How COVID-19 is Impacting the Media: Canceled Events, Journalists Working from Home, More

COVID-19 - Effects on the media and journalists

After spreading to 164 countries and killing more than 7,800 people (at time of writing), The World Health Organization last week determined that the coronavirus outbreak is now considered a global pandemic.

It’s increasingly spreading beyond just a health crisis and impacting business, politics, and the media.

Based on Cision analysis, coronavirus has dominated recent media coverage, even surpassing mentions of “Trump” during the week of Feb. 25-March 3.

With the disease continuing to spread, more and more events are being canceled or postponed, including many events in the media industry.

As journalists attend many large gatherings and are potentially being exposed to the virus, we are seeing more cases of media companies recommending employees work from home or self-quarantine and limiting travel.

The coronavirus also is having a negative impact on projected ad revenues for media companies. As Digiday explains, “With the outlook for the spread of the virus changing by day, many companies are caught in a spiral of uncertainty. That tends to gum up decisions, and ad spending is an easy expenditure to put on pause.”

Let’s recap.

Impacted Events

This is just a small sample of the events that have been impacted. We’ll work to update the list.

Conferences / Awards

Originally scheduled for March 12, the National Magazine Awards, the “Academy Awards of the magazine publishing world,” have been postponed.

The 2020 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, was canceled.

The National Association of Broadcasters has canceled its NAB Show in April. It’s considering options for a future date, including expanding the October show in New York and a possible summer show in Las Vegas.

The in-person component of the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, Texas, has been canceled. ISOG is considering making virtual sessions available online.

The Society for News Design announced that the SNDDC workshop has been postponed. It was originally scheduled for April 3-6 in Washington, D.C.

Facebook canceled the in-person portion of its F8 developers conference. In a Feb. 27 statement, Facebook said, “We plan to replace the in-person F8 event with locally hosted events, videos and live-streamed content.”

Google canceled I/O, its flagship developer conference, originally set for May in Mountain View, Calif. The two-day Google News Initiative Global Summit, which brings together hundreds of professionals in the media industry, also was canceled.

For the first time since 1995, ESA has canceled E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), “the world’s premier event for computer and video games and related products.” ESA is considering making a digital portion available in the summer, but no final decision has been made.

The MIPTV Media Market for the entertainment content industry, held annually in Cannes, France, has been canceled.

Mobile World Congress, the largest expo and conference for the mobile communications industry, was canceled in February after multiple companies pulled out of the event.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has been postponed to October. The awards ceremony has been canceled, but winners will still be announced in April. Similarly, the London Book Fair, with more than 25,000 people expected to attend, also has been canceled.

The annual Gridiron Club dinner was canceled. According to Roll Call, “Hosted by an invitation-only club of the Washington journalism establishment, the annual dinner attracts media executives, lawmakers and administration officials. It’s been a sought-after ticket on the D.C. social circuit for over 130 years.”

Quibi, the new mobile streaming service, canceled its red carpet launch party, originally scheduled for the day before the product launch. Quibi still plans to go live as scheduled on April 6.

TV Upfronts

TV Upfronts, media companies’ annual presentations to advertisers, are being canceled and postponed across the country.

So far, AMC and Fox News have outright canceled their upfronts. Other companies like A+E, Roku, YouTube, and NBCUniversal have opted for digital-only events.

Discovery also is opting for a digital-only presentation. Talking to The Wrap, Jon Steinlauf, Discovery’s Chief U.S. Ad Sales Officer, said, “With Discovery’s increased scale and reach, we were proud and excited to showcase our expanded portfolio of beloved brands and talent, for the first time, during the traditional broadcast Upfront week. The decision to cancel is bittersweet but unequivocally the right one.”

Other Events

After days of debating whether or not to cancel and a petition calling for organizers to cancel or postpone, it was announced on March 6 that South by Southwest (SXSW) was being canceled. The gathering for the tech, music, and media industries was expecting +400K people in Austin, Texas.

Two major music festivals, Coachella and Stagecoach, have both been postponed to new dates in October.

Journalists Self-Quarantining / Companies Limiting Travel

In recent weeks, publishers have been increasingly instructing journalists to work from home, if possible, to limit the spread of COVID-19.

After an attendee of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) tested positive for the coronavirus, The Washington Post and Politco requested any journalists who covered the event to self-quarantine. WaPo later encouraged all employees to work from home.

In early March, CNN’s Jeff Zucker “told employees to ‘limit all forms of travel as much as possible,’ that intercontinental trips must be personally approved Zucker himself, and internal meetings should happen via phone or videoconference,” according to Mediaite.

And among the most extreme actions taken so far, Seattle independent newspaper The Stranger announced it would be temporarily laying off 18 employees and suspending its print issue. The publication generates the majority of its revenue from in-person events, which are exactly what health experts are recommending people avoid.

The White House Correspondents Association also has implemented social distancing strategies by limiting staffing to essential personnel and rolling out a new seating chart.

If your newsroom recently switched to working from home or is planning to, these tips for remote work can help.

Coronavirus Writing Tips

The AP Styleguide has been updating its rules surrounding COVID-19 as the situation evolves. Read our quarterly AP Style reminder round-up.

Reporting accurately and responsibly on the pandemic is key to keeping the public informed. Al Tompkins wrote a helpful guide for Poynter on how to tone down writing that may unintentionally alarm audiences and cause a panic.

If you need additional resources like FAQs, data sources, or a database of debunked misinformation, check out the coronavirus resource hub from First Draft.

The situation is also heavily impacting photojournalists in the field. Here’s a list of resources for photographers, including trade org info, distance learning, and financial help links.

Stay Caught Up On The Latest COVID-19 News

In response to the quick-moving news surrounding the pandemic, many outlets have launched newsletters and podcasts to keep readers updated.

Organizations are also sharing how the coronavirus is impacting their supply chains, work from home policies, projected revenues, and more.

To ensure you don’t miss out on these important announcements, set up a custom newsfeed with PR Newswire for Journalists. We can help you customize it based on geography, industry, language, etc.

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Rocky Parker works in Audience Relations at PR Newswire. Check out her previous posts for Beyond Bylines and connect on LinkedIn. When she’s not working, Rocky typically can be found cooking, binge watching a new show, or playing with her puppy, Hudson.

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