As COVID-19 continues to overwhelm media channels, we're sharing what we and others have found to be the most credible and essential information resources. Today's take highlights some trusted voices leading the charge. You'll also see we've refined our usual categories to reflect this unusual time. Let us know what you think.
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COVID-19: The Search for Reliable Information 

In times of crisis, media has historically been the first place we turn to for information. But as COVID-19 continues to spread, igniting both a public health and financial crisis worldwide, people are desperate for neutral, unembellished facts that our current media systems are largely unable to provide.

I spoke with 
Vivian Schiller from the Aspen Institute about the difficulty of finding credible sources among the endless information about coronavirus. She explains: "Our current information ecosystem fails when it comes to nuance and context. It is not purpose-built for public service information in the face of a global crisis. Tweets and even headlines from legit news organizations can be deeply misleading in their brevity and reliance on raw numbers which are meaningless without critical context. As a result, they drive panic or apathy, both bad outcomes."

Politicized and often-conflicting content has overwhelmed consumers. They're hungry for credible, real-time information, but even the media sources providing it are struggling to break through the noise effectively. We're left with a widening perspective gap. New cohorts have stepped in to fill the void — and they may not be who you expect. 

In Singapore, data from government officials has been visualized into incredibly detailed reports, including every known case, affected hospitals, clusters and more. Residents of Hong Kong can also access similar details affecting the region. And Pinterest has limited search results for “coronavirus” to only include internationally recognized health organizations. 

Perhaps the most popular example has been the Johns Hopkins interactive outbreak map, which notably includes the often unreported "total recovered" number. Launched in January, the dashboard has been visited more than 200 million times by users from nearly every country across the globe. And at this rate, it's likely to accumulate one billion visits within the next couple of weeks. To put that in perspective, the New York Times' "The Daily" podcast reached 1 billion downloads last fall "only" 2.5 years post-launch, which was considered surprisingly fast. The University is obviously not a media company. In fact, the tool isn't even the product of its media or even its analytics department, but rather its engineering school. Yet the volume of attention would be unprecedented for any media company. Its reach is proof that filling a gap in our collective sense-making ability is incredibly impactful.

These resources indicate a step in the right direction, but risk being lost in a sea of unrelenting and sometimes questionable information, or the swamp of disinformation (more on the influx of coronavirus-dedicated content in today's Deep Take). This is why we've also seen curators of alternative sources emerge, aiming to direct us to the most credible information. Notable drivers include MIT, which has collected a list of real-time coronavirus dashboards, and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has gathered official resources, background reading and even the best Twitter accounts for truthful information about various aspects of the virus.  

As the crisis continues to escalate, so will the need to uncover the most trustworthy information and get it to the masses. We've seen universities, VC's and select platforms step in to fill the void left by media. Sudden spikes in their search visibility, compared to relatively low upticks in traffic for traditional media sources, indicate that people (and consequently, algorithms) are finding them to be the most credible. 

As these non-traditional information players emerge as the most trusted sources, what will be the long-term effects on our media ecosystem? 

Chris Perry


In overwhelming times, where do you turn? Email or tweet me the sources you're using to find reliable information about coronavirus.

As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them
What We're Reading
Data Visualization
COVID-19 Virus Dashboard

By Thebaselab

This dashboard offers a near-real-time look at coronavirus on a global scale. The red color is a bit alarmist, but itʼs balanced nicely by a clean white background. Like the JHU dashboard, The Wuhan Virus tabulates known case statistics from every country thatʼs been affected so far. Thebaselab also publishes its own stories to show how the dashboard works and how coronavirus compares with other major epidemics.

Critical Context
Epidemics Reveal the Truth About the Societies They Hit
By Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic

A nation’s response to disaster speaks to its strengths — and to its dysfunctions. Epidemics, like disasters, have a way of revealing underlying truths about the societies they impact.

Critical Context
Public Health Genomics and Precision Health Knowledge Base
By The CDC

Articles listed in the Public Health Genomics and Precision Health Knowledge Base are selected by the CDC Office of Public Health Genomics to provide current awareness of the literature and news. Inclusion in the update does not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor does it imply endorsement of the article's methods or findings. 

Critical Context
Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020
By Sequoia Capital

In 2008, Sequoia Capital published a very widely circulated memo titled ‘RIP Good Times’ - this is the sequel. They sent this note to Sequoia founders and CEOs to provide guidance on how to ensure the health of their business while dealing with potential business consequences of the spreading effects of the coronavirus.

Media Forensics
Coronavirus Panic Sells as Alarmist Information Flies on Social Media
By Neal Rothschild and Sara Fischer, Axios

Many of the coronavirus stories getting shared the most on social media are packaged to drive fear rather than build understanding about the illness. New research from scientists at Northeastern University suggests that contagions can spread faster in some cases due to misinformation spreading online. 

Data Visualization
COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak
By Worldometer

Worldometer is run by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and timely format to a wide audience around the world. Worldometer has no political, governmental, or corporate affiliation.

Media Forensics
Surge of Virus Misinformation Stumps Facebook and Twitter
By Sheera Frenkel, Davey Alba and Raymond Zhong, The New York Times

Secret labs. Magic cures. Government plots. Despite efforts by social media companies to stop it, false information about the coronavirus is proliferating around the world.

Emerging Technology
Fever-Detecting Goggles and Disinfectant Drones: Countries Turn to Tech to Fight Coronavirus
By Timothy W. Martin and Liza Lin, The Wall Street Journal
Health officials across Asia-Pacific, home to the first waves of virus contagion, have sought to repurpose existing technology to combat the coronavirus epidemic. They are using smartphone-location tracking to piece together movements of suspected cases, developing government-run apps to monitor individuals’ health and keeping an eye on people’s temperature in the street with thermal goggles.
Deep Take
Not to Alarm You, but Coronavirus-Focused News Products are Spreading Very Quickly
By Hanaa' Tameez, Nieman Lab
If you’re itching for more information about coronavirus and its specific impacts, there’s a product for you and it’s probably free. There are so many coronavirus newsletters popping up that even the Twitter jokes are going viral. Nieman Lab provides a (necessarily partial) list.
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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