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Covering Covid-19: Resources for and reports from journalists

Updated 10-8-2021

What two journalists learned from covering the race to stop the next pandemic (Erica Tricarico, Covering Health, AHCJ, 10-6-21) While most of the world is focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19, scientists across the globe are working to stop other potentially deadly viruses from causing another pandemic. The diseases that pose the greatest threat to humanity are all zoonotic (diseases that can spread between species — from animals to humans and vice versa, for example). See Stopping the Next One: Scientists Race to Prevent Human Encroachment on Wildlife From Causing the Next Pandemic. (Harriet Constable and Jacob Kushner, BBC, a six-part multimedia series funded by the Pulitzer Center) The series explores six zoonotic diseases on six continents: a bat-borne (Nipah) virus in Asia; mosquito-borne illness in North America (a super-spreader mosquito that has crossed from India to North America); Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) carried by camels in Africa; swine flu in Europe; yellow fever carried by monkeys in South America; and a flesh-eating bacteria carried by possums in Australia.
COVID coverage concerns from a health & science journalist’s perspective (Education journalist Alexander Russo, The Grade, 9-15-21) A conversation with data journalist Betsy Ladyzhets about what was learned from Data Dispatch's "Opening" project, about schools reopening. "Stories that highlight school outbreaks and tension may cause readers to think there’s no way to open schools safely… At the same time, stories that argue, ‘schools are extremely low risk’ or, ‘we don’t know if masks are actually beneficial for young kids,’ are also harmful." This article summarizes a lot, provides valuable links, and is worth reading.
STAT News coverage of coronavirus Important journalism.
Opening project conclusion: 11 lessons from the schools that safely reopened (Betsy Ladyzhets, Covid-19 Data Dispatch, 9-19-21) In the “Opening” series, to be published in installments, Ladyzhets profiles five school communities that successfully reopened during the 2020-2021 school year. These schools used many similar strategies to build trust with their communities and keep COVID-19 case numbers down. Many districts managed to bring the majority of their students back into classrooms without breeding a dreaded COVID-19 outbreak.
The tentative successes of in-person learning deserve more coverage (Alexander Russo, The Grade, 9-11-20) See also Smart ways to report on COVID cases detected in schools (Russo, The Grade, 9-2-20) Russo's pieces are packed with information and insights and full of useful links on schools and covid.
Reliable sources for updates on COVID-19
For Visual Journalists, The Pandemic Was Creative Inspiration to Try Harder (Deb Pastner, Nieman Reports, 5-24-21) At the Minneapolis Star Tribune, photographers and videographers didn’t flinch from showing what was happening, but they also portrayed subjects in their full humanity.
Lessons from the Pandemic (Nieman Reports) Click there for access to the archive on this topic. Here are links to a few stories:
---There Is an Open War on Facts and Truth. That’s Why We Need Accountability Reporting in Political Stories (Tim Lambert, Nieman Reports, 6-17-21) There is no returning to a pre-pandemic normal for journalists because the game has changed, whether news organizations want to recognize it or not. Three major developments in 2020 — the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice protests, and the U.S. presidential election — tested journalists’ abilities to report facts while debunking massive amounts of disinformation/misinformation around each one. It’s past time to move on from “both sides” reporting and stop worrying about faux cries of bias
---Post-Covid, Newsrooms Should Cover What’s Going Right in Indian Country, Too (Kyle Edwards, Nieman Reports, 6-8-21) The mainstream press covered Indian Country at its worst. Its Covid-19 recovery is just as newsworthy.
---In Polarized Times, Local Papers Need to Lean Even Harder into Tough Issues (Austin Bogues, Nieman Reports,6-2-21) Local newsrooms should report with nuance, grace, and empathy — especially when covering political hot-button issues
---For Visual Journalists, The Pandemic Was Creative Inspiration to Try Harder (Deb Pastner, NR, 5-24-21) Throughout my 22 years at the paper, I’ve observed plenty of stellar photojournalism. But this past year was different. As our newsroom shut down and most of us headed home to do our work, our photographers and videographers headed out to document the shutdown of Minnesota. At the Minneapolis Star Tribune, photographers and videographers didn’t flinch from showing what was happening, but they also portrayed subjects in their full humanity
---What Newsrooms Can Learn About Trust from Coverage of the AstraZeneca Vaccine (Mattia Ferraresi,NR, 4-30-21) Trust needs to be continually earned. That’s a lesson newsrooms all over the world are learning, sometimes the hard way
---The Old Normal Is Not the Normal Journalism Needs (John Archibald, NR, 5-4-21) "George Floyd was alive the last time my newsroom was open. So were a half million Americans and three-plus million citizens of the world, now lost to the plague of covid-19. Donald Trump was president; the news cycle was dominated by his tweets. An insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was unthinkable. Zoom was barely known among the general population.... For the photo editors, particularly our night editors Kyndell Harkness and Kevin Martin, the Floyd protests were a challenge to explain the root of the anger spilling onto the streets, and not let the images of looting or arson represent anything more than a symptom of the larger problem of racism. They took care to choose images that didn’t flinch from showing what was happening, but also didn’t put undue emphasis on property destruction over human anguish."
Science journalist Siri Carpenter says ‘follow the money’ to combat misinformation (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, 6-21-21) "Misinformation isn’t out there by accident. It wasn’t just accidentally created, and then other people stumbled onto it.” The U.K.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit focused on countering misinformation, has investigated the source of false stories about COVID-19 on social media. Roughly a dozen social media influencers were responsible for 65 percent of the misleading information about the pandemic, vaccines and treatments. Siri Carpenter, co-founder of The Open Notebook, a science journalism nonprofit, suggests focusing on the business side of misinformation and who’s profiting by pedaling false narratives to the public.

