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Issue for November 2020

Will Journalists Get the Covid Vaccine First?

Posted on Sunday, November 29, 2020 at 10:28 PM

In the news: A recent Poynter.org piece discusses whether or not journalists will likely be among the first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

When we talk about first-line responders, we typically think about doctors, nurses, and other emergency personnel leading the charge against the Covid-19 pandemic. But there are also provisions in place for journalists, as demonstrated by a formal request filed this week. Al Tompkins of Poynter.org reports that the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has asked the CDC to include journalists who interact with the public regularly among the wave of first responders who get the vaccine first.

Per Tompkins, “NPPA says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency set a precedent for putting people working in “telecommunications” high on the list of those who would get COVID-19 immunizations when it recognized front-line news reporters as critical infrastructure workers.” What’s more, “DHS and CISA refined the vague, broad language to recognize journalists as essential workers.” Read more here.

Also Notable

Health Check: How Are Magazines Faring in the Pandemic?

Earlier this month, Kali Hays of Women’s Wear Daily assessed how the magazine industry, both digital and print, are faring these days. As one might expect, some magazines are doing better than others. Summing up the state of things, Hays writes: “Nearly 40 percent of magazines that publish on at least a quarterly basis have seen their audiences decline so far this year, according to updated data from the Alliance for Audited Media.... That’s on top of a major pullback in advertising this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the related contraction of the global economy.” Read more here.

Special Report: A Changing Newsroom Landscape

In the Winter 2020 edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, Kyle Pope examines how the dawning Biden administration and ongoing pandemic may deal some harsh blows to an already ailing news industry. Newsrooms that were still struggling despite Trump-era subscription boosts were hit hard by the Covid pandemic. “Some editors took pay cuts, others were laid off, and a few outlets shuttered,” Pope says. “Reporters were cast out by the dozen. Now the winter is upon us, and the pandemic is worsening. The human costs will be severe, as will the stakes for news advertising revenue and subscriptions. Many small newsrooms received federal bailout money, but the prospect of another tranche is grim.” Pope also notes that news sources that thrived on unpredictable news cycles in the Trump era will likely see revenue declines: “Once January arrives and Trump leaves the White House, it’s likely that the subscription surges and record viewership enjoyed by the biggest newsrooms during his tenure will begin to recede.” Read more here.

A Push to Classify Social Media as Publishers

In a recent Editor & Publisher piece, TAPInto.net CEO/publisher Michael Shapiro makes a case for reclassifying social media sites as publishers under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Currently, social media sites are shielded from liability for user-generated content, but Shapiro argues that it’s time for this to change. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree; Shapiro notes that “Democrats believe that platforms aren’t doing enough to moderate disinformation and hate speech, while Republicans are arguing that platforms are censoring conservative perspectives.” So while the current arrangement is beneficial to the social media companies themselves, allowing them to proliferate unchecked as new sources, that arrangement is a threat to democracy, says Shapiro. “Without a framework for more effective moderation,” he says, “Americans are getting an increasingly steady diet of disinformation and misinformation that is given credibility by its spread on social media. This is having a deleterious effect on American civic life and is leading to increased polarization.” Read more here.

The Year’s Best Magazine Covers

In a year full of earth-shattering headlines, which magazine covers made their mark? Which best captured the essence of what was, for many, a rough year? Caysey Welton of Foliomag.com rounds up some of 2020’s best cover designs. Included are the New Yorker’s June 22 Black Lives Matter cover, with art by Kadir Nelson, and New York Times Magazine’s May 24 “What We’ve Learned in Quarantine” cover, with art by Brian Rea. To see all the featured covers, click here.

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The Two Faces of Covid

Posted on Sunday, November 29, 2020 at 10:28 PM

Q. Has Covid hurt or helped your publication? A. It depends.

By William Dunkerley

Publishers, like other businesses in our economy, have been impacted in different ways by the pandemic.

Recently, a luxury car dealer told me that his business is up. People can't spend money as usual on other things, so they're buying cars, he explains. Some of his good fortune might also result from some people wanting to avoid the risks of public transportation.

But just miles down Route 10 from the car dealership, a favorite local gourmet restaurant remains shuttered. Its Facebook page proclaims no plans for reopening anytime soon.

