Resources: How journalists can rethink our relationship with work during a pandemic
For the humans working at or leading news organizations, a list of shared resources curated by OpenNews
Working from home during a global pandemic isn’t the same as working from home any other day. This is especially true for journalists as we try to help people make sense of a crisis while experiencing crisis ourselves. Our expectations of work from just a few weeks ago don’t work any more—not while each of us is social distancing, taking care of loved ones, and trying to keep our own selves healthy, too.
But here’s what we also know to be true: As a community, we’re capable of rallying to this moment. When newsrooms cover a crisis while living through it, we lift up those journalists in solidarity, and pitch in our time, money, and expertise. Moments like these remind us that our colleagues are human beings who need love and support. None of us knows what’s coming next, but we do know a lot about helping each other.
This guide draws on work this community has been doing for years. We pulled it together because:
- We wanted to make the mountain of resources less overwhelming.
- Saying things out loud sometimes gives us permission to think differently. We hope this makes it easier to have explicit, values-driven conversations.
- We’re all human beings who deserve care and empathy, and that includes you as much as your colleagues. We’re bringing more of our lives than ever into work right now, and we all want to be there for each other.
You’ll find questions and resources for:
- Everyone trying to work through COVID-19
- Editors and managers trying to lead thoughtfully during an overwhelming time
- Newsrooms struggling to adapt to new practices
Talk about them with your team. Use what you need most. If knowing that everyone else is trying to figure this out helps you talk about it, too, that’s great. And if you’ve found something that’s really working for your team, we hope you’ll share it with the community (and us too).
COVID–19 changed everything—How do I adapt? How do we adapt together?
Our community has been encouraging newsrooms to get more comfortable with remote work for a while now—through planning and purpose, though, not a choice made for us by a pandemic. Now many of us are suddenly working from home without all the support we need, in a shared space that wasn’t designed for our jobs, communicating through a whole new set of cues. This is a time to redefine how we imagine productivity and to be there for each other with grace.
The boundaries between our personal and professional lives are also more porous than usual right now. If you can, let who you are, where you are, and what you love spill into work—not the other way around. When your cat wanders into frame or one of your kids marches in through the home-office door during a video call, your colleagues won’t mind. They’ll celebrate.
PHYSICAL WORKSPACE & WORKING WITH OTHERS
My partner and I are trying to balance working from home with taking care of the kids—how do we make this easier?
“A long time ago—like, last week—we would have talked about setting up a home workspace and setting personal schedules. But this is a new world now.”
- Figuring out work and family in the age of Coronavirus
- Now is the perfect time for lowering the parenting bar
- How working parents can prepare for coronavirus closures
- How to work from home with kids around and the follow-up: How to (try to) work from home with kids (in a pandemic)
- Crowdsourced spreadsheet: 275+ enrichment activities for children while parents are working remotely
My roommates/partner and I are all working from home in a small space. How do we make sense of this sudden, new co-working space that we live in and can’t leave?
- How to work from home with roommates without losing it completely
- Keep your relationship healthy: ways to weather the crisis without destroying your partnership
- How to hide your messy room in a Zoom conference
What are immediate changes we need to make to our communication practices?
“You are going to have to listen fiercely, speak openly, make decisions even when no good options present themselves, and admit that you just don’t know what’s coming. You are going to have to stay calm and present even as the fire rages.”
- We’re learning lessons right now the hard way: Good communication requires you to be intentional and explicit
- If you suddenly work remotely, communication matters more than anything else
- How to handle difficult conversations at work (especially in a newsroom + tipsheet)
TEAM CULTURE & SUPPORTING PEERS
How can I help build healthy team culture & practices with my colleagues?
- Gitlab’s remote work starter guide for employees
- Rituals, norms and other ways to build a healthy work culture
How can I support the people I work with outside of work?
- How to be social while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic
- “Today, to support all the folks WFH with kids, folks in our parents group organized a Zoom reading time. It was amazing.”
↪ There are lots of ways to build great team culture. If something's working for your team, tweet it, Slack it, post it—whatever works for you—so that we all can try it too. (And then let us know, so we can add it here.)
SELF-CARE & FINDING COMMUNITY
How do I maintain a healthy balance between doing my job and taking care of myself and/or loved ones?
- How journalists can fight stress from covering the coronavirus
- How journalists can deal with trauma while reporting on COVID–19
- Best ways to talk to young children about coronavirus
- Stay Home, Take Care makes recommendations based on what you’d like to do (“I want to feel comforted,” “I want to entertain my kids,” or “I want to take care of myself”)
- There are lots of ways to stay active from home—Darebee and this list of free livestream workouts are good places to start
How do I make sense of how I’m feeling right now?
