The challenges of covering coronavirus: how we can help

Journalists across the globe face unprecedented challenges to report the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak accurately and safely.

The fast-moving story is presenting newsrooms with a once-in-a-generation test to interpret the scientific data, tell the human stories and hold political leaders to account.

To provide journalists with the help they need, Thomson Foundation has teamed up with a range of specialist partners to produce a series of free, online courses on its Journalism Now platform.

The courses cover:

The interactive courses have been created with assistance from Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands), Ethical Journalism Network, International Federation of Journalists, First Draft and the Dart Centre Europe.

The foundation has also pooled advice from its international alumni, from Italy and Pakistan to South Africa and Vietnam, to help journalists navigate their way through the pandemic.

The challenge for journalists is ensuring their stories are based on truth, not opinions, and science, not speculation.


Safety first

The first of the three courses to launch is on SAFETY.

As with any major breaking news story, a journalist’s first instinct is to get to the scene quickly. But now the act of informing the public on the threat of coronavirus carries with it huge risks.

This course gives practical advice on assessing the risks so journalists are better prepared to go on assignment.

Advice includes an awareness of the rapidly-changing global environment and restrictions on movement; techniques to ensure safe communication with sources and the general public when in the same physical space; knowledge of the equipment and tools to protect reporters and interviewees and the right hygiene protocols to adopt.



Check again

The challenge for journalists is ensuring their stories are based on truth – not opinions – and science – not speculation.

Following on from the safety course will be an online course on VERIFICATION which will give journalists a thorough understanding of how to identify false and misleading data using open-source tools and how to critically analyse information to offer balanced coverage and combat the spread of fake news.



Don’t panic

Are we seeing a pandemic of sensationalism that is spreading fear faster across the world than the virus itself?

Proportionality and tone are of paramount importance in journalism, as is the need for expertise and context and the ability to balance the global with the local. 

The third in the series of courses covers creating deep, but balanced, CONTENT of the pandemic. 

Journalists will be given a clear understanding of the science behind pandemics, the ethical considerations when covering coronavirus, an awareness of the expert sources to approach and how to distinguish between peer-reviewed and “speed science” when researching their stories. 



More languages

As coronavirus continues its spread across the world,​ we've also worked hard to ensure our free online courses on reporting on the pandemic are available in more languages to benefit more journalists. See which languages here.



More resources

These are unprecedented times and Thomson Foundation will continue to work with journalists around the world to ensure they are able to carry out detailed research and preparation and get their reporting right. A dedicated area of our website will also contain practical advice, stories, videos and other resources to help reporters adjust to the new challenges ahead. 



Illustrations: Eleanor Shakespeare

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