Covid-19 is not an equal-opportunity business scourge.

Editors are united in the business of publishing. But the content we produce has roots in a wide variety of vastly different business sectors and geographic areas. That's why we're not all feeling Covid in the same way.

EO just did a quick survey of a select few editors. We wanted to find out the extent to which the pandemic has hurt or helped their publications. Here's what we found:

William Jones, editor-in-chief of Independent Agent, explains there are two sides of the coin, one positive, the other a serious challenge.

"Financially, advertising sales have been consistent with an increase in online advertising sales. Engagement with our online content is up. Due to the uncertainty in the economy and the insurance industry, our readers have been more engaged with the most relevant stories."

But his B2B publication also had a practical problem to overcome.

"As a print magazine, ensuring the issues get into our reader's hands was a concern. We usually mail to offices, but with many closed and workers moving to remote we were concerned (as were our advertisers) that our readers were not receiving the magazine.

"We addressed this by providing the opportunity for the magazine to be rerouted to home addresses. Additionally, with no end to the pandemic in sight, our editorial process has made it challenging to produce relevant content up to two months in advance of publication."

Rich Calbay at Dub Publishing is in the car business, too. Urban custom cars are his field. But there is no Covid upside there.

"Ad sales are down across the board. We had to let go of almost all the staff. Our principal challenges are ad sales, staff, and not having events, which we rely on to promote our magazines.

For Kathleen Stoehr, director of community and content strategy at Informa Connect, the answer is simple. We asked if Covid-19 helped or hurt her publishing work.

She replied, simply, "Hurt; advertising."

Some Other Takes

Tricia Bisoux, co-editor, BizEd magazine:

"Covid has led the association that publishes our magazine to convert it from print to an all-digital format. In addition, starting in January, our content will be published under a new title, whose name is more closely connected to the association's brand.

"Our primary challenges have involved how to notify readers of the format change and how to revise our publication schedule and editorial calendar. For example, where we once had a set number of pages in our print edition, we now have relatively unlimited space online.

"We also had a predetermined production schedule to follow; we now are working out the nature of our online production schedule and editorial calendar topics.

"In addition, it has been a challenge to determine how much copy to post to the website, when to post it, and how to notify readers that new copy is available."

Dave Fusaro, editor-in-chief, Food Processing magazine:

"Covid has had only a small negative effect on us. Our magazine and brand (Food Processing) goes to the food and beverage manufacturing industry, and that sector has been pretty immune to the effects of Covid. In fact, some of the makers of traditional products are having great years in terms of sales.

"I think the pandemic has stalled some of their expansive spending on capital projects and new R&D, so our advertiser base is hurting a little.

"That and the general economic slowdown has hurt us in only a small way. With a minimal events business, our company has not been hurt by the cancellation of in-person events. On the other hand, our webinar business has taken off -- apparently advertisers still want some sort of (pseudo) face time with clients, and they're probably spending money that had been allocated to in-person events."

Yvonne Hill, publications director, America's Boating Club:

"Covid-19 has hurt The Ensign magazine. We've been printing our association magazine for 108 years, but this fall, due to a drop in revenue, we moved our quarterly magazine entirely online.

"Our magazine is published by America's Boating Club, a nonprofit membership organization that before the pandemic had been teaching in-person boating safety classes.

"Because of the loss of revenue, our organization developed an online learning platform, and the communications staff expanded its email and social media marketing efforts to help promote these new offerings. The staff also launched a 'Giving Tuesday' campaign for the first time ever.

"All of this has made the communications staff a larger contributor to the bottom line.

"The challenges have been to tackle these new tasks with a small staff and a tight budget while also working remotely. To do more with less, we've also had to work smarter."

Bradley Worrell, editor, RV PRO magazine:

"Our B2B publication covers the recreational vehicle (RV) industry, which is actually experiencing a strong upswing in demand as people seek to get outdoors while maintaining social distancing. So the magazine is faring relatively well as it relates to advertising, reader engagement, etc.

"A downside to Covid-19 is that all of our in-person industry events have been canceled or replaced with virtual events, which just isn't the same. Also, it is more difficult now to do company profiles, as many businesses are still operating under state or local restrictions that limit their operations, which complicates efforts to arrange in-person photo shoots and interviews.

