News and information that journalists need to serve the public and stay safe.
March 25, 2020
Post readers still want their Fix of politics news ‘as a kind of escape’ from coronavirus

Every Thursday at noon, a team of Washington Post reporters go live online to answer reader questions about politics. Even as the nation’s attention focuses on the coronavirus pandemic, politics remains a subject of interest, especially to Washington Post readers. So “Politics Live with The Fix” is still a go-to chat for many.

As The Fix editor Natalie Jennings noted, “The Fix team is coming to you from our homes in and around Washington D.C. this week, where we’ve been looking at all the ways the coronavirus touches politics — from the White House to Capitol Hill to the campaign trail.” 

We wanted to know how the landscape had changed for Jennings and team members Amber Phillips , Aaron Blake , Eugene Scott and JM Rieger . Phillips responded to our questions.
As people hunker down at home, how are you interacting with readers and how does that compare with how you did before the pandemic?
Phillips : Chats offer a more direct way for readers to connect with Post journalists than other channels, like email or social media, since reporters are responding in real time. In all our chats, not just on The Fix, readers tell us they appreciate this access to Post reporters. On our side, these chats give us an opportunity to lift the curtain on our reporting for readers.
In the Fix chat and in my 5-Minute Fix newsletter , I hear from readers who say they just want to talk about politics separate from coronavirus, as a kind of escape or break from the main news. ... As you can imagine, our chat on Thursday (March 19), the first time the country was really under social distancing guidelines, was very busy!
As political writers, what impact do you think the pandemic will have on reader interest on electoral politics?
Phillips : I think it will heighten interest in not only who controls the White House but also Congress and state governments. So much of the pandemic response has been driven by states and localities; those are the politicians most affecting people’s lives during this with their decisions. Also, we don't have precedent for a major global pandemic hitting the nation just eight months before a presidential election. 

Learn more about The Fix's digital engagement in our extended Q&A with Phillips.
How journalists can cover the AI analysis of COVID-19 treatments

Artificial intelligence researchers are diving into the question of what coronavirus treatments work best for patients. Here are some “AI and coronavirus” stories that your publication may have the scope to cover.

AI researchers are mining a public dataset to find “hidden” lessons on countering coronavirus
  • Here’s a public dataset of machine-readable medical literature, showing dozens of targeted research tasks that researchers have been invited to pursue. 

Data scientists are exploring the efficacy of existing drugs that could be helpful in treating coronavirus patients
  • One AI task listed on the public dataset is to “aggregate” the results of clinical and bench trials, to identify the effectiveness of “less common viral inhibitors against COVID-19 such as naproxen, clarithromycin, and minocycline that that may exert effects on viral replication.” 

Apparently some group is applying AI to a dataset of coronavirus patient data, including the treatments used and the patient outcomes (survival or death), to identify effective treatments
  • Asked whether AI could be used to analyze the relative effectiveness of COVID-19 treatments that doctors are trying, Dr. Josh Sharfstein of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said “yes, that’s being done.” Sharfstein serves as the school’s vice dean for public health practice and community engagement.
  • Such AI analysis requires a large dataset, and given privacy regulations, it is difficult to access any clinical data outside of a given medical system.
  • Open questions are: which medical system(s) are providing the anonymized patient data for AI analysis; which AI teams are conducting the analysis; and how are the results being communicated to hospital physicians worldwide?
  • New York City hospitals have a self-interest in providing data to AI researchers. Two large health systems in the U.S., Kaiser Permanente and the Veteran’s Administration, each have data on millions of patients and could choose to make it available. So could the United Kingdom’s health system, which apparently already compiles patient data in an anonymized form.

Share your great coverage or ideas , or give a shout out when you see it from others.
Self-care: Remember to breathe

Right now, It’s time to come up for some air — literally. 

Deep breathing is scientifically shown to reduce anxiety and stress. Many of us, especially in chaotic times, let our breathing go on autopilot, resulting in shallow breathing that leads to increased stress

But not everyone has a watch that will remind them when they need to inhale and exhale. So, stop what you are doing and try these techniques: 

  • 4-4-8 Breathing: Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and release for eight seconds. Repeat several times. 
  • Belly breathing: Breathe through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Exhale and repeat several times. 
  • Breath meditation: Focus all attention on your breath, closing your eyes and practicing deep inhalation and exhalation. 
  • Breathing breaks: Take numerous short breaks in the day, raising your arms over your head while you take a deep breath and release it slowly. Or, listen to this playlist that will guide you through breathing.

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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