     See also Science editor talks about story ideas and combating misinformation post COVID-19 (Bara Vaida talks with Siri Carpenter, Covering Health, AHCJ, 6-21-21) Journalists have been discussing this a lot — trying to help one another respond to misinformation. Data seem to show that providing the facts to the public isn’t enough to help people discern fact from fiction. What do you think we can do about it?Journalists have been discussing this a lot — trying to help one another respond to misinformation. "[T]hat's where stories come in. People connect with human stories in a way that they don't connect with facts. I think if anything is going to save us, it's going to be the stories that are [not only] factually accurate, but [also] enable people to perceive the world in a way that is true and accurate and that connects with their values and emotions."
Tipsheet: Covering COVID-19 Vaccines (Betsy Ladyzhets, The Open Notebook, 2-16-21) Tips for both veteran science writers and journalists just now wading into the vaccine beat. H/T to Ms Ladyzhets for links to several of the stories below.
The COVID Reporters Are Not Okay. Extremely Not Okay. (Olivia Messer, Study Hall, 5-6-21) An underprepared industry is losing a generation of journalists to despair, trauma, and moral injury as they cover the story of a lifetime. Most journalists interviewed "told me they do not feel supported by newsroom leaders; that they do not have the tools they need to handle the trauma they are absorbing; and that most of their bosses don’t seem to care about how bad it has gotten. Some said they are still finding themselves sobbing after meetings, between meetings, on calls during work, or when the day ends."
More resources on variants for your COVID-19 reporting toolbox (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 5-4-21)
Natural selection in the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in bats created a generalist virus and highly capable human pathogen (Oscar A. MacLean, Spyros Lytras,Steven Weaver, Joshua B. Singer, Maciej F. Boni, Philippe Lemey, Sergei L. Kosakovsky Pond, David L. Robertson, PLOS Biology, 3-12-21) Important for discussions of the virus being created in a lab.
College Students Are Helping Answer Key Vaccine Questions, but Finding Enough of Them Is Tough (Chelsea Cirruzzo, US News, 5-6-21) A big NIH trial to study vaccine effectiveness in college students aimed to recruit 12,000 students at a select number of colleges, but because the vaccine rollout has progressed faster than expected, researchers are having a hard time finding not-yet-vaccinated students to enroll. (1,000 are enrolled so far.)
We Still Don’t Know Who the Coronavirus’s Victims Were (Ibram X. Kendi, 5-2-21) One year into a racial pandemic within a viral one, the gaps in our collective knowledge are still startling.
New analysis finds global Covid death toll is double official estimates (Helen Branswell, STAT, 5-6-21) Under-testing and overburdened healthcare systems may contribute to reporting systems missing COVID-19 deaths, though the reasons—and the undercount’s magnitude—are different in each country. In the U.S., IHME estimates about 900,000 deaths, while the CDC counts 562,000.
Reporting responsibly on COVID-19 vaccines requires knowing the research landscape (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 1-19-21)
Federal COVID Data 101: How to Find Data (The COVID Tracking Project, 3-8-21) Helpful links, plus helpful links to more sources of information.
The Covid-19 vaccines are a marvel of science. Here’s how we can make the best use of them (Helen Branswell, STAT, 12-2-2020) "And there’s a possibility that the pandemic off-ramp doesn’t merge with a straight road back to Normalville, but instead becomes a meandering country lane with the occasional detour. We may need to choose the right turns and avoid the potholes as we make our way to our destination."
Covid-19 vaccine basics: Why the rollout is so slow, who can get doses, and what about side effects (Helen Branswell, STAT, 1-25-21)
‘Just utter chaos’: A Twitter thread offers a window into the frustrating search for Covid-19 shots (Nicholas St. Fleur, STAT, 1-28-21)
How to report the science of COVID-19 (Charles Wendo, SciDev.Net, 5-13-20) Includes important links to reliable sources of info about new science research.
Journalists have important role in explaining the science behind vaccine development (Joseph Burns, Covering Health, AHCJ, 11-19-2020) NIH director Francis S. Collins gave a stark warning for journalists and all Americans about the need to recognize the value of the vaccines as they are rolled out in the coming months. Answering questions from session moderator and independent journalist Maryn McKenna, Collins outlined how the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed aims to produce 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The goal is to make the initial shots available as soon as next month if approved.

•  Fact Sheet: Explaining Operation Warp Speed What's the goal? (US Health and Human Services, 11-20-2020) Operation Warp Speed's goal is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics (collectively known as countermeasures).
COVID-19 vaccinations: Why are some states and localities so much more successful? (William A. Galston, Brookings, 1-25-21) Why had West Virginia (a poor state) done so much better than Maryland (a rich state) at inoculating its citizens?
Journalists Explore Inefficiency and Inequities of Vaccine Rollout (Kaiser Health News, 2-6-2021) KHN and California Healthline staff made the rounds on national and local media this week to discuss their stories. Here’s a collection of their appearances.
New document reveals scope and structure of Operation Warp Speed and underscores vast military involvement (Nicholas Florko, @NicholasFlorko,STAT,9-28-2020)
How to Report with Accuracy and Sensitivity on Contested Illnesses (Julie Rehmeyer, TheOpenNotebook, 1-26-21) Julie Rehmeyer had long trusted science to have--if not answers---the tools and foundation to interrogate questions. But following her chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis in 2006, she writes, "This scientific grounding fell away from me."In a reported essay, Rehmeyer describes her personal journey with a contested illness, made even more relevant today as COVID long-haulers sometimes struggle to find acceptance in the scientific and medical communities.  Journalists, she says, can play a critical part in framing and contextualizing patientse=' experiences, learning from and avoiding the mistakes that have left others feeling marginalized. Here, Rehmeyer provides a guide.
