Social media companies have been hard at work to make sure they play a helpful rather than harmful role in disseminating news and information about the coronavirus pandemic. Today, Twitter took an extra step beyond its own platform to put its efforts into the wider, already under-pressure world of journalism. Twitter announced that it would be donating $1 million equally between two organizations, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation, to further their work specifically related to supporting those reporting on COVID-19.
Organizations like the IWMF and the CJP always play a vital role — respectively in supporting the work of female journalists and in defending all journalists who are working in complicated environments or with tricky subject matter. But it’s in times of crisis that you can especially see how vital their existence is. If you look now on the CJP site, for example, there are a number of stories shedding light on how journalists covering coronavirus news are under threat, particularly in countries where governments are trying to suppress too much negative information passed to the public. It’s a role that is especially urgent to play now, given just how much people are turning to the news and the public service that journalists are playing in getting information out.
The fact is that journalists are in no way immune from the wider theme of the world right now, which is that this global pandemic has drastically altered nearly every aspect of our lives. As Vijaya Gadde noted when announcing the grants, “Right now, every journalist is a COVID-19 journalist.” And given Twitter’s deep link with news, this means journalists’ plights — with some risking their health if not their lives to report stories — are Twitter’s plights. “Journalism is core to our service and we have a deep and enduring responsibility to protect that work.”
Indeed, the larger economic pressures of this public health crisis are a huge blow to journalism, which was already under a lot of financial pressure as a business. To that end, Gadde noted that the funds will be used in some way to help with that, “to ensure these organizations can continue their work in the face of new economic strains and to directly support journalists.”
Twitter is not the first social media organization to donate to journalism. Last week, Facebook also announced two tranches of $1 million each that it was donating respectively to news organizations for coronavirus reporting, and to fact-checking organizations to make sure the content shared on Facebook remains on the straight and narrow when it comes to being accurate.
“We are grateful for Twitter’s generous support. Our efforts at CPJ are focused on ensuring that journalists around the world have the information and resources they need to cover the COVID-19 pandemic safely. And we are pushing back against governments that are censoring the news, and restricting the work of the press. We need timely, accurate information flowing within countries and across borders so that political leaders, health policy experts, and the public at large can make informed decisions at this critical moment,” said Joel Simon, executive director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a statement.
“Right now, there is a great need to support our community of journalists covering, and dealing with, this global pandemic. Based on our decades of work with journalists who operate in dangerous and difficult environments, the IWMF understands the critical role that safety and security plays in the industry. Thanks to the incredible support of Twitter, the IWMF will be able to address the needs of our community of journalists more deeply and robustly. By supporting journalists from diverse communities, together we can support the most representative news possible in this evolving time,” added Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director, International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), in her own statement.