2020 Gather Award in Community-Centered Journalism, Micro/Small Newsrooms winner

Use of WhatsApp During COVID-19 Pandemic


About the Project

Documented created a WhatsApp news service in Spanish to better serve the information needs of Spanish-speaking immigrants in New York City. The service was created after conducting research on how Spanish-speaking immigrants in New York City receive their news. It now has 1,000 subscribers and delivers information based on input from our readers. Prior to the New York City’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, we received questions from community members on WhatsApp about immigration-related matters, which we aimed to answer with our subject matter expertise or by pointing people to where they could get answers. Following the shutdown, our community began asking us questions on health care access, tenant’s rights, and how the pandemic would impact their immigration cases. We began partnering with experts to provide people answers to these questions and started creating resources that were not available on other news sites to help our community navigate the crisis. We published more than a dozen pieces based on input from our WhatsApp community and held multiple Facebook Live events with experts. We make sure that each user who asks a question receives an individual response. We also send the answers to the most recurring questions to our entire list.

Condensing the published pieces that we created into WhatsApp messages proved difficult so we opted to partner with Latinx illustrators to create images that can be easily sent and digested on WhatsApp. We took a Q&A on tenants’ rights, health care access and turned them into four-panel illustrations that had short and clear answers to the main questions.

Misinformation has also been rampant during the pandemic. Our WhatsApp community sent us rumors that they were hearing from others on the platform. We partnered with the local New York area Univision station to fact-check these rumors and published a piece on misinformation during the pandemic. Our audience editor Nicolas Rios also joined a Facebook Live with Univision to give people tips on how to spot misinformation that they receive.

Lightning Chat

All finalists for the Gather Award in Engaged Journalism were invited by the award sponsor, the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s Agora Journalism Center, to participate in a Lightning Chat where they were given the opportunity to talk more about the impact of their OJA finalist engaged journalism project. Check out this finalists Lightning Chat below.