Pandemic coverage, Black communities, and how to report on algorithms

Our personal weekly selection about journalism and innovation.

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Edited by Marco Nurra

Cancellation of the 2021 International Journalism Festival. This announcement, coming not long after the February cancellation of the 2020 festival, is dispiriting. On a positive note, however, we feel confident that the 2022 festival will, after a pause of two years, be especially memorable for the entire festival community.

Should we ‘publish less’ on the pandemic? “New coronavirus cases in the US have never been higher,” NewsWhip wrote, but “online interest in the pandemic has never been lower.” In the last two weeks, news stories about covid-19 saw their lowest level of engagement on social media (likes, shares, and so forth) since early March, when interest in the pandemic was on an upward trajectory. “While coverage has continued at a high level—and some of it has been excellent—much of it has become routine, settling into familiar, circular grooves. Of course, living and working in the permanent state of high-pitched, anguished fury and grief that the facts here demand is hardly sustainable. The covid story is many things at once: persistently tragic, but also deeply uncertain and, sometimes, boring, all of which complicates the production of journalism. We shouldn’t be in the business of sugar-coating and false hope, nor of contriving excitement,” writes Jon Allsop.

A tale of two pandemics: A nonfiction comic about historical racial health disparities. In a “A Tale of Two Pandemics: Historical Insights on Persistent Racial Disparities,” Josh Neufeld uses the form of comics journalism to highlight a recent research article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The comic draws on the research article itself, along with additional sources — including interviews with co-authors Lakshmi Krishnan, S. Michelle Ogunwole and Lisa A. Cooper. The three medical doctors are the main characters of the comic, which explains racial health disparities and the spread of misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic. Here’s an interview with the cartoonist and journalist Josh Neufeld.

Here’s how the news media can repair its trust problem with Black Americans. The root of the solution, the report’s authors say, is fixing issues in news coverage. “The more people perceived that the media did a good job of covering Black communities and the more they perceived that newsrooms are diverse, the more likely they were to trust the media,” the report says. “Coverage perceptions mattered more than perceptions that newsrooms are diverse.”

Seven tips for investigating cases of sexual abuse. Since the #MeToo movement, journalists feel emboldened to investigate stories of sexual abuse that would previously go unreported. At a recent webinar hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, three experienced reporters shared their tips, tools and methods to investigate cases of sexual violence that took place in times of peace and were not linked to domestic abuse.

Opening the black box: algorithms, big data and artificial intelligence. As tech becomes more mainstream, journalists are challenged to report on complex subjects for their readers.

The damage being done by Fox News. “There’s no other way to put this: The type of rhetoric put out by some of the Fox News and Fox Business personalities is dangerous. It harms our democracy, fosters divisiveness, creates chaos and might even incite violence,” writes Poynter’s Tom Jones. “Fox News has several journalists acting responsibly these days, but that is being overshadowed by the kind of punditry pretending to be journalism we saw over the weekend.”

Platforms are not publishers. “The essential value of the internet is conversation, not content—and journalists need to embrace it,” writes Jeff Jarvis. “With the new tools social media provide, journalism can shift to listening to communities, reflecting their needs, serving their goals, and building bridges to make strangers less strange.”

BuzzFeed acquires HuffPost. BuzzFeed Inc. has agreed to acquire Verizon Media’s HuffPost in a stock deal, uniting two of the larger players in digital media as companies across the sector search for ways to jump-start growth.