The interior of a daily newspaper office in the Cleveland Plain Dealer Building. Source: Universal Images Group via Getty.
The interior of a daily newspaper office in the Cleveland Plain Dealer Building. Source: Universal Images Group via Getty.

Coronavirus and the media: Effectively reporting on and navigating a pandemic

With COVID-19 dominating the news as of late, the media has an important obligation to diversify its coverage, helping reduce panic. 


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As we all continue to navigate a “new normal” in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is as important a time as ever for the media to play its role. 

This is why efforts have been made to support media organizations in coronavirus coverage. 

On March 17, the Facebook Journalism Project along with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association announced a partnership to offer a total of $1 million in grant money to support U.S. and Canadian local news organizations covering the coronavirus.

The grants - of up to $5,000 - would go towards filling the immediate gaps for newsrooms with constrained resources to adequately report on the impact of the coronavirus in their communities.

“Local news enterprises have responded with superb, real-time, comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, but many newsrooms are resource-constrained just when our communities need us most,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director & CEO of The Lenfest Institute of Journalism. “The grants ... are designed to provide rapid-response assistance for the coverage of this fast-moving news story. Our focus is on need, speed and scope - helping as many news organizations as we can, as quickly as we can.”

It can be difficult enough for large newsrooms to adequately cover something as significant as a global pandemic, due to the large scope that it requires. This makes small newsrooms’ ability to disseminate such information an even bigger task. 

“Covering coronavirus at the local level is a struggle for many small-to mid-size publishers who are already resource-challenged,” said Nancy Lane, CEO of Local Media Association. “These grants will go a long way to help them provide vital information to their communities.”

With the pandemic only projecting to grow for the time being and no clear end in sight, it’s important for the media to use any and all resources to provide valuable information to its audience. 

However, more than simply updates of how the coronavirus is impacting everyone and everyday life, there are various more ways for the media to share information surrounding COVID-19. Here are three:

Don’t insight fear

Just the word “pandemic” is one that may insight emotion among news consumers, ranging from uncertainty to downright panic, fear and hysteria. Part of it is due to a lack of diversity within the coverage. 

Beyond the coverage of the rising number of confirmed cases and deaths occurring by the day, stories about the thousands who have recovered, the CDC’s recommendations on how to reduce the spread of the virus and tips for social distancing practices can each help lessen the panic surrounding a pandemic.

Keep up with the information

News of a pandemic surfaces rather quickly. Therefore, it creates a need for up-to-date information. 

As a reporter is working on one story, there are likely several others that are worthy topics to cover. Whether it’s on the increase of confirmed cases or deaths, the case of a prominent individual, legislation being passed in the fight against it, or the story of someone who has recovered, those types of stories provide up-to-date information from fresh, new angles.

Promote survival

COVID-19 isn’t the first pandemic the world has seen - and likely won’t be the last.

However, what pandemics often teach us is the importance of coming together in the fight against it. 

During the times of crisis, it’s common to maintain a level of panic. However, past pandemics have shown us that all of them come to an end eventually, and society can take steps towards a return to “normal.”

The media have the great influence of reminding the public of that fact.


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