much they’re appreciated. Deliver the applause they deserve.

Let the words of the late legendary Bill Withers say it for us all, “Just one look at you – and I know it’s gonna be a lovely day."
Self-Care: Posture makes a difference
No bones about it: Posture plays a role in pain management. “Good posture means the bones carry the weight of your body,” said Dr. Karen Erickson, spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association, in an email interview with the Institute. “Aligning your posture lets your bones do the work, not your muscles.” This prevents muscle spasm, pain and inflammation — even headaches, she said. Here’s Dr. Erickson’s cheat sheet: 

  • Sit in a good chair (even a wooden one) on your sit bones, with a little arch in your lower back. Avoid the slouch — that half-sitting, half-lying position so many of us use to lounge on the sofa or in bed. 
  • When sitting, put both feet on the floor with a right angle at your knees. Avoid crossing legs or tucking in feet. 
  • To avoid neck pain, keep your sc​reen a​t eye level, whether you use a laptop or monitor. Use books or a stand, if necessary.
  • Keep your head erect, in line with your torso. “For every inch your head is forward it increases the weight by 10 pounds,” Dr. Erickson said.
  • Shoulders should be dropped and relaxed, with elbows hanging down, centered at the seam line of your shirt. 
  • Keep your sternum or breastbone lifted. This keeps your torso, head and shoulders erect. 

Don’t be surprised if you frequently catch yourself with poor posture. “As your habits change, you’ll be able to spot any trouble right away and fix it,” Erickson said. “If you catch yourself slumping, just chuckle and think, ‘I can fix this.’ And fix it. Done!”

Read on for more self-care tips, or share your own .
Brackets are now open and accepting predictions. Make your picks by midnight, April 8.
This newsletter is written & edited by the National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, Jim Kuhnhenn, and Julie Moos. Send us your questions and suggestions for topics to cover.

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