"In summary, I believe my trade publication is better off than others, but I am still looking forward to a time when Covid is no more and things return to normal."

Reporting Up the Chain of Command

Editor-in-Chief of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Jayne Haugen Olson, gave us an inside glimpse of her personal challenges in dealing with ownership at her company. She reports:

"I actually just spoke to this Covid issue with our executive team last week during our monthly meeting with ownership. Our company publishes both Mpls.St.Paul and Twin Cities Business.

"In addition to Covid, our community was rattled to our core when George Floyd was murdered by police on the streets of our city.

"Here are the bullets I used to guide my report:

We believe in the strength of our brands, our owned titles, but this year has crystallized our purpose:
--The editorial mission of both
TCB and Mpls.St.Paul: to serve as stewards of our audiences both B2B and B2C
--The commitment to the community and how we show up when our audiences need our leadership
--The strength of our seasoned staff, their experience, and relationships
--The relationship with our client base, and the trust they have in us
--The reliability of our products and services: we never skipped a beat and showed up in new and inventive ways
--And our responsiveness to real-time challenges our clients and community face.

In direct answer to EO's survey, Olson commented:

"This year has helped our business as a brand, though we have been hurt by lost revenue.

"As a team it helped us to see what we were capable of when working under the most extreme of circumstances. We made swift shifts to redirect our July issue and had a George Floyd cover and 16-page story.

"We are extremely proud of our quick to market efforts to support local restaurants, Black-owned businesses, and now local retail as we head into the key holiday season. When our cities were sheltering in place in April/May we launched MSPtv -- a daily show on our social channels that included: "Quarantine Sessions" with noted local musicians, cooking classes with noted chefs, Monday morning workouts with in-demand fitness/wellness experts, plus conversations with noteworthy Twin Citians. It was our way to keep our audiences connected to the cities they love.

"Principal challenges? Our teams are tired. Staff worked under 20 percent furlough for nearly 8 months. We also had some layoffs, so resources are stretched thin. Parents were juggling work-from-home as well as supporting children who are distance learning. Plus we were navigating our typical boots-to-the-pavement local reporting and photography in these most unusual of times.

"The passion remains, yet the fatigue is real."

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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Statistics That Tell the Story

Posted on Sunday, November 29, 2020 at 10:27 PM

These days we hear a lot of Covid statistics in the news. But no matter what your journalistic focus, stats can sometimes come in handy. Used with care, numbers can add clarity, meaning, and depth to writing.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Let your writers know, when necessary, that people fall in love with people, not statistics.

There is an overdependence on numbers in exposition and argumentation. That's not because they are easy to use, because they aren't. It's probably because they are easy to gather. In information gathering, they are often the path of least resistance.

If statistics are necessary, make sure they are not overused. Too many numbers in the story can overwhelm the reader. They also can confuse the reader and hide the true nature of the message.

On the other hand, if statistics are necessary, make sure they are not underused. That can result in reader puzzlement.

Insist that usage be selective. Insist that every number used clarifies. Insist that distortion is dishonesty. Insist that accuracy, in statistics as elsewhere, is a journalistic necessity.

And encourage creativity so that statistics gain meaning, make a point, summarize, contextualize.

"Put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral," Sir James Jeans, the esteemed British scientist, once suggested, "and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space with stars."

That's vastness clarified.

Be Selective

"In the 15 minutes it takes to read these two pages," wrote Timothy Aeppel in the Christian Science Monitor years ago, "more than 2,200 people will be added to the world's population. Each week we add the equivalent of another Houston; each year, another Mexico."

That was Aeppel's way of explaining the earth's explosive population growth in an article titled "5 Billion and Counting." Scope and enormity are clearly identified. The statistics were carefully chosen. They're the more effective for having been used sparingly. The author has not flooded us.

Symbolically Portrayed

Remember the marvelous special explanation John McPhee used in Basin and Range? "With your arms spread wide again to represent all time on earth," he said, "look at one hand with its line of life. The Cambrian begins in the wrist, and the Permian Extinction is at the outer end of the palm. All of the Cenozoic is in a fingerprint, and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history."

No statistics at all except by implication. How much that says. How vividly that explains.