Staff writer talks about covering COVID, responding to anti-science sentiment (Bara Vaida, Resources, Association of Health Care Journalists, 12-2-2020) Good on how to explain COVID to a science denier, illustrated by a link to this story on Medium/Elemental: The Most Likely Way You’ll Get Infected With the Coronavirus (Dana G Smith, Six Months In series, Elemental/Medium, 9-16-2020) The three primary pathways of transmission, and what experts know about them six months in.
Coronavirus: Resources for reporters (First Draft News)
Writer offers advice on how journalists can respond to COVID-19 deniers (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 12-2-2020)
50 Experts to Trust in a Pandemic (Elemental Editors, Six Months In, Elemental) Whose advice should you follow to stay healthy and informed? The health and science experts on this list.
COVID-19: Science reporting in a global pandemic: 9 tips for journalists covering the pandemic  (video,University of Rhode Island, Harrington School of Communication and Media). Ed Yong's powerful Amanpour Lecture, 2020. Yong's coverage of the pandemic has been superb. This talk is an antidote to Trump's uber-optimism and a master list of intelligently expressed tips communicating about the pandemic. #4 The pandemic is long and our short attentions must lengthen to match it. We are drawn to novelty and extremes...we quest for novel answers even though the playbook is clear" and is not different in October from what it was in the summer.  You MUST listen to this.
‘Question everything’: 3 tips for covering health when you usually don’t (Holly Butcher Grant, The Latest, Journalism Institute, 10-1-2020) See archives here.
Get prepared now to cover the COVID-19 vaccine (Bara Vaida and Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 11-2-2020) Health and medical journalists: It's worth joining AHCJ for the Tipsheets alone, including these two: Use these resources to background yourself on COVID-19 vaccine development (Bara Vaida and Tara Haelle, Tip Sheet, AHCJ) and Tips on finding and vetting experts during a disease outbreak (Tara Haelle, Tara C. Smith, and Maryn McKenna, AHCJ tipsheet).
New York Times health reporter shares COVID-19 resources, tips (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 11-3-2020)
Tips on covering preprints about coronavirus research (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ)
--- Promise and pitfalls of preprints explored in AHCJ webcast (Covering Health, 5-2020)
--- Coronavirus Tests Science’s Need for Speed Limits (Wudan Yan, NY Times, 4-14-2020) Preprint servers and peer-reviewed journals are seeing surging audiences, with many new readers not well versed in the limitations of the latest research findings."But the mess he was seeing on Twitter suggested a downside of the service provided by the site, known as a preprint server, during the emerging coronavirus pandemic. The social media platform was awash with conspiracy theories positing that the new coronavirus had been engineered by the Chinese government for population control. And the theorists’ latest evidence was a freshly submitted paper on bioRxiv from a team of Indian researchers that suggested an “uncanny similarity” between proteins in H.I.V. and the new virus."
Survey: Lack of access to public health experts hinders COVID-19 reporting (Felice J. Freyer, Covering Health, AHCJ, 10-30-2020) Nearly half of respondents to an AHCJ survey 'reported that “always,” “most of the time” or “about half the time” they had been blocked from speaking with public health experts. More than half said that press briefings in their area have been led by politicians rather than health experts, and those briefings often failed to answer critical questions. While the sidelining of federal scientists has drawn national attention, the AHCJ survey shows that the problem occurs at every level of government and results in inadequate information reaching the public.'
50 Experts to Trust in a Pandemic (vetted list from Elemental editors, Medium, 9-18-2020). Part of a series: Six months in.
Super bug threat potential rising with COVID-19 (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 10-28-2020) Scientists are watching for signs that COVID-19 patients are being overtreated with antibiotics, which could lead to a surge in super bugs – the term for bacteria and fungus that are resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics.
New resource can help you assess hazards and risks and odds ratios (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 10-27-2020) “When you’re communicating scientific research to a general audience, it can be very challenging to do it in a way that helps them understand its meaning and its importance,” Spiegelhalter says in a video on the RealRisk homepage. “So we’ve created this tool, RealRisk, that takes the numbers used in scientific studies and turns them into graphics and sentences that everyone should be able to make better sense of.”
While still an expensive therapy, doctors see promise in harnessing a patient’s immune system to fight cancer (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 10-29-2020)
Experts offer roadmap for reporters tackling America's nursing home crisis during COVID-19 (Trudy Lieberman, The Coronavirus Files, Center for Health Journalism, 6-30-2020)
AP Stylebook tips on the coronavirus (Kristen Hare, Poynter, 3-4-2020) For example: "Because COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the virus, it is not accurate to write a new virus called COVID-19. Instead: A new virus caused a disease called COVID-19....The virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2, given by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses....COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2.
Tipsheet: Covering the Coronavirus Epidemic Effectively Without Spreading Misinformation (Laura Helmuth, The Open Notebook, 3-2-2020)
COVID-19: Why we need to hear the evidence directly from the scientists (Fiona Fox, Science Media Centre, 10-6-2020) “Too often the scientists who are doing the research and gathering the data are being robbed of the opportunity to present their science to the public in the best way,” she says.
