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COVID-19 / Five takeaways from our local news and COVID-19 reporting event
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On October 5, 2020, Meedan gathered scientists and local news journalists in the United States to talk about how the pandemic is shaping their work.

With the first nine months of the pandemic behind us, and in anticipation of a second wave this fall, we aimed for the discussion to serve as an opportunity to reflect on how local news reporting fared during the early stages of this global crisis. We also worked together to design new paths forward for scientists and journalists as reporting needs increase around emerging treatments, vaccines and projected upticks in transmission.

Our panelists included:

  • Anna Kuchment, science reporter at Dallas Morning News and contributing editor at Scientific American

  • Madeleine Bair, founder and publisher El El Tímpano

  • Dr. Christin Gilmer, global health expert and science lead of learnaboutcovid19.org

  • Dr. Jessica Huang, COVID-19 response and recovery fellow, Harvard Kennedy School, and health literacy researcher for learnaboutcovid19.org

Here are five takeaways from the event:

  1. Many journalists without science backgrounds are now expected to cover complex topics like epidemiology and public health without formal experience or training. Finding trusted sources, translating jargon into accessible terms and trying to remain up to date on emerging research contributes to information overload for reporters.

  2. It’s hard to know who to trust when traditional agencies are not reliable sources of information. It means information chaos, and reporters trying to come up with strategies to maintain trust without the help of the U.S. government.

  3. Confined to reporting over Zoom, local journalists say that connecting with sources, telling visually compelling stories, and conveying emotion in a raw way is hard when they can’t interview in person.

  4. Public health experts are overwhelmed by the incoming requests from media during the pandemic, and solutions toward scaling their information dissemination are needed.

  5. Scientists and journalists want more interaction and conversation between their fields. Local reporters sometimes get missed during big news events, and town hall-style forums could help scientists share new angles and ideas with reporters.

Meedan’s COVID-19 Expert Database, also known as learnaboutcovid19.org, is a hub where journalists ask our in-house health experts to explain complex science on deadline. We’re working toward building more resources to boost capacity of U.S. local newsrooms as the second wave of the pandemic looms upon us and reporting needs around health topics increase. If you’re a journalist, email us at health@meedan.com to get your COVID-19 topics explained by a team of experts.

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