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Covering coronavirus the Reuters way

The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

By Reuters Communications

In a message to staff today, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler wrote about covering coronavirus the Reuters way:


This is the biggest and probably the scariest story of our time. Confusion reigns; rumors and mis-information race through social media; calmly delivered, data-driven news and information are at a premium. We at Reuters know that we have a profound responsibility to fill the need for fast, accurate and insightful coverage. We know, too, that there are many unknowns, and that we mustn’t rush to judgment on the facts or what they mean. As Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

Reuters colleagues, I could not be more proud of your skill, dedication, hard work, resilience and creativity in the midst of this crisis. As we brace for what is shaping up to be more of a marathon than a sprint, I thought this might be a good time to remind everyone of our unique attributes so that we can make the most of these extraordinary assets.

1) OUR COVERAGE IS TRULY GLOBAL, in what is fundamentally a global crisis. With 2,500 journalists in 200 locations around the world, we can bring to bear our deep global knowledge and our truly multi-national perspective. Therefore, we can synthesize a vast amount of information – from literally everywhere – and deftly communicate the most important local and global trends and themes.

Let’s remember to recognize that what’s happening in each country, while of enormous interest locally, is also a piece in a global puzzle. The more we connect the dots, the more knowledge we can bring to our customers and the public.

2) WE ARE ORGANIZED GLOBALLY, AS WELL. “Newsroom of the Future” could not have been better timed, though a pandemic wasn’t exactly what we were planning for. With our new global, rather than regional, news planning and editing structure, we now can coordinate our work across continents and time zones better than ever before. I’m seeing this global structure reaping amazing benefits at the global news meeting, and in all our work, every day now.

Let’s make the most of this structure by communicating continually on the appropriate Teams groups so the right (well-washed) hand knows what the left (well-washed) hand is doing. Let’s consistently enter our skeds into NewsPlanner, where everyone — including our customers — can see them. And let’s heed requests from our stalwart global desk to focus on essential stories and to adhere to length limits.

3) WE HAVE A WIDE RANGE OF EXPERTISE. Because we serve so many different customer groups, each with its distinct needs, we have had to develop expertise in pretty much everything — from covering wars and disasters in text and visuals, to mastering macro-economics and geopolitics, to understanding the intricacies of trading in the most obscure financial instruments. Therefore, we can exploit our extensive beat system to cover policy in every country and to track the effect of COVID-19 on every industry and on all financial markets. Crucially, we can also leverage our world-class health and pharmaceutical teams to develop accurate and insightful coverage of the disease: from transmission, testing and treatment to the race for a vaccine.

When in doubt, remember you have a colleague who probably has the expertise you need in your reporting or who can steer you to sources who can provide it. Let’s lean on each other so our coverage is bigger than the sum of its parts.

4) WE OPERATE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL IN ALL MEDIA: video, pictures, graphics, text and every combination of the four. Therefore, we are in a position to tell each story in the manner that suits that story best. Many times during this crisis, that has meant the most heartbreaking, inspiring or enraging video or photo (spring break on the beach, anyone?); an artfully rendered, highly informative graphic (our virus tracker, for example); or our countless text/multimedia news-breaks, exclusives, fact boxes and Special Reports.

Especially in a crisis, delivering multimedia content requires close coordination and a keen understanding of each other’s workflows and customer priorities. This crisis is clearly accelerating our ability to innovate and to collaborate at speed, which is highly gratifying and will also reap benefits post-crisis.

5) WE ADHERE TO THE THOMSON REUTERS TRUST PRINCIPLES, which hold us to integrity, independence and freedom from bias. These principles remind us that we don’t support or oppose any leader or any government, or advocate for or against any policy, but rather cover them all with honesty and intelligence. This approach, which isn’t always popular in any particular country at any particular time, has enabled us to thrive for nearly 170 years — and to provide the world with information that is as untarnished as possible by personal opinion or party bias. As we’ve always said, people need accurate information to make smart decisions in their personal and professional lives, and that has never been more obvious than it is today.

In these times, as at all times, please check facts carefully. Please check all biases at the door of your virtual office. And — whether in text, visuals or graphics — elevate factually, legally and tonally sensitive stories to your editor and ultimately, if appropriate, to Alix Freedman. Let’s always choose speed over haste so we can preserve accuracy and fairness.

I’m so grateful to you all, and I especially want to assure you that we will continue to put your health and safety first as we fight our way through these challenging times. I am confident that we will come out the other end with even greater strength as a news organization and as a business.

I’ve been collecting inspirational quotes these past couple of weeks so let me close with a favorite from Winston Churchill:

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

Please stay healthy, stay safe, and stay the course.

With my thanks and warm wishes, Steve

[Reuters PR Blog Post]

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