Reporting COVID-19 research responsibly (Sammy Bedoui, University of Melbourne and Catherine Somerville, Doherty Institute, Pursuit, University of Melbourne, 10-5-2020) During COVID-19, science communication has never been more vital, but the media has a responsibility to explain that scientific research evolves as it learns. “For many science journalists, the pre-print is now serving as their opportunity to be first. But this does come with significant risks,” according to Professor Bedoui.
Covering Coronavirus (2020 name for the National Press Club's Journalism Institute's newsletter, The Latest). Spend some time looking through these links -- lots of strong and useful stories.
Data Journalists’ Roundtable: Visualizing the Pandemic (Tien Nguyen, The Open Notebook, 9-29-2020) Four journalists--Emily M. Eng (graphics editor, Seattle Times), Chris Canipe (data visual journalist, Reuters), Aaron Williams (data reporter, Washington Post) and Jasmine Mithai (visual journalist, FiveThirtyEight)--talk about the biggest challenges they have faced trying to make sense of the ever-changing pandemic using numbers and information that shifts daily. There are, each says, some ground rules: Visualizations must be accurate, digestible, and actionable. They talk about the biggest challenges they have faced trying to make sense of the ever-changing pandemic using numbers and information that shifts daily.
Reporting On and Living With COVID-19: The View of Three European Journalists (YouTube video, SWINY aka Science Writers in New York.. Streamed live 11-17-2020) European science journalists Malin Attefall (Sweden), Yves Sciama (France), and Eva Wolfangel (Germany) talk with SWINY co-chair David Levine about living with and reporting on COVID-19 in their countries.
How to be antiracist in coronavirus coverage (Ibram X. Kendi, Robert Samuels, and Shannong YOung, National Press Club Institute panel, 8-15-2020 ) Why has COVID-19 hit communities of color hardest across the U.S.? And how should journalists explain that fact? Kendi: "This coronavirus pandemic will go down as the worst public health disaster in American history… It’s really on journalists to make sure that America gets it right, meaning that when people are reading and trying to understand what happened during the COVID pandemic in 2050, that they’re reading a truthful story." Journalists are the first writers of history, so how they cover this disaster will have political ramifications going forward.
How a global crisis turns into a personal crisis (Susana Ferreira, Columbia Journalism Review, 7-27-2020) "The threat of COVID-19 has disrupted and distorted nearly every aspect of life and made in-person reporting risky; quarantines and shelter-in-place orders have collapsed any separation between work life and home life; the uprising against anti-Black institutional violence has made maintaining journalistic neutrality—if you believed in such a thing in the first place—an ethical impossibility....
       The last mass-scale news event that caught the Western world’s attention started in 2015, when more than a million people crossed the Mediterranean Sea to seek refuge in Europe. Thousands died along the way; many drowned within sight of shore, or within sight of European authorities. The journalists who covered the death and trauma suffered—their suffering in no way compared to that of the people they were covering, this must be clear, but they suffered nonetheless—from various forms of emotional distress: depression, post-traumatic stress, and moral injury...Moral injury can be triggered by committing, witnessing, or failing to prevent an act that violates one’s personal ethical code. It typically manifests as overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, but can also emerge as anger, a shattered sense of self, and an inability to trust or forgive. It is distinct from PTSD, and is not considered a mental illness, though it can act as a harbinger of that disorder."
Tip sheet can aid your reporting on COVID-19 serology/antibody testing (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 5-5-2020).
How To Know If You Can Trust That Headline-Grabbing COVID-19 Study (Rachel Fairbank, Lifehacker,4-29-2020) In an analysis of 14 different antibody tests, performed by a team of more than 50 scientists, only three produced consistently reliable results. And of these 14 different tests, only one didn’t generate false positives.
France’s top science magazine in turmoil over editorial independence (Christa Lesté-Lasserre, Science, 10-7-2020) Science & Vie’s top editor has resigned after articles written by a corporate employee were published on the magazine’s website without the knowledge of its editors, according to News from Science.
On Covid-19, a Respected Science Watchdog Raises Eyebrows (Michael Schulson, Undark, 4-24-2020) For his Covid-19 work, the Stanford scientist John Ioannidis is being accused of the same bad science he has criticized.
Journalists are recognizing they’re writing a rough draft of history – and can’t say definitively ‘that’s the way it is’ (Kevin M. Lerner, The Conversation, 4-13-2020) Journalists have historically done a bad job of explaining to the public that each day’s news report is, by necessity, incomplete and provisional. The question about masks is just one rapidly shifting element among a wide-ranging group of stories whose facts are updated daily, if not hourly. With one paragraph, the Los Angeles Times admitted that its information was incomplete and subject to revision. “One thing to keep in mind before we continue: It is possible that the information you read below will be contradicted in the coming weeks or that gaps in knowledge today will soon be filled as scientists continue to study the virus.”
      "News organizations, intent on projecting authority and knowledge, rarely admit their fallibility or lack of omniscience....If the rest of the press likewise acknowledges that today’s truth is not a finished story and audiences begin to demand that sort of transparency, then as trust builds between journalists and the public, a mutual understanding of the facts and, ultimately, the truth can emerge."
Phases of clinical trials (National Comprehensive Cancer Network). With dozens of clinical trials competing for the market for effective Covid-19 treatment, it is important to understand what each of four phases covers. Phase I trials, for example, test only for safety, not for whether the virus works, no matter what a firm's press release says. See similar explanations from University of Michigan HealthWikipedia (which has a useful chart)
Coronavirus: The good, the bad, and the practical Many topics covered.
