help journalists cover coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for local news organizations. Quality journalism is needed more than ever to keep communities informed and prepared.

And as news consumption has skyrocketed in recent weeks, local outlets have rushed to meet the demand by providing reliable data and information, fact-checking government officials, and helping communities adjust to their new socially distant lifestyles. 

To help newsrooms produce the best possible journalism, we’ve collected some reporting resources to help journalists navigate the challenges of reporting on COVID-19. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected] with any other suggestions.

  • Resolve Philadelphia’s Reframe project has produced a thorough guide to help newsrooms present their coverage responsibly and effectively in a manner that helps provide valuable information to their communities.
  • Poynter has assembled resources for journalists and students including:
  • With the CDC recommending that organizers cancel gatherings of more than 10 people, newsrooms will likely have to move their community engagement gatherings online. Journalism That Matters co-founder Peggy Holman shared these great tips for hosting successful online conversations.
  • First Draft has compiled an incredibly thorough resource hub, which includes information on verification tools, ethical decision making, debunked mis and dis-information, FAQs and more. It has also scheduled a series of video calls on covering coronavirus in the coming weeks.
  • Trusting News’ Joy Mayer wrote about how newsrooms can help their communities understand the purpose of their coverage of COVID-19 and how it’s attempting to help serve them. Trusting News also put together some tips for how newsrooms can demonstrate that their coronavirus coverage is trustworthy.  
  • Hearken held a webinar and created a guide for how newsrooms can meet the information needs of their communities regarding the coronavirus. You can view the webinar and download the slides here.  They also released an engagement workflow template to help newsrooms stay on top of incoming audience questions and needs.
  • ProPublica reporter Caroline Chen lived through SARS and covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. She compiled a series of questions reporters covering the crisis should be asking. And here’s a list of five questions reporters should ask their local hospitals and public officials about coronavirus via editor Charles Ornstein. 
  • The Conversation publishes explainers and analysis from academics that are written for a broad audience. Everything it publishes is made available to other organizations for free to republish.
  • The Global Investigative Journalism Network has put together some great resources including overall tips for journalists, specific ideas for investigative journalists and 9 lessons from Chinese journalists who covered the pandemic.
  • Text messaging can be a great way to reach community members. Here’s how BuzzFeed and a number of local newsrooms are using the platform Subtext to report on the pandemic.
  • Dan Gillmor, co-founder of Arizona State’s News Co/Lab outlined how newsrooms can act more collaboratively during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Language and terms associated with outbreak coverage can be confusing. Scientific American released a guide to help navigate the facts of a virus.
  • The Coronavirus Tech Handbook is a crowd-sourced list of tools that include resources on just about everything from remote work, to fact-checking and translation.
  • The World Federation of Science Journalists created a one-stop hub for worldwide health responses and countrywide plans to coronavirus.
  • Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation produced a guide in 2009 on covering pandemic flu. There are lots of lessons in here that still apply to reporting on the coronavirus today. 
  • Leading health journalists and epidemiologists presented tips for covering the outbreak last month in a webinar for  University of Southern California’s Center for Health Journalism. The Center released a recording of the presentations as well as the slides from each of the experts. 
  • Columbia Journalism Review assembled worldwide coverage of coronavirus and explained how those journalists got their stories. CJR also has published tips for how to cover a fast-moving pandemic like this one.
  • The team at America Amplified, Corporation for Public Broadcasting-funded project to cover the 2020 election, put together 5 ways to keep up engagement practices while social distancing.
  • The Scholars Strategy Network has created a list of academic experts who are available to serve as sources to provide perspectives on public health, immigration, medicine and economic policy. 
  • Taking WHO and CDC recommendations and precautions, the Committee to Protect Journalists put out the proper protocol for journalists to avoid infection and what to do if they show symptoms. 
  • Digital Trends shared some reliable dashboards for charting the progress of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Google has created a dashboard cultivating the most searched terms related to coronavirus
  • The COVID Tracking Project reports COVID-19 cases on a daily basis with state-by-state listings using public health reports and trusted news sources. 
  • The Newsroom Guide to COVID-19 was created by an all-star team to “to help newsroom managers provide clear, useful guidance to their reporters and editors during a period in which we lack official institutional direction on how best to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.” 
  • Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark offers 12 tools to make coronavirus coverage comprehensible.
  • Kinzen CEO and co-founder Mark Little and professor Jeff Jarvis both assembled  Twitter lists of journalists, doctors, policymakers and epidemiologists who are covering coronavirus around the world. Former Brooklyn Eagle Editor in Chief Ned Berke also assembled a twitter list, specifically focused on infectious disease specialists
  • The Associated Press publishes daily updates on the growing pandemic with Understanding the Outbreak.
  • Supporting newsroom efforts to keep up a solid flow of fact based coronavirus coverage, the Pulitzer Center’s Coronavirus News Collaboration Challenge grant is taking applications here
  • Former Financial Times editor Lionel Barber shares crisis management lessons from 2008.
  • Word choice is powerful while reporting during times of crisis. Matt Sedensky breaks down pandemic lexicon for journalists. 
  • Society for Professional Journalist’s assembled a full toolbox for journalists working on coronavirus stories, pulling from previous pandemic resources.
  • Mother Jones advocates for journalists to think more scientifically to stop the chain of misinformation.
  • Poynter released a list of free virtual resources for journalism professors and students after many universities are going digital for the remainder of the year. 
  • Current brought together local outlets from all around the country to share what they’ve been working on related to coronavirus and what they’re most proud of
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press published a brief guide on press freedoms during coronavirus including open meetings and court access
  • Open News has created a peer-review system to help journalists make sure their reporting and data analysis is accurate. Fill out this Google form to team up with other journalists to break down data and analyze numbers
  • The International Journalists’ Network has a dashboard of Covid-19 reporting tips and tools focusing on topics such as safety, sustainability and solutions journalism.
  • Coral by Vox Media put together a guide to manage a community during a pandemic. It focuses on three key areas: What people need, how to respond, and essential policies 
  • Reaching your audience through waves of information and social media presents a new challenge. Fiona Morgan shared  7 practices to get your reporting to who needs it via The American Press Institute.
  • The Coronavirus is a massive story in the education world as schools have been shuttered and students — many of whom don’t have adequate internet access — are forced to switch to remote learning. The Education Writers Association curated all of its coronavirus blog posts and webinars to help newsrooms cover the impact on students.  
  • Reynolds Journalism Institute executive director, Pete Pachal, highlights successes in service journalism what’s worked so far.
  • LION publishers hosted a free webinar on managing local news businesses during the pandemic. Catch up on all the key lessons.
  • Three photojournalists discussed challenges they’re facing during a webinar hosted by the Reynolds Institute. 
  • To help journalists ethically navigate protecting sources and themselves, The Tow Center for Digital Journalism put together a guide to reporting security during a pandemic 
  • The Associated Press has made its hourly updated coronavirus data set available to all
  • Journalists from the Association of Health Care Journalists shared tips and advice for how to find reliable sources who are virus experts.
  • Here’s a Nieman Reports article about how journalists can help flatten the curve and cut through mis-and-dis-information to earn readers’ trust.
  • With support from the Knight Foundation, the World Health Organization and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are launching a free online class on covering COVID-19 
  • Radar, a project from Outride.rs, is collecting solution based projects to help manage the effects of COVID-19. Submit yours here
  • Reporting on difficult stories is challenging during normal circumstances. Here are BBC’s tips on adjusting to remote interviews and reporting with sensitivity from a distance.

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by Maeve Hennessey, The Linfest Institute

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