The Lengths Journalists go to Provide Accurate News During Times of Crisis

The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt in all facets of our daily lives. Companies around the world are finding ways to adapt in this unprecedented and challenging time, video chats are becoming the new normal and the federal government has begun restricting any non-essential services. Listed as an essential service, newsrooms are looking for ways to adapt as the government asks businesses to put into place all measures to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees.

Over the past few weeks, the news cycle has been moving faster than ever. Canadians are receiving updated information about COVID-19 every single day. It’s becoming a challenge to tear ourselves away from regular breaking news updates. For the general public it can become overwhelming, and it’s no different for the people who work in newsrooms. “The pace of new developments in the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and it can be challenging to keep up. As reporters, we are conditioned to manage stress under tight deadlines, but with so much late-breaking news happening, it can feel inundating,” said Ben Miljure, a reporter at CTV Vancouver.

How is COVID-19 impacting journalists whose jobs require them to go to work?

Self-isolating is rarely an option for all members of the newsroom. At many outlets, unless an employee exhibits symptoms, they’re in the newsroom and out in the streets gathering the stories that keep the rest of us informed.

What are newsrooms doing to stay safe?

In some cases, equipment can allow media members to distance themselves from their interviewees. Technology enables remote interviews and editing of broadcast reports, and many reporters are camped out in their vehicles to maintain a safe distance from coworkers.  Contrary to the image of the side-by-side, bustling newsroom, teams are working in segmented shifts. “In order to make sure we are safe as journalists, management has split the newsroom into two teams,” said Melissa Nakhavoly, reporter and anchor at CityTV, Toronto. “Each team cannot come into physical contact with one another. That means there are points during the week where reporters and producers are working from home. In my case as the weekend anchor, I am no longer allowed to do in person interviews on weekends. I’ve been requested to only do Skype and phone interviews.”

The focus on credible sources

As the pace of the news cycle increases, so do the pressures faced by crews that are already working with scaled back resources. Journalists are working double time to make sure they haven’t missed any crucial information and they remain laser-focused on telling the most important stories, as soon and as factually as they can. It’s a constant battle to fight misinformation in a time when the research, advice and impacts of COVID-19 are all changing so rapidly.

New information about this pandemic is being posted online in the form of charts, social media posts, articles, podcasts and more. This information is being shared virally through word of mouth and additional social media posts. Yet, few health care professionals, business leaders, researchers or politicians have a full grasp on the implication of this virus. Media remain focused on sharing only factual and rarely speculative information from verified experts in their field. It’s a requirement for journalists to slow down before deciding to share information and listen to key sources of authority.  As all scientific, financial and health focused modelling comes with uncertainties that may change over time, relying on sources like the CDC, WHO, Health Canada and the government are a necessity for credible storytelling.

What we can do to help

The media is helping millions of people stay connected to critical updates, while elevating authoritative content and combating misinformation about the virus. This is a moment where sharing incorrect information can have serious implications. As the general public works to sort through the updates being shared to them on an ongoing basis, there are steps we can take to help support the news media: don’t trust everything you see and research before sharing, arm yourself with facts from media, credible sources and officially recognized leadership organizations, keep politics out of the conversation and learn to accept the uncertainty of the world we live in.

This is the time when journalists need support in the form of empathy, compassion and understanding over their overwhelming workload and delivery of stressful information. “It is our privilege to keep the public informed during these trying times and we will proudly continue to do it,” said reporter Ben Miljure.

If the news is overwhelming for the readers and the viewers, you can only imagine what it’s like for the talented people bringing you information daily.

Cheryl Holmes About the author
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