Major U.S. newsrooms are scaling back travel and asking journalists to take precautions in the wake of the spread of coronavirus. While attempting not to stir panic or have gaps in coverage for various beats abroad, over the past several days, leaders at the biggest newsrooms have sought to allay worries about the virus, but are taking cues from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asking reporters to stay home and severely limiting overseas travel.
CNN sent a memo to staff on Monday morning restricting all work travel, and limiting events staffing to “absolutely critical” personnel. The New York Times reported that any intercontinental travel would need to be personally approved by CNN head Jeff Zucker.
Similarly, the Times itself restricted “non-essential business travel” to and from China, and discouraged staff from traveling to Asia and northern Italy. And in a memo obtained by The Daily Beast, Wall Street Journal D.C. bureau chief Paul Beckett told staff this weekend that while reporters may continue domestic work-related travel, the company will be “pulling back on travel to conferences and other discretionary trips.”
Meanwhile, magazine and digital publishing giant Condé Nast, which employs a large number of employees internationally, has established a system to keep employees informed about the virus’ spread. On Sunday, global CEO Roger Lynch sent an email to staff saying any employee who had visited an affected country will be asked to work from home for two weeks (The New York Times and WSJ’s parent company Dow Jones implemented a similar policy). Condé’s decree included a group of staffers who recently traveled to Milan, Italy for fashion week—a restriction that the company acknowledged as a “inconvenience.” The company also established a specific Slack messaging channel and an FAQ email account for coronavirus updates.
Other outlets have urged caution and encouraged staff to take steps that minimize physical human contact. For example, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget sent an email to staff last week suggesting staff try alternatives to shaking hands, including “bumping elbows or tapping their feet together” when meeting with guests.