“We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. … We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”
- “That discomfort you’re feeling is grief”
- Coach yourself through a crisis
- Combating burnout, isolation, and anxiety in the remote workplace
- COVID–19 mental health resources for journalists and you
Where do I go if I want to talk about this with other journalists?
- OpenNews community calls, a bi-weekly open conference call with the news-nerd community to talk about projects, careers, and events (like this one)
- Lonely Coder’s Club Slack, a community for news nerds on small teams. Channels to join: #covid–19, #remote
- Journalists of Color Slack, a community for journalists of color. Channels to join: #covid–19, #remote, #move, #mental-health
- News Nerdery Slack, a large journalism community for collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Channels to join: #covid–19, #remote, #selfcare
- ONA Community Circles, virtual discussion groups that can connect you with others in the community
As a freelance journalist, how do I navigate sudden changes affecting me and the organizations I work with?
- Key things to consider if you’re freelance and worried about coronavirus
- Community of support: “Leapers supports the mental health of freelancers and the self-employed”
- With work drying up, here’s how freelancers can pivot to make it through the coronavirus pandemic
- Working as a freelance journalist right now is hard but not impossible. Here’s some advice.
↪ This section could really use your expertise. What have you seen out there that’s been really helpful for freelancers? Let us know.
How do I lead as thoughtfully as possible?
Make sure you’re not conflating two key points: working from home vs. working in physical isolation during a global pandemic. Both are happening simultaneously and your team will continue to experience lots of changes—both at work and at home—all while leaning harder on tools some of them have only used somewhat before. Be “massively empathetic” and let that guide you through the rest.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
What does my team need to hear from me right now? What should I proactively communicate to preempt anxiety and enable good work?
“We will assume positive intent. These are hard times. Everyone is going through tough personal situations and stressors. This can cause folks to lash out in frustration or fear. As a team we will rigidly assume positive intent and operate with empathy with our stakeholders, our peers, and each other.”
- “All this is not normal” and how you’d like to handle it
- Going remote overnight: Preparing for the Coronavius when it comes to your policies, systems, and people.
How do I even start thinking about a plan?
- “For leaders who are suddenly managing work-from-home teams, there are five things you can focus on right now to maximize stability.”
↪ It can be really helpful to talk this stuff through. You can find other managers and editors talking with each other about shared challenges in the Journalists of Color Slack, News Nerdery Slack, and ONA Community Circles.
How can I equip my team and myself to support one another as human beings experiencing a pandemic?
- Creating predictability and stability in times of rapid change
- Establish safety measures for when to send reporters out physically
- Bystander intervention training to stop Anti-Asian/American and xenophobic harassment
How do I help someone on my team who is struggling?
- While this guide wasn’t written about struggling with COVID, it has great tips on how to manage any employee who’s having a personal crisis
I need to make tough decisions as quickly as possible, how do I make sure I’m basing them in the values I hold important?
“In overwhelming times, easier things often get done first, while harder, more complicated problems wait. But we need to spend time on the harder things, and to do so now, so here’s a guide to make upholding your diversity, equity and inclusivity values during a pandemic—one step easier.”
- Newsroom execs and managers: Ways to uphold your diversity and inclusivity values during COVID–19, covering everything from small gestures leaders can make to how to consider layoffs and furloughs thoughtfully and equitably when it comes to diversity.
How do I model a healthy balance between doing my job and taking care of myself and/or loved ones?
- “Especially if you’re a leader, normalize that human stuff”
- When a woman took sick days for mental health, her email sparked a larger discussion
What expectations do I need to change now that my entire team works from home?
- Trello’s Ultimate Guide to Remote Work dispels myths about remote workers and helps you set the right expectations.
- How to build trust on a remote team
Where can I find guidance on covering COVID–19 as a newsroom?
- During the pandemic, cover those we’ve left out is a guide from NPR on framing coverage around our most vulnerable neighbors, people who have the fewest resources for navigating the pandemic
- The Newsroom Guide to COVID–19 is a wide-ranging resource created by volunteers from the journalism community
- Covering Coronavirus: Resources for Journalists from the DART Center has tips on “covering disease, interviewing victims and survivors, and working with colleagues exposed to traumatic events”
- The folks from Gather created a guide of guides, covering everything from “Reporting Tools and Frameworks” to “Disinformation” to “Earning trust from the communities you serve.”
Where can I find a good general guide for working from home?
- 18F’s best practices for making distributed teams work
- 29 tips for very effective remote managers and workers is framed in a lot of thoughtful & empathetic ways
- Not everything on this checklist applies to newsroom teams, but it’s a nice starting point
- From the news-nerd community
- “Remote work, for all of its challenges, can force you and your company to become more intentional, more thoughtful, and more resilient to the challenges of change.”
- 5 practical tips for managing newly remote teams during coronavirus
- Making remote work work
- Company handbook examples