News publishers across the country and around the world are relentlessly following the facts to keep readers informed of the impact that the coronavirus has had on critical aspects of our daily lives. The Alliance is here to serve you in the best way we can, and we are working to provide accurate and real-time information; advocacy and representation with lawmakers; legal guidance and resources to navigate funding and regulations; and a portal to connect and exchange information among newspapers across the country.
Here’s what we’ve been doing:
Advocating for newspapers to be designated as an essential business.
This effort has included sending a letter to the Vice President asking that news publishing and reporting be deemed “essential” to public health and welfare and requesting the administration encourage state and local officials to make the same designation. The Alliance has also been working with the state press associations to gather letters they’ve sent to their state governor’s offices encouraging them to designate newspapers as “essential” businesses. We have provided a list with links on our website. The continued distribution of quality news and information is absolutely critical to combatting the COVID-19 crisis, so the Alliance also provided membership a legal analysis to support the argument that news publishing is an essential service, available upon request. The Alliance continues to work with DHS to update the CISA interpretation to more explicitly include newsgathering and newspaper delivery functions and related activities as essential.
Drafting and sharing form letters for journalists.
The Alliance drafted a form letter and has shared other letters from state press associations that can be personalized and signed by the news publisher and certify that the carrier of said letter is a journalist with the newspaper conducting official newsgathering activities, and therefore not subject to orders limiting the freedom of movement. The journalist can present this letter if stopped by the authorities when performing their jobs. The letter explains both the legal authority and the public policy concerns behind protecting news publishers during this pandemic.
Advocating on the Emergency Relief / Economic Stimulus Package.
The Alliance is engaged with policymakers in the consideration of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Upon passage of the over $2 trillion stimulus package by Congress, the Alliance also provided an in-depth, members-only analysis of funding made available through the SBA loans, tax benefits, and Treasury loans in the CARES Act (member login required). For future economic relief packages that Congress may consider, the Alliance is exploring what members would seek to offset losses during this time of crisis. As we expect continuing interest from members of Congress and the public about the impact of the crisis on news publishers, we are conducting a survey with member news publishers to understand the impact to their business, so that we can pass those experiences and needs on to policymakers on Capitol Hill.
Forming a Working Group to share best practices for news publishers dealing with COVID-19.
The Alliance has formed an Operational Working Group to share best practices as news publishers navigate the crisis. These include hygiene for workspaces and workers, as well as dealing with packages and commercial goods. To request to join the Working Group, please email Rebecca Frank.
Developing a Coronavirus Resources webpage with key resources for news publishers.
There has been an onslaught of information about the coronavirus that can help news publishers as they respond to the pandemic. But it can be overwhelming, so the Alliance has assembled and organized relevant resources in an easy-to-navigate way on its Coronavirus Resources page. It includes Alliance resources, such as the News Publishers Deemed Essential Businesses page, and the How Publishers are Working to Protect Readers page. The Alliance also has provided links to vetted resources to answer further questions about maintaining safety while remaining operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting a unifying front-page campaign among news publishers.
Following the example of UK newspapers’ #ThereWithYou campaign, the Alliance shared a similar effort for publishers in the United States, led by the state press associations, with its members to publish a unified front page on March 30, 2020 (with weekly papers publishing the first day in the week they publish) offering reassurance to readers during these uncertain times.
During this time of uncertainty, I hope to bring structured and quality information and resources to you as quickly as my staff and I are able. Please reach out with feedback; I am eager to hear from you.
In the meantime, below I’ve provided talking points on the essential role news publishers serve in informing your communities during the COVID-19 crisis – please feel free to use these in your own communications.
President & CEO
News Media Alliance
Talking Points: News Publishers Perform an Essential Function in Informing Communities During the COVID-19 Crisis
Millions rely on news publishers for accurate information in crisis.
The consumption of online news media increased considerably in the last few weeks of March, as the public’s demand for high-quality information has increased due to concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to Parse.ly, online pageviews on March 12, 2020 were 44 percent higher than the week before, while Comscore indicated that the week of March 9-15 had more than 100 million more news visits than the second busiest week for news consumption.
News publishers are essential businesses and should be exempted from any shelter-in-place orders or business closures.
News publishers’ continued ability to provide reliable and high-quality information to our communities depends on continued access by journalists to news sources and ability to report from the field. It is therefore vital that journalists’ First Amendment right to gather and report news be protected during the crisis. On March 28, 2020, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory defining “essential critical infrastructure workers” who should be protected during the COVID-19 pandemic. This memo lists “Communications and Information Technology” as a critical sector. It further includes workers “who support radio, television, and media service, including, but not limited to front line news reporters, studio, and technicians for newsgathering, and reporting, and publishing news.” Considering the traditional definition of “media,” this would include newspapers. Although advisory, the memorandum sets out an important principle: that newsgathering is an essential good. While vital in normal times, the need for factual reporting is even more crucial during times of volatility, such as a pandemic.
State authorities support including newspapers as “media.”
To combat the COVID-19 crisis, journalists must be allowed to continue their job of gathering critical facts impacting personal safety and reporting them to the public. Shelter-in-place orders and other limitations on non-essential businesses and movements should be interpreted so as not to limit the ability of journalists to do their jobs. Not only does CISA support designating news workers as essential, but many states have also affirmed this interpretation. New York’s emergency orders specifically include “news media” as an essential service, while Pennsylvania included newspaper publishers in its list of “life sustaining” businesses. In California, Los Angeles and Sacramento County both exempted newspapers from their emergency orders, while the Governor of California referred to the CISA list of critical sectors. These states recognize and support that news publishers are essential to public health and must remain free from cumbersome government restrictions. Visit the Alliance’s News Publishers Deemed “Essential” Businesses During Pandemic page to view other states deeming newspapers essential and for links to the state orders.
David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.