The World Health Organization no longer considers the COVID-19 pandemic a global health emergency, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a global health threat anymore. The global health toll is nearing seven million deaths, and new variants continue to emerge.
“[COVID-19] is still a major topic [in] global conversations, which is why you, as an individual journalist, should strive to continue to find creative ways to write about this pandemic,” said Paul Adepoju, community manager of ICFJ’s Global Crisis Reporting Forum.
In a recent webinar, Adepoju discussed COVID-19’s impact today and shared ways in which journalists globally can continue informing their audiences about the virus.
Here are a few suggestions to get started and keep you on track:
Look at the data
Analyzing datasets can provide journalists with more than just infection or casualty numbers. In addition to cases and deaths, they can revisit vaccination efforts or travel restrictions and what’s resulted from them.
Open data sources, such as Our World in Data, can be useful for finding many different figures, Adepoju said. By searching for “coronavirus,” reporters can access customized, downloadable data to further analyze.
Data can help journalists identify trends, provide context and point toward gaps in coverage, especially when looking at data specific to a country or region. “The best stories are not stories that look at national estimates,” Adepoju said, but “stories that focus on the particular region, and actually zero in and tell that story from the local perspective.”
Zoom in on vaccination programs, trends and policy changes
Researching how vaccination programs are progressing globally can also provide insight for important stories on health equality.
The resource, Gavi, for instance, enables you to focus