Amy Maxmen Unveils Scientific Roadblocks Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic (Katherine J. Wu, The Open Notebook, 6-2-2020) Maxmen documents the process and progress and setbacks of science. And, with both Ebola and COVID-19, the places where science and society intersect. Or, as Katherine Wu writes, where biology and medicine "collide with politics, economics, and social justice." Some of her stories that illustrate points she makes:
---The race to unravel the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the United States (Nature, 3-7-2020)
---Two decades of pandemic war games failed to account for Donald Trump (Amy Maxmen & Jeff Tollefson, Nature, 8-4-2020) The scenarios foresaw leaky travel bans, a scramble for vaccines and disputes between state and federal leaders, but none could anticipate the current levels of dysfunction in the United States.
---Ebola prepared these countries for coronavirus — but now even they are floundering (Nature, 7-21-2020) In Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the hard-won lessons of a deadly pandemic cannot entirely compensate for poverty and weak health systems.
---Massive coronavirus outbreak strikes iconic Californian prison after it rejected expert aid (Noah Baker, Amy Maxmen & Benjamin Thompson, Nature, 7-10-2020) San Quentin prison faces the third-largest outbreak in the United States. Legal pressure builds as one in three inmates is infected.
---Coronapod: Lessons from pandemic ‘war-game’ simulations (Noah Baker, Amy Maxmen & Benjamin Thompson, Nature, 3-7-2020) Biosecurity experts use military-style exercises to plan for biological threats. Have their warnings been heeded?
---Coronapod: The state of the pandemic, six months in (Noah Baker, Amy Maxmen & Benjamin Thompson, Nature, 6-26-2020) Lockdowns are lifting but global infections are still rising. We take stock as we enter the next chapter of the outbreak.
---What a US exit from the WHO means for COVID-19 and global health (Nature, 5-27-2020) As President Trump terminates the US relationship with the agency, experts foresee incoherence, inefficiency and a resurgence of deadly diseases.
---The epic battle against coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories (Philip Ball & Amy Maxmen, Nature, 5-27-2020) Analysts are tracking false rumours about COVID-19 in hopes of curbing their spread.
---Coronapod: Hope and caution greet vaccine trial results (podcast, Noah Baker, Amy Maxmen and Richard Van Noorden, Nature, 5-22-2020) The first results from vaccine trials are promising, but scientists still urge caution, and Trump issues an ultimatum to the WHO.
---Scientists baffled by decision to stop a pioneering coronavirus testing project (5-22-2020) Researchers looking to make tests widely available worry as regulators freeze the team that first identified US community spread.
---Coronapod: The overlooked outbreaks that could derail the coronavirus response (5-8-2020) Outbreaks among those unable to isolate are spreading under the radar. We hear about the researchers scrambling to get a handle on the situation.
---Exclusive: Behind the front lines of the Ebola wars (Nature, 9-11-19) How the World Health Organization is battling bullets, politics and a deadly virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Proceed with caution in covering the road to a COVID-19 vaccine (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 6-5-2020) More than 120 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are being tested worldwide, the speed of the research into potential vaccines has created a kind of horse-race narrative in the media, and the public may not understand that the end of the race could end up being multiple years away and even end with no vaccine. Excellent report and links for AHCJ members (membership not costly).
Stephanie Lee Unravels the Conflicts of Interest Behind a Controversial COVID-19 Study (Katherine J. Wu, The Open Notebook, 6-23-2020) Lee has become BuzzFeed News’s go-to person on COVID-19 antibody tests—clinical assays that search patients’ blood for immune molecules that recognize SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. In mid-May 2020, she broke one of her biggest stories yet: JetBlue’s Founder Helped Fund a Stanford Study That Said the Coronavirus Wasn’t That Deadly (BuzzFeed, 5-15-2020) "After obtaining a whistleblower’s complaint, filed with Stanford University, Lee reported that the study had been funded in part by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, who has publicly proclaimed that SARS-CoV-2 fears are overblown and that we need to reopen the American economy. The lengthy document contained dozens of screenshotted emails batted between the researchers behind the study and their colleagues, some of whom expressed concerns about the antibody test—complaints that Ioannidis and others allegedly ignored. Lee’s piece went, well, viral....Here, Lee tells Katherine J. Wu about her deep dive into the whistleblower's complaint, and how she navigates the ethics of investigative reporting."
Covering the coronavirus amid infection, misinformation and scared sources (Emilia Díaz-Struck, Scilla Alecci, Will Fitzgibbon, Jelena Cosic, Delphine Reuter, and others, Press Freedom, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 5-7-2020) Journalists covering the coronavirus from Hungary to Chile are not only faced with the risk of contagion. They are battling secretive governments, restricted movement, misinformation and sources who are too scared to speak.  (Scroll to bottom for links to more fact-checking sites.)
Is CMS putting older adults at increased risk during the pandemic? (Liz Seegert, Covering Health AHCJ, 6-17-2020) Here are some questions to answer when reporting on long-term care facilities and COVID-19.
How can states keep nursing home residents safe during the pandemic? (Liz Seegert, Covering Health, AHCJ, 4-30-2020) An important round-up of info on resources, trends, sources.
Amid Confusion About Reopening, An Expert Explains How To Assess COVID-19 Risk (Terry Gross interviews epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, founder and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, Fresh Air, 6-17-2020) 41-minute listen with transcript of interview highlights.
COVID-19 Reporting Resources: Experts from ScienceWriters conferences (Council for the Advancement of Science Writing)
Combatting the Misinformation Epidemic/Campaign (Comfortdying.com) See also The latest conspiracy theories.
