There is a growing sense among some reporters and editors that a game of one-upsmanship is occurring among companies and organizations regarding the tidal wave of announcements regarding COVID-19. To reporters and editors, it feels like every company is rushing to be included in reports about remote offices whether its news or not (spoiler alert: it’s probably not).

As a former reporter, I have a couple of takeaways.

First, editors and reporters are a skeptical bunch on a good day. The past week has created a large group of exhausted editors and frantic journalists. They are working tirelessly juggling thousands of announcements that are all starting to look and sound the same. Announcements that would have been big news a week ago are no longer newsworthy in the “new normal” of the current COVID-19 news cycle.

Second, the sheer number of “news releases” and their lengthy design requires too much time to figure out what the news is. One reporter I chatted with said he found himself scanning a company news release looking for keywords and just gave up. That company lost its credibility and hurt its reputation with one bad move.

Regarding keywords and phrases. The phrase “an abundance of caution” is, for lack of a better word, annoying. Paul Walsh of the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune says, “that phrase screams that there is no real problem, nothing bad is happening and the company is just being careful.” He adds, “That phrase says that the announcement is a waste of my time. So, too are quotes about their concern for the safety and well-being of their customers.”

So here's our takeaway

If you really think your announcement is news, keep it short and sweet. Follow the advice of Jason DeRusha, host of WCCO This Morning. Here’s what he posted on Twitter: “Every email I’m getting from stores, companies and governments about coronavirus is way too long and wordy. PLEASE: Bullet points, clear writing, no corporate speak.”

Here are a few articles that we consider required reading today.

  • The New York Times is assembling all of its COVID-19 coverage in a single place called The Coronavirus Outbreak and its free to all – no paywall restricting reader access.
  • The Trump administration announces steps to speed up testing. New York Times
    The Trump administration moved on Friday to dramatically speed up coronavirus screening, introducing an emergency hotline for private laboratories and new partnerships with companies developing tests that can detect the virus within an hour.
  • At least 6 states will close all schools, affecting millions. New York Times
    All public schools, and many if not all private schools, in Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky and New Mexico were told to close beginning next week, and the governor of Washington State ordered all schools shut in three counties near Seattle. The Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas, also said it was closing for two weeks.
  • University of Minnesota to test three drugs for COVID-19 patients Star Tribune
    Drugs developed to treat high blood pressure, malaria and Ebola will be tested at the University of Minnesota Medical School to see if they can help patients exposed to COVID-19, with the first patient expected to be enrolled in one of three clinical trials today.
  • New Mayo Clinic test could speed detection of COVID-19 NPR
    Mayo Clinic scientists said Thursday they’ve developed a new test to detect COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, that could help public health officials in their struggle to contain the outbreak.