Reporting and Covid-19: Tips for Journalists

Learning from Past Pandemics: Bridging the Science Gap

March 31, 2020

Guest: Caleb Hellerman, Documentary filmmaker, longtime supervising producer to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CDC Fellow

As journalists, how can we best develop the right expert sources? How can we effectively bridge complicated medical science and public understanding? We distilled documentary filmmaker Caleb Hellerman’s advice here.

Critical Source Development

The time to develop source relationships is in between crises. The time to use them is now. Be wary of arm chair epidemiologists and try not to be enthralled with experts. Use your reporter’s gut.

Communication Strategies

The journalism profession needs to become better at communicating uncertainty.

Medical and science reporting moves more slowly than other beats. It’s ok to be humble and communicate what we don’t know, which might include a range of possibilities.

Audience Engagement

The reporter/host is the stand-in for the audience. We must reflect audience concerns as well as our own deep dive into the subject to provide timely, accurate accounts and to ask meaningful, forward-thinking and thoughtful questions.

Ethical concerns

The ethical issues around medical catastrophes are numerous and require sensitivity to religious practices and other rituals around death and dying. Reporting during an active health crisis is best done by getting to know people early. And by staying with them, if possible, in order to develop relationships. The best reporters always show up