10 tips for journalists covering COVID-19 (Taylor Mulcahey, International Journalism Network, 3-5-2020)
Journalism in pandemic: online training for thousands of international journalists (Gary Schwitzer, Health News Review, 5-2020)
Communicating Science in the Time of a Pandemic ( Richard Saitz and Gary Schwitzer, JAMA Network, 7-13-2020) Communications regarding studies involving remdesivir, dexamethasone, and hydroxychloroquine illustrate some of the issues journalists must face.
Reporting the emotionally sensitive story through trauma and physical distance (Rachael L. Kelley, @curlyjournalism, Strictly Q&A, Nieman Storyboard, 6-25-2020) L.A. Times metro reporter Angel Jennings leans on eight years covering South L.A., and on her humanity, to write about Nipsey Hussle, covid, racial injustice and more In recent months, Jennings’ focus has been on the devastation that covid has brought to a community already challenged by racism, violence and poverty. “As a reporter you are supposed to be unbiased, but that does not mean you cannot be human.”
AHCJ freelancers give advice on COVID-19 coverage (Sources, studies and self-care) (Carolyn Crist, Covering Health, AHCJ, 5-12-2020)
New York Times reporter calls Pence a ‘sycophant.’ The newspaper says he ‘went too far.’ (Erik Wemple, Opinion, Washington Post, 5-12-12-) Appearing for an interview with CNN's *Christiane Amanpour*, the NYTimes's science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. -- who was well ahead of the curve with his warnings about the pandemic -- said he believed CDC director *Robert Redfield* "should resign" and that VP Mike Pence is a "sycophant." Did he go too far?

     The NYT agreed with that assessment. In a statement, a spokesperson for the paper said McNeil "went too far in expressing his personal views. His editors have discussed the issue with him"  to reiterate that his job is to report the facts and not to offer his own opinions. We are confident that his reporting on science and medicine for The Times has been scrupulously fair and accurate.?<<

    Journalist Bob Roehr commented in a NASW discussion on McNeil writing "that was because of incompetent leadership at the CDC, I'm sorry to say — it's a great agency, but it's incompetently led, and I think Dr. Redfield should resign."

     Roehr wrote: "The test was not developed by Redfield but by the lifers in the agency who failed big time, chiefly because they suffer from the not-invented-here complex that did not take advantage of the work done elsewhere by others; they insisted in developing their own test when it was not needed. Redfield's failure was the trust he placed in those employees.

     "Overall the CDC has been a troubled agency for several decades that consistently takes a defensive posture and is not responsive to journalists. It still suffers PTSD from being politically kicked around for its early HIV work and anything having to do with sex." 

Editors’ Roundtable: Managing Pandemic Coverage (The Open Notebook, 5-7-2020) For editors who oversee their newsrooms’ coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis has brought extraordinary challenges, from prioritizing stories when faced with a daily flood of possibilities, to protecting reporters’ health and well-being at a time of tremendous strain—all while working remotely, in many cases for the first time. Here five editors who are managing their publications’ coronavirus coverage took part in a wide-ranging roundtable discussion via email with TON editor-in-chief Siri Carpenter. (Participants: Eliza Barclay, science, health, and climate editor at Vox; Martin Enserink, international news editor at Science; Laura Helmuth, editor-in-chief at Scientific American, and formerly health and science editor at The Washington Post; Jude Isabella, editor-in-chief at Hakai Magazine; and Sarah Zielinski, managing editor at Science.) News for Students. These TON resources may help.
CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering the coronavirus outbreak(Committee to Protect Journalists, updated 4-6-2020) Detailed practical advice about how to protect yourself while covering this story. See also (and especially) CPJ’s interviews with journalists covering the pandemic.
COVID-19 Reporting Diaries: March 25–31, 2020 (Shira Feder, TheOpenNotebook, 4-7-2020) "Nothing that has come before in the infectious-diseases beat is remotely as huge as this story," says STAT reporter Helen Branswell, one of five journalists reporting on their coverage of this crisis. "The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that when covering a rapidly evolving event like this pandemic, it’s important to be open to new evidence and data, even if it goes against what I’d previously reported," says Garcia de Jesus. "We’re watching science happen in real-time—sometimes that involves conflicting information." (Other reporters on the panel: Mark Johnson, Antonio Martínez Ron, and Jane Qiu. Questions answered: What strategies have you used for finding suitable sources for your stories? What skills do you feel have been most essential to your work in covering this pandemic? Knowing that this pandemic will be a marathon, not a sprint, what have been some of the most important forms of self-care that you’ve been seeking out for yourself? What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned so far, in covering this pandemic? What tips do you have for other reporters covering COVID-19? Plus links to other interesting, insightful pieces.
How to use Twitter to find a treasure trove of real patient voices (Sally James, Center for Health Journalism, 4-8-19) Thousands of patients spend time on Twitter talking about their cancer, or diabetes, or psoriasis, or almost any diagnosis you can imagine. As a reporter, you can find patients to interview while absorbing valuable background here. You can find an individual to be the face of your story, or sharpen your perspective on a chronic disease by reading about the experiences of dozens of patients living with it. These insights can change the questions you ask and the direction of your reporting.
Watch webcasts on your lunch break. “Use your lunch break to stay up-to-speed on COVID-19. Many organizations — the Alliance for Health Policy, Commonwealth Fund, National Academy of Medicine, JAMA and others — are hosting webcasts and livestreams about various aspects of COVID-19 weekly or even more frequently, and they have fantastic guests such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. The recordings are almost always posted for after-the-event viewing within 24 hours. Choose one to listen to in the background while you’re cooking, doing chores or completing other tasks. It’s an easy way to get story ideas and learn from top experts.” (Lola Butcher @LolaButcher, quoted on AHCJ)
Mass General FLARE (MGH FLARE) is a collaborative effort among doctors at Mass General to update fellow physicians in the pulmonary and critical care divisions on the latest novel coronavirus research--with a quick review of specific topics that have popped up in the news or social media literature on SARS-CoV-2, with a focus on critical care issues. H/T @JenniferLarson.