Facts with Impact

If the writer finds the right statistic, the message is immediately enunciated; no elaboration is required. As, for example, once when a US News & World Report writer told me that every minute of every day, 53 acres of the world's tropical rain forests are cleared. Shocking. Then the writer does some multiplying to let me know those 53 acres times 53 acres times 53 acres and so forth turn into more than 43,000 square miles a year, an area the size of Ohio or Tennessee. Staggering.

A Compelling Play on Numbers

An article in an airline magazine asked me to "imagine one of our giant 747s flying at full cruising speed of 500 knots giving forth twin vapor trails of government forms ... vapor trails with a total width of five feet and as long as the 747’s flight on an around-the-clock basis for 38 days and nights. Such a flow of forms, 19.5 billion in number, would be equal to the forms used in the federal system in a single year."

That's playing with numbers, and playing is always potentially dangerous. But in this case, I find a compelling point on the verge of being made. The writer then continues with some well-crafted wordsmithery: "long forms, short forms, multi-page forms -- forms with middling questions to mystify the mind and anger the spirit, forms with small print to blearify the eyes and dull the heart, and forms with tiny spaces to crampify the hand and imprison the intellect. Forms to kill the dream."

That's the way to use statistics.

Theoretically Speaking...

Now, remember, and ask your writers to remember, one can do anything with statistics. The president of the American Society for the Conservation of Gravity, for instance, once told me: "Americans, with only 6 percent of the world's population, use 68 percent of the gravity. What goes up requires gravity to come down. Our countless skyscrapers with elevators whizzing, our huge jet freighters, our incessant rocket launchings bear witness to our shameful national don't-give-a-damn attitude. Gravity is our most precious terrestrial resource. It is a vital resource. And it is a nonrenewable resource. When we run out, everything will float off the Earth's surface into space. Women and children will go first."

Yes, indeed, one can do anything with statistics. If your article is about strange flora and fauna and you attribute the above to source, that's fine, of course. Otherwise? Enough said.

Potent Truisms

I was more impressed with a statistical package created more than 30 years ago by Dr. Henry Leiper of the Congregational Christian Churches and the American Bible Society. He reconstructed the world into a community of 1,000 people -- this in an effort to show more clearly what we are all about. That community, he said, would include 60 Americans. By now, I perhaps needn't point out, the number of Americans would be smaller, but that would really strengthen the argument being made.

Half of the town's income, figured Dr. Leiper, would go to those 60 Americans; those 60 would have 15 times the number of possessions as others in town. They would produce 16 percent of the community’s food supply, eat most of what they grow, and store the rest in their backyard sheds. They would eat 72 percent above the daily maximum food requirements. Meanwhile, a third of the people in that town would go to bed hungry every night, and perhaps 100 would be near starvation. The Americans would have a disproportionate share of steel, fuel, coal, electric power, and general equipment. A majority of the people would be poorly educated or illiterate, hungry or ill. Half the population would never have heard of Jesus or the religion he inspired. Most of the Americans would be so busy watching television and playing golf and raising their kids and making money that they would be unaware of the plight of their fellow townspeople.

And so forth.

The picture created gives a vivid impression of a geopolitical reality, of moral and economic and cultural dilemmas. One could perhaps have made the argument through humanization just as well, through the use of individual haves and have-nots. But the statistics make a muscular argument.

No More, No Less

Sometimes one statistic says enough, as in: the rank of national and local Miss America pageants among all sources of college scholarship money for women -- first. Sometimes one statistic does not say enough, as in: the company made $10 million in profits last year -- is that up, down, stable, sufficient? We need to be told at least that the figure is up from $8 million the previous year, an increase of 25 percent. Note that these statistics are from many years ago.

As you guide your writer or you judge the manuscript, just remember that those statistics which tell the story should be used, no more, no fewer.

A classic article from a past issue in tribute to the late Peter J. Jacobi, longtime EO writer and author of The Magazine Article: How to Think It, Plan It, Write It.

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Free Assistance

Posted on Sunday, November 29, 2020 at 10:27 PM

During this time of crisis, we stand ready to answer any specific questions our readers may have, time permitting. You can contact us at: crisis-help@editorsonly.com.

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