Any good data journalist shares their thorough methodology, inviting questions and comments on the process behind their work. In the interest of transparency, here’s how the COVID-19 Data Dispatch is put together each week.
At the start of the week, Betsy starts a new notes page in Notion. She writes out prospective topics for that Sunday’s newsletter. Throughout the week, she adds links and associated notes to the Notion page, organized roughly in bullet points. These links may be new data sources, media reports, Tweet threads, vaccination counts, and more.
Towards the end of the week, Betsy takes stock of the accumulated notes. She sketches out two outlines for the newsletter: one on a sheet of scrap paper and one on a whiteboard. (It’s nice to cross sections off in multiple locations.) Then, she starts writing. She analyzes data and produces visualizations as needed along the way.
The newsletter is typically complete by late evening on Saturday. Betsy gets a well-deserved seven to nine hours of sleep, then proofreads the newsletter fresh on Sunday morning. Sometimes, her girlfriend (who is a seasoned copyeditor) checks it over, largely to point out unnecessary commas and areas where “which” should be replaced with “that.” Then, the newsletter arrives in your inbox.
Where does Betsy find all that data news and resources? Here are a few major sources.
- Twitter; specifically, Twitter lists including Data/Investigations by Erin Petenko, Coronavirus Experts by Dr. Ellie Murray, and COVID by Jeff Jarvis
- Other COVID-19 newsletters; notably, Covering COVID-19 by Al Tompkins, POLITICO Pulse, STAT‘s Daily Recap, Robin Lloyd’s ‘smart, useful, science stuff about COVID-19’, and Benjy Renton’s Where We Stand with COVID-19 updates
- Press releases from the CDC, HHS, CMS, and other major public health agencies
- State updates and trends picked up by the COVID Tracking Project
- Tips from readers!
If you have a suggestion for a newsletter topic, featured source, or anything else, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.