Global Deaths Due to Various Causes and COVID-19 A Flourish data visualization active chart by Panos Kaissaratos. At first, Covid-19 isn't even on the chart. Then watch as day by day it rises to the top
Bad State Data Hides Coronavirus Threat As Trump Pushes Reopening (Darius Tahir and Adam Cancryn, Politico, 5-27-2020) In at least a dozen states, health departments have inflated testing numbers or deflated death tallies by changing criteria for who counts as a coronavirus victim and what counts as a coronavirus test, according to reporting from Politico, other news outlets and the states' own admissions.
Avoid single patient, single source COVID-19 stories – especially on “cures” (Gary Schwitzer, Health News Review, 5-21-2020) Don't jump to conclusions based on news stories about a single patient, or about a single researcher’s belief in a cure.
How COVID-19 is threatening press freedom: An interview with Joel Simon (Ann Cooper, Journalist's Resource, 4-13-2020) "It’s sobering to see how many governments have taken action against journalists for their COVID-19 coverage....political leaders are being told by experts that they must take dramatic action to stem the spread of a deadly disease but they are worried about the economic and social consequences of doing so. Of course one way to avoid making a difficult decision is suppress any reporting that suggests that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly, and many governments are doing just that."
The COVID Tracking Project collects and publishes the most complete testing data available for US states and territories.
Op-ed: Covering science at dangerous speeds (Ivan Oransky, Columbia Journalism Review, 5-4-2020) How not to get it (especially Covid-19) wrong, especially if medical science is not your usual beat. Always read the entire paper. Ask 'dumb' questions. Ask smart questions. Quantify. What are the side effects. Who dropped out? Are there alternatives? Etc. and explained.
Data Drum: COVID-19 Data (data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention. Also available as a mobile app.)
COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19) (the Allen Institute for AI in partnership with leading research groups) a free resource of over 45,000 scholarly articles, including over 33,000 with full text, about COVID-19 and the coronavirus family of viruses for use by the global research community.
Covering COVID-19 and the coronavirus: 5 tips from a Harvard epidemiology professor (Denise-Marie Ordway, Journalist's Resource, 3-6-2020) Choose experts carefully. Distinguish what is known to be true from what is thought to be true — and what’s speculation or opinion. Use caution when citing research findings from “preprints,” or unpublished academic papers. Ask academics for help gauging the newsworthiness of new theories and claims. To prevent misinformation from spreading, news outlets also should fact-check op-eds. Read the work of journalists who cover science topics well.
Reliable sources for updates on COVID-19 (ComfortDying.com site) See also Coronavirus: A Primer and How to protect yourself from COVID-19.
The Five Questions Reporters Need to Ask Hospitals and Local Officials About Coronavirus (Charles Ornstein, ProPublica, 3-17-2020) Including: How many beds does each hospital in your state/region have? How many of those beds are already occupied?
Coronavirus Rumor Control (FEMA)
Covering the Coronavirus Pandemic (National Association of Broadcasters) Webcast and other resources.
The Newsroom Guide to COVID-19
Covering Coronavirus: Resources for Journalists (Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, 2-28-2020)
A virtual conversation with science journalist Carl Zimmer (YouTube video, ScienceWritersNY, recorded 5-12-2020) He answers key questions frankly and knowledgeably (worth a listen). SWINY's further video interviews on the topic, including one on how Sweden handled the pandemic, here: Archive of virtual conversations with science journalists
Carl Zimmer's archive of articles about Covid-19 issues
Freelancing in the Time of Coronavirus (Stephanie Parker, The Open Notebook, 8-18-2020)
Coronavirus, SARS and Flu Resources (Mike Reilley, Journalist's Toolbox, 4-1-2020) The most extensive set of links for journalists--both general and very specific!
Presenting Trump and Science as Equals Isn’t Balanced, It’s Dangerous (Neil deMause, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, or FAIR, 3-23-2020) Stopping the coronavirus pandemic from taking millions of lives may require news organizations to take sides—but if it’s on the side of science, that’s the kind of bias that journalism needs.
I Lived Through SARS and Reported on Ebola. These Are the Questions We Should Be Asking About Coronavirus. (Caroline Chen, ProPublica, 3-5-2020) Instead of asking: How many test kits do you have? Ask this: How many samples are you running per patient? Instead of saying: The mortality rate is X%. Say this: Scientists estimate the mortality rate is X%, based on the information they have.
Mapping coronavirus, responsibly (Kenneth Field, ESRI, 2-25-2020)
Covering Coronavirus: Expert Tips for Journalists and Communicators (YouTube video, CDC at National Press Club, 2-10-2020, 1 hr 26 minutes) Streamed live, available with comments via LiveStream replay.
Use caution when reporting on pandemic potential of Wuhan coronavirus (Bara Vaida, Association of Health Care Journalists, 1-23-2020)
Despite pronouncements, no quick turnaround likely for COVID-19 treatments, vaccines (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 3-20-2020)  "An inaccurate statement that President Trump made during a March 19 news briefing - that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine had been approved as a COVID-19 treatment - demonstrates how skeptical journalists should remain when covering the unfolding story about treatments and preventative measures. While there are more than 85 trials for vaccines and treatments underway for COVID-19, scientists don't expect them to be available to the public soon, despite what some headlines suggest." President Trump is absolutely NOT a reliable source, and some of the things he's said have caused harm.
