News and information that journalists need to serve the public and stay safe.
March 23, 2020
New York Times reporter records her drive-through (positive) coronavirus test

“Sometimes you report the story, sometimes you are the story,” began Sarah Maslin Nir, in a series of tweets this weekend about her experience with the coronavirus. Maslin Nir shared an image of her positive test result, then fielded questions, including one from her New York Times colleague Jeneen Interlandi , who asked, “how were you able to get a tests?? other folks at NYT haven't been able to! (also, sorry and feel better!)”

Maslin Nir explained, “When I realized I lost my sense of taste and smell I drove to New Rochelle and lined up with other people who didn’t have appointments. Because I’ve been in and out of New Rochelle since March 4 I felt I qualified for a person who had been exposed.” She later shared the video of her drive-through test . And the Times later did a story, pitched by Maslin Nir, on how losing a sense of smell and taste can be a symptom , even in people who do not have a fever. 

Maslin Nir was asked by someone on Twitter whether she got the virus while covering it . She said, “yeah I think so because I’ve been out there since March 4 when our understanding of the disease was not as complete, interviewing people at close distances and touching surfaces unaware.”

Maslin Nir has no regrets about covering the pandemic: “ I don’t think we’re ever pressured to go into hazardous zones,” she told someone on Twitter who asked about the Times’ policy. “I went willingly into this and I would again.”

· Times-Picayune/Advocate temporarily furloughs about 40 employees, starts 4-day workweek (
· What is the obligation of a freelance writer? (Columbia Journalism Review)
Try this: Graphic artist shares his work (and design tips)
On Sunday, Charles Apple ’s hometown got to see the Atlanta-based graphic designer’s pages run in their own The Index-Journal (Greenwood, S.C.). It’s one of 16 newspapers that have reached out to republish two of Apple’s full-page coronavirus graphics — one science piece and one on how to keep kids busy at home — that he made available for use last week

What prompted you and your editor to share the pages with other news organizations? 

It occurred to me that we ought to pass it forward. The editor of the Spokesman-Review, Rob Curley, encouraged me to do that, so we both sent out notes on social media. The hope is that smaller papers that don’t have resources to create material like this can pick it up and use it.

The pages you create are information-dense and reader-friendly. What advice would you share with journalists attempting to achieve the same user impact with their own stories and visuals as coronavirus coverage continues? 

Designing a page that’s reader friendly can be a real trick — especially because the more dense you make the page, the more overwhelming it is for a reader. One of my tricks: I make a list of the four or five main points I want to make each time and then I plan my space to emphasize those main points. 

For the coronavirus topic, all this is extra-difficult because the information is so complex and there is a lot of incorrect or downright false material out there. You want to make sure you’re drawing from reliable sources. 

Read more tips and request the pages from Charles Apple , f eatures designer/graphic artist for the The Spokesman-Review
COVID-19 hinders FOIA; some tips on what to do about it
Getting responses to Freedom of Information Act requests is a perennial challenge for reporters. Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the obstacles are great — and the need for accurate and timely information is greater. 
The FBI and the State Department have restricted their FOIA responses, citing the virus outbreak. 
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press learned the FBI was shutting its FOIA office down when an assistant US attorney replied to one of the committee's FOIA cases. Katie Townsend, the legal director at RCFP, said that is how restrictions are likely to come to light — through legal responses to existing FOIA requests. “Hopefully it doesn’t become a trend,” she said.

Gunita Singh, Jack Nelson/Dow Jones Foundation Legal Fellow for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press shared this advice: 
  • Journalists should submit records requests electronically whenever possible to facilitate their receipt and internal distribution within government. 
  • Target a limited number of records to ensure a timelier response. Ask for expedited processing of requests.
  • Requesters and agencies should keep lines of communication open and be flexible during this time. Many government employees are working from home and may have limited access to agency records and systems.
  • Journalists may try to use traditional means of addressing delay and non-responsiveness under FOIA which include filing administrative appeals and contacting OGIS for assistance.
The RCFP has more resources here on how journalists and government agencies can keep information flowing during COVID-19.
Self-Care: Adjust your workout routine (or start one!)
“I usually go for a run and do Boot Camp, but as of [March 16] my gym was shut down due to precautionary measures being taken by the state. So, I had to adjust my routine. 

The good thing about the social distance situation is that I can still access my backyard and neighborhood for outdoor workouts. I also have access to my wonderful fitness community online that keeps me accountable. If you are looking for workout motivation or tips, feel free to follow me on instagram @maralopez01. I post and share tons of body weight workouts that can be easily done from home. I also encourage running/walking outdoors as long as you are being safe and practicing the 6-feet social distance rule and are not touching unknown surfaces.

Exercising, properly fueling your body, and getting an adequate amount of sleep are paramount to productivity. So while practicing “Social Distancing” from others, remember to also distance yourself from the madness at work to keep your mental stability in check.” 

Digital Producer at WTEN (New York)
This newsletter is written & edited by the National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Jim Kuhnhenn, and Julie Moos. Send us your questions and suggestions for topics to cover.

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