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These Tips for Journalists Covering COVID-19 are compiled by Miraj Ahmed Chowdhary of GIJN. And, Mike Reilley of Journalism Tool Box   compiled the Coronavirus, Flu and Miscellaneous Medical/Health Sites 

TIPS for Journalists covering COVID-19

In her latest research, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a journalism professor at Cardiff University, examined how fear has played a role in COVID-19 coverage in 100 high circulation newspapers from around the world. She found that one out of every nine stories on the outbreak mentioned “fear” or related words, including “afraid.”

“These stories often used other frightening language as well; for example, 50 articles used the phrase ‘killer virus,’’’ she writes in this Nieman Lab article.

So, how can we avoid spreading panic while continuing to provide deep and balanced coverage? According to Poynter’s Al Tompkins (who plans to put out a daily newsletter about COVID-19), the solution is responsible reporting. Here is a summary of his suggestions:

  1. Reduce the use of subjective adjectives in reporting; for example: “deadly” disease.
  2. Use pictures carefully to avoid spreading the wrong message.
  3. Explain preventive actions; it can make your story less scary.
  4. Remember that statistical stories are less scary than anecdotal ones.
  5. Avoid clickbait headlines and be creative in presentation.

In another Poynter piece, Tom Jones emphasizes finding the facts, but not the speeches. “It’s a science story, not a political one,” he writes. Of course, politics matter, but be alert for COVID-19 spin from partisan political sources, and rely upon medical experts.


In a global outbreak of disease, journalists cannot cover the story from self-quarantine. We need to go to the field, and there are risks of being infected. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a detailed advisory for journalists covering COVID-19 which includes pre-assignment preparations, tips for avoiding infection in affected areas, travel planning, and post-assignment cautions. Here’s a summary of its key tips for field coverage:

  • Use protective gloves if working in or visiting an infected site, such as a medical treatment facility. Other medical personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a bodysuit and full face mask may also be necessary.
  • Do not visit wet markets (where fresh meat or fish are sold) or farms in an affected area. Avoid direct contact with animals (live or dead) and their environment. Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with animal droppings.
  • If you are operating in a health facility, market, or farm, never place your equipment on the floor. Always decontaminate equipment with fast acting antimicrobial wipes such as Meliseptol, followed by thorough disinfection.
  • Never eat or drink while touching animals, or in the proximity of a market or farm.
  • Always ensure your hands are washed thoroughly with hot water and soap before, during, and after leaving an affected area.

John Pope, a reporter with two decades’ experience in health issues, wrote up 11 tips to cover swine flu, which you may find relevant for the COVID-19 as well. His tipsheet includes — among others — the importance of getting the basic facts first, mapping the outbreak, keeping things simple and concise, emphasizing prevention, and to watch the language.

IJNet has compiled a list of tips for reporting on COVID-19 with advice from journalists who have covered the disease. Here are the key points:

Understand the mood on the ground — then translate it into your work.

      • Focus on reporting, not analysis.
      • Watch your headlines.
      • Remember: Not all figures are accurate.
      • Talk to as many different people as possible.
      • Avoid racist tropes.
      • Consider the way you interview experts.
      • Don’t neglect stories that aren’t exciting.
      • Set your limits. Sometimes it is better to say “no” to the editor.
      • When things wind down, stick with the story.

Resources: Coronavirus, Flu, and Miscellaneous  Sites


Organizations and data sources

COVID19 Tracker
The COVID Tracking Project “collects information from 50 US states and the District of Columbia to provide the most comprehensive testing data we can collect for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. We attempt to include positive and negative results, pending tests, and total people tested for each state or district currently reporting that data.”

MIT Technoology Review: Coronavirus Research
More than 24,000 coronavirus research papers available in one place.

Big Local News
Stanford’s site is collecting and sharing data related to the Coronavirus. We have created three Open Projects with Coronavirus-related data available to any journalist using the platform.

Journalism organizations and tipsheets

How Journalists are Working Together to Cover the COVID-19 Pandemic
From the Center for Cooperative Media.

Pew: Cybercriminals Seek Profit in Coronavirus

Fact-checking resources

The Open Notebook: Covering the Coronavirus Effectively Without Spreading Misinformation
Great tips from Laura Helmuth, the health and science editor for The Washington Post.

Keybase: CoronaFutures
Run by Amy Webb, a place for futurists (and futurist-adjacents) to discuss scenarios and future states in the coronavirus era.

p>Coronavirus Tech Handbook
A crowdsourced resource for technologists building things related to the coronavirus outbreak initiated by The London College of Political Technologists at Newspeak House.

Media coverage/social media

Facebook CrowdTangle: COVID-19
Media coverage from all over the world as well as some random posts from public pages.

ScienceAlert: What is Coronavirus

CNN: Coronavirus Explained
A good Q&A covering the basics.

Center for Health Journalism: For Reporters Covering Stressful Assignments, Self-Care Crucial

Other resources

SARS Resources

The NewsMarket, Inc.
A journalist’s resource for B-roll, this site provides thousands of images free to television newsrooms. Users can preview video, read press materials and order video clips online. Delivery options include digital file transfer via FTP, whereby the material moves from TNM’s server to the user’s server; satellite feeds via APTN or tape delivery can also be requested. There is no cost to news professionals. The NewsMarket’s primary service is providing broadcasters with video from the world’s leading companies and organizations; news stories and archived stock shots from a large and growing range of sources. Particularly helpful to business and medical-health reporters.

Access a database of more than 4,000 English-speaking doctors in 180 countries.

Medi Clim
Weather health warning system offers research that ties health to climate changes.

Slate.com: Online Guide to Following the Health Care Legislation

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Government site, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Top 50 Health 2.0 Blogs

USA Today Coronavirus Guide

Flu Resources

Swine Flu

Avian Flu

Miscellaneous Medical/Health Sites