News and information that journalists need to serve the public and stay safe.
March 24, 2020
Post’s David von Drehle: ‘I’m not sure I could survive anything worse’

Longtime Washington Post journalist David von Drehle is “ thankful for my mild to moderate symptoms ” of COVID-19, he said in a column today. Von Drehle writes from Kansas City, where he says, “there is no testing where I live.”

“The closest I came to being tested was on Saturday,” he said. “After my wife spent an entire day on the phone, a nice doctor met me in an emergency room parking lot and taught me to put on a mask. Then she had me stand by the car while she listened to my lungs. She smiled under her mask and said, ‘Given your symptoms, we’ll assume that you have it. Come back if you get worse.’ “ 

Von Drehle said he doesn’t know how he contracted the virus . He works from home, hasn’t traveled recently, and kept his distance. Except at a college basketball game. “I don’t know where I picked it up. It’s everywhere,” he said.

· ‘World News Tonight’ was the most-watched TV show three weeks in a row
· Goldsmith Prize winner & finalists announced online because of coronavirus (Shorenstein Center)
How the Journal Sentinel’s DC bureau chief is covering politics during the pandemic
The Covid-19 outbreak has relegated political coverage from the lead to the inside pages or the middle of television newscasts. But it doesn’t mean the presidential contest and state and local political races are being ignored. It does mean political writers face challenges like nothing they have faced before. Craig Gilbert, the Washington Bureau Chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has often focused on polarization and voting trends. In recent days, he has been watching the remarkable increase in absentee ballot r equests ahead of Wisconsin’s April 7 primary.  
Are you saving political stories for a time when the competition for the readers’ attention won’t be so great?
Gilbert: I have a pipeline of political stories. Some of them will run later than they would have. The timing issues include not just the competition for readers’ attention but the fact that the context for everything has changed. That makes some stories less important or less relevant. Other stories just need to be reframed.

Religion reporting in a time of coronavirus
freelance journalist in Washington, D.C., and a member of the National Press Club Board of Governors

Nearly every faith has stories of religious exemplars who have risked their health and even martyred themselves for their beliefs and ritual practices. Amid persecution, plague, and other dangerous circumstances, religious people have taken their lives in their own hands to attend services at churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples alike, and many prescribe specific prayers, adorations of saints with plague patronage, mystical amulets, or other special religious appeals in the face of health emergencies.

But this weekend, like several before it and perhaps quite a few to come, religious people won’t be commuting to their houses of worship for regular infusions of physical, emotional, and spiritual refuge. This is particularly difficult in these trying and scary times, where the faithful need religious community and guidance the most. It also, in turn, poses challenges for reporters who cover religion and faith. 

As someone who has covered many faith traditions other than the one with which I was raised, spending time in the pews, or otherwise on sacred ground, talking to the religious—clergy and lay people alike—is imperative. This is an exceedingly difficult beat to parachute into and to cover at a distance. Interviewing a minister, rabbi, imam, pastor, priest, or other leader in a respectful yet appropriately-skeptical manner is a tough challenge under normal circumstances; it’s even harder at a time when even the firmest believers contend with pervasive unknowns. And when many of the faithful are convening online for live-streamed services rather than in person, it is difficult to capture the nuances of their experience. Read more.
Try this: Give readers a sense of normalcy when you can
Caitlyn Nelson and her team at The Doane Owl, Doane University’s student-run weekly newspaper, are finding ways to engage their Nebraska audience outside of coronavirus coverage. 

“A strategy I am also working on is ... to try and break up the somberness and urgency and give readers something positive to look at,” the editor said.”These pieces include profiles on students who, for example, competed in a pageant , and others on students who were chosen to direct plays, students who are producing work on iTunes and Spotify, students of the month and students who came together to join a band.”

“I think it is really important to get a little normalcy and positivity in our publications right now when normalcy and positivity is the last thing people are expecting.”

Share your great coverage or ideas , or give a shout out when you see it from others.
Self-care: Your work-from-home setup doesn’t have to be a pain in the neck (or back)
Wondering where that pain in your neck came from? Look at your workspace. 

Most suddenly-at-home employees don’t think to design spaces that support a full workday of sitting at a computer — or a smaller screen laptop.

Natalie Webster , a copy editor for the Houston Chronicle (Texas), shared her advice: 

  • don't underestimate the utility of an actual mouse and external keyboard for a laptop if you can get one; 
  • remember you can turn your tv into a giant screen if you need to and have an HDMI cable;  
  • avoid sitting on your couch (bad for your back); and 
  • keep the room well-lit.

“Correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing and good desk posture” add up to a workstation that supports and doesn’t strain the neck, back and joints, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some of its tips

  • Keep your keyboard and mouse at the same level;
  • Use your phone’s speaker or headphone input instead of cradling your phone; and 
  • Place your monitor in front of you, about an arm’s length away. 

That means you — well, all of us — need to rethink how we’re setting up for those conference calls and video chats.

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.

Get this from a friend? Subscribe , and view the archives .
The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement. Support our important work with a tax-deductible contribution today.