Over the past three years, I’ve continually searched for fresh, updated information and resources to help enhance your COVID-19 coverage.
A new one that recently caught my attention is the COVID-19 Misinformation Playbook (2023), produced by the Online News Association, which represents digital journalists and media professionals.
The playbook, edited by Chicago-based freelance reporter Meena Thiruvengadam, is well-researched and easy to use. It aims to help new reporters get up to speed on their COVID coverage and serves as a guide for journalists covering public health emergencies in the future. The tip sheet is built upon a previous version published by ONA in 2021, and was created by a group of journalists to help reporters determine which public health agencies had the most reliable information about the pandemic.
“For this update, I did a lot of reporting — reaching out to experts, gathering suggestions from stakeholders, Google sleuthing, etc.,” Thiruvengadam said. “I also approached the resource as I would from a local newsroom. If I’m a newish journalist wanting to cover a piece of this story, what would I need to feel up to speed?”
I appreciated that the tip sheet starts with a reminder that the pandemic story isn’t over and that there are three questions reporters should keep asking no matter what story they are writing:
- “Is this situation real and important, or am I buying into framing of sources who may have ulterior motives?
- Am I confident in the accuracy of my reporting or rushing to get something out ahead of the competition?
- Am I legitimizing something I shouldn’t just by covering it?”
Other good resources in the guide include how to pick a reliable expert, a COVID-19 Diverse Sources Database, fact-checking tools and audience literacy resources. If a reporter is looking for ideas on how to tailor stories for their local community, the guide points to the Chattanooga Times Free Press and their strategy for keeping readers interested in COVID coverage.
There is also a resource for covering long COVID, which Thiruvengadam thinks isn’t getting enough coverage. (Full disclosure: Included in Thiruvengadam’s guide is the tip sheet Tara Haelle and I co-authored for AHCJ on covering long COVID at the end of 2022.)
“I think the biggest surprise is how little coverage I’m seeing on long COVID, particularly from local newsrooms and about the people affected,” she wrote. Take a look at this important April 20 story co-authored by STAT’s Rachel Cohrs and COVID-19 Data Dispatch’s Betsy Ladyhetz called: “The NIH has poured $1 billion into long Covid research – with little to show for it.”
And to end this post, I wanted to put out a request to AHCJ members: I’m updating my 2021 COVID-19 reporter’s essential toolkit, and I’d appreciate input from you. What resources am I missing? Please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.