Finding the latest COVID-19 studies — and covering them thoughtfully (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 3-20-2020) In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, most data came from news reports, clinical summaries and preprints. Now more and more peer-reviewed studies are coming out each day, and it's challenging to keep up with them. Several journals have set up dedicated coronavirus sites that can help in keeping up with the research. The Lancet's COVID-19 Resource Centre, JAMA Network's COVID-19 resource center and NEJM's Coronavirus (COVID-19) page all include the newest studies, commentary and related data and information on the pandemic.
How to find local public health sources for your coronavirus coverage (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 4-29-2020)
The Simplest Way to Spot Coronavirus Misinformation on Social Media (Will Oremus, OneZero, 3-4-2020) A digital literacy expert shares his method. Fact-check! See also Fact-Checking In the Age of “Fake News”: A Q&A With Brooke Borel and Alex Kasprak (Tips from the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists)
RSS service streamlines access to COVID-19 preprints (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 5-13-2020) A new service from NewsRx is an RSS feed specifically for COVID-19 preprints. (It attempts to streamline the process for journalists and researchers by turning the fire hose of research into something a bit more manageable.) You can check the site itself, sign up for the feed or sign up for email alerts. See also Beware the preprint in covering coronavirus research (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 4-17-2020)
NewsRx Delivers COVID-19 Preprints NewsRx is a journalism technology company with several resources that reporters may find helpful while reporting on the pandemic, including a primer on preprints. See also The Power of Preprints, a primer on preprints.
Problems with Preprints: Covering Rough-Draft Manuscripts Responsibly (Roxanne Khamsi, The Open Notebook, 6-1-2020) 'Hastily conducted and reported scientific studies are an unfortunate hallmark of the current pandemic, as journalist Christie Aschwanden wrote recently in Wired. She says journalists should have their guard up. “Where I’ve seen reporters go wrong on this is when they sort of grab these [preprints] because they want to be first,” Aschwanden says.'
Stop Getting So Excited About ‘Preliminary’ Findings (Christie Aschwanden, Wired, 4-24-2020) No, seriously, when it comes to Covid-19—or any disease—bad data is worse than no data at all.
The many challenges of covering the coronavirus (Jon Allsop, CJR, 3-9-2020) The challenge here is to communicate nuance and uncertainty in formats—headlines, tweets, and so on—that reward brevity and clarity.
What Investigative Reporters Around the World Need to Be Asking About COVID-19 (Amruta Byatnal, Global Investigative Journalism Network, 3-10-2020) Q&A with Thomas Abraham, an expert on infectious disease and global health security, and the author of Twenty-first Century Plague: The Story of SARS and of Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication. Remember that science evolving as rapidly as this is hedged by huge amounts of uncertainty.
How newsrooms can tone down their coronavirus coverage while still reporting responsibly (Al Tompkins, Poynter, 3-4-2020) When you do anecdotal stories about sickness and death from coronavirus, infuse them with the data that points out the wider context of the issue.
The coronavirus crisis is also a domestic abuse crisis. Keep these tips in mind to cover it. (Kellie Schmitt, Center for Health Journalism, 5-29-2020)
How to name a coronavirus ( Merrill Perlman, CJR, 2-24-2020)
How to Report on the COVID-19 Outbreak Responsibly (Bill Hanage, Marc Lipsitch, Scientific American, 2-23-2020) Reporting "should distinguish between at least three levels of information: (A) what we know is true; (B) what we think is true—fact-based assessments that also depend on inference, extrapolation or educated interpretation of facts that reflect an individual’s view of what is most likely to be going on; and (C) opinions and speculation."
COVID-19 reports (Imperial College London‌)

Coronavirus: The good, the bad, and the practical (a full website page on many aspects of the topic)
---Pandemic: The big picture
---Social distancing and sheltering in place
---Testing, testing, testing--and contact tracing
---What patients with covid-19 experience
---The race for effective vaccines and anti-viral treatments
---Where in the world things went right
---Politics, government, and the coronavirus
---Trump's handling of the pandemic
---Why Covid-19 is so dangerous
---Who is harmed most by Covid-19
---Reliable sources of information (and against misinformation)
---A salute to the medical workers and others who help (I need more here!)
---Facts and tips that don't fit elsewhere
Coronavirus: How to minimize your risk
Covering the coronavirus story as a journalist
On keeping a diary or journal of the pandemic
26+ things to do (listen, watch, read, share, do) during the pandemic
Coronavirus: A primer


Social Media Posts Spread Bogus Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory (FactCheck.org)
The coronavirus ‘infodemic’ is real. We rated the websites responsible for it (John Gregory, First Opinion, STAT 2-28-2020) I’m an editor at NewsGuardNewsGuard, which rates the credibility of news and information websites. Our ongoing analyses show that misinformation about the outbreak is clearly beating reliable information when it comes to engagement on social media worldwide. NewsGuard has rated the credibility and transparency of more than 3,200 news and information sites in the U.S., accounting for 96% of online engagement, previously reporting that more than 1 in 10 of these sites share health misinformation. An overview of the misinformation epidemic. conspiracy theories, and the most prolific peddlers of health misinformation.
Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center (Newsguard)
FactCheck.org to Work With Facebook on Exposing Viral Fake News (Annenberg Public Policy Center, 12-15-16)
Coronavirus Coverage (FactCheck.org)
SciCheck (FactCheck.org)
Debunking False Stories
Fact-checking sites (a full list, with links)

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