MDDC Friday Planner with COVID-19 update – 3-20-20

As updates occur in the COVID-19 response, MDDC Press will provide information tailored to the news media industry through our Five Dubs podcast.

About this episode


Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response

Coronavirus update:  March 20

Today, in addition to our coronavirus update, I’ll share tidbits from our weekly Friday Planner. 

In coronavirus news,

MDDC executive committee met with Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware

Today, MDDC executive committee met with Senator Chris Coons to discuss the industry and its needs during this time.  Here’s what we said. Local news media serves its communities every day and this is put into stark relief during times of crisis such as we are facing now.  COVID-19 has upended the lives – and livelihoods – of every person in the state.  Newspapers and their associated websites are essential to their communities.  Our focus nationally is to (1) preserve our business operations; and (2) ensure economic help for our members.  Our members are seeing advertising drop precipitously, events being cancelled, and receivables stretch out.  This means less cash flow and less revenue.  Our members are also lowering our paywalls, focusing on increasing coverage and managing a critical workforce.  That also means higher expenses and less revenue.  Newspapers and news websites are trusted and credible sources of information for their local communities.  MDDC’s readership survey (Fall 2019) showed that 77.65% of respondents thought that the publication rated Excellent or Good as a Source for Local News.  On the same scale, 68.74% rated the publication Excellent or Good for Trustworthiness.  No one else in the community is providing the news, analysis and information that the local newspaper covers in this time of crisis.

What we need:

  • Preserve our business operations now:
    • Clarify nationally that news media, including the production, printing and delivery chain, is an essential business.  There is a lot of confusion across the states and localities of the country on this issue and press associations (and thereby news organizations) are scrambling to pin this down and burning time and energy.
    • Ensuring supply lines for newsprint and other raw materials from Canada and elsewhere so that we can continue to print the newspaper.  Virtual networks are stressed and many people are turning to the printed paper for news.  We are seeing print circulation go up as well as page views.
    • Make sure the post office continues to operate and deliver our publications.  If we cannot deliver our publications, we cannot bill for the advertising contained in the print publication and that would be catastrophic for us.
  • Ensure economic help:
    • We must continue to operate, whether there is revenue coming in or not.  It’s our public mission.  Going under is not an option.  We will need economic support to continue operating, more so the longer the crisis continues.  Our members are manufacturers, printing a new product every day.  We should be one of the industries the federal government focuses on for bailouts.
    • Help us ensure that objective news and information will flow freely to our local communities by stabilizing our industry.

This message is being sent to Maryland’s delegation as well.

Newspaper supply lines to Canada are intact…still working on Europe.

The News Media Alliance has been working on this issue.  The U.S. and Canadian government announced the closure of the border for non-essential travel beginning at midnight tonight.  Prime Minister Trudeau announced that it would not affect trade between the two countries.  Here is the U.S. Customers of Border Protection notice (which will be published on Tuesday) that describes that “essential travel” includes “individuals engaged in lawful cross-border traffic (truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo).”

Canadian newsprint mills have been sending letters to their customers about the preventive measures that they are taking at their mills to ensure the health and safety of their workers and their product. 

Relief for Small Business Act of 2020

Yesterday, House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) introduced the  COVID–19 Relief for Small Businesses Act of 2020, comprehensive legislation that would provide relief to small businesses facing consequences from the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

I strongly encourage publishers to consider the possible relief that may soon be available to them. While this bill has not yet passed, it is reasonable that the passage will be swift. Click here to learn more.

Senate Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What Employers Need to Know

This concise article by The National Law Review outlines what employers need to know about how the passage of this bill will impact them. The bill was signed on March 16 and its provision become effective within 15 days. One example, “private sector employers with fewer than 500 workers, along with governmental entities, will have to provide up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for employees who have been on the job for at least 30 days, and who are unable to work or telework because they have to care for a minor child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or if the child care provider of that child is unavailable due to a coronavirus emergency.” Click here to learn more.

The National Federation of Independent Business had a webinar on this subject.  Click here for the recording.

Two webinars next week:

On Monday, The Freedom Forum will present a webinar, on COVID-19: Taking Care of  Journalists and Journalism Monday, March 23 from 1 – 2:30.  Journalists have been working nonstop to bring accurate information to their communities. Like other Americans, their work and family lives are upended. Cathy Trost from the Power Shift Project will debrief leaders from top news organizations who will share fresh ideas, best practices and candid advice.  Register.

On Tuesday, Your advertisers need urgent help
America’s Newspapers will be presenting the webinar “ Your advertisers need urgent help during the coronavirus crisis; here’s what you can do” by Borrell Associates and Second Street at 10: 30 am CDT Tuesday, March 24. This is offered to all newspapers at no charge. Click here for details and registration information.

In the midst of the crisis, members are seeing page views go up and advertising go down.  Kevin Berrier, MDDC Advertising Director sees opportunities.

As businesses work to quickly adapt, they are going to look to ad professionals for creative ways to market their products and services. While dine-in restaurants are shut down in some areas, many are offering curbside pickup and delivery.  Gyms in Maryland can communicate the benefits of staying healthy at home and generate emails through lead-gen campaigns.  A “Shop Local” brand campaign can be created for businesses. I’m seeing many businesses offering incentives to purchase gift-cards now to use when this event passes to stimulate revenues, and they’ll need your readership to promote it. While the community is interested in reputable news, they’re also craving what products and services that they can connect with. Your digital impression inventory is probably up on your website, and single copy circulation is increasing.  All are very positive opportunities to assist our local businesses and organizations, and you’ll deepen your relationships as trusted advisors with your advertisers in the process.

The value the local community newspaper has been behind a curtain for some time, in the shadows of social media and other targeted digital options. Because of the amazing work of your staff, the value of the local newspaper is out of the shadows and in the brightest spotlight in recent history.  This is the message that we’re providing to our prospects, and a great message that we recognize, and want to reiterate.

132 Organizations Sign Statement on Government Coronavirus Emergency Transparency and Public Access

MDDC, along with many other organizations representing diverse constituencies and political ideologies, agree that our democracy and democratic practices should not be obstructed in the interest of streamlining deliberations and decision making by our governing bodies in this time of crisis.  We signed on to a statement coordinated by the National Freedom of Information Council and sent it to national organizations.  Please share the statement within your network and distribute it to your state and local public officials.

Something to try in your publication:  Restaurants!

Many newspapers are working with local restaurants to provide in print and online information about carry-out and delivery options. Some newspapers are doing this for a minimal fee and some for free and getting great feedback.

In other MDDC news, we have two new ventures that launched recently. 

Five Dubs

We’ve started our first podcast, Five Dubs, this week.  Our first guest was Luke Broadwater, of the balimore Sun, discussing his investigation into Mayor Pugh.  We’ve been recording a coronavirus update as needed and will also be podcasting our Friday Planner.  You can follow us at, on Twitter @fivedubspodcast or wherever you download your podcasts.  Please let me know what you’d like to hear about!

High School Highlight reel is a weekly regional roundup of high school sports news, drawn from our members’ coverage.  This e-newsletter is designed to amplify the coverage of our members, and draw attention to MDDC’s aggregated site of regional news,  Check it out!

Maryland legislative update

Maryland’s General Assembly adjourned Wednesday, cut short by the COVID-19 crisis.  Legislators passed a digital advertising tax (HB 732), which will tax digital advertising impressions in the state sold by a company on a tiered scale based on the global gross annual revenues from all sources.  Sound confusing?  It is.  MDDC believes it will add significant costs to advertising in the state, just at a time when businesses will be struggling to recover from the coronavirus epidemic.  We are working in concert with local and national advocates on next steps.  Ballard Spahr, who also runs our legal hotline, has an excellent explainer on the tax.

Additionally, legislators passed a digital downloads and subscription tax, which will affect digital subscriptions of newspapers, magazines and more.  Print subscriptions are already subject to sales tax.

MDDC was able to preserve the printed notice of the abandoned property notice, which runs in newspapers around the state. 

Unfortunately, our two signature bills, HB 502 / SB 590 and HB 379 / SB1042, did not get out of committee, primarily due to the truncated session.  HB 502 would have expanded the jurisdiction of the Public Information Act compliance board to issue binding resolution in a variety of disputes, and HB 379 would have strengthened Maryland’s anti-SLAPP statute. 

Delaware’s session is indefinitely postponed.

Finally, a note of encouragement:

News media rises to the occasion.  This week has tested every one of us, juggling family, jobs, anxiety and fear.  Thank you to our members, who have been there on the front lines, reporting on the coronavirus crisis and local news so that our communities can trust that they are being informed on the matters that affect them most.  Local news media serves its communities every day and this is put into stark relief during times of crisis such as we are facing now.  COVID-19 has upended the lives – and livelihoods – of every person in the state.

You are fulfilling a critical role.  When your fellow community members want to know how the Governor’s executive orders will affect them, they look to you. They depend on you to circulate the latest information released by county commissioners, school superintendents, mayors and town councils on the local response to an ever-changing situation.  They need you to share how to stay safe during these times.  Our communities need us, trust us and depend on us.  Be proud of your work and dedication, and know how crucial this work is.

Please also take time away from work to relax.  This is not a sprint, and we will need everyone to be able to contribute.  MDDC is here to help you.  Please reach out if you have questions or needs that we can help with.   

Let us know how you’re doing and what you need.  Drop me an email at  What you are doing is important and critical to your community.  Thank you.


Interested in supporting our podcast, and journalism?  Contact Kevin Berrier (kberrier at at MDDC Advertising Services. Want to contribute? Please donate to our 501(c)(3) Press Foundation.  Learn more.


Have questions or want to know more about a person or topic connected with local journalism? Contact us.


Rebecca Snyder (host), Teb Brownlee & Charlie Ney (producers). Original music by Ruskin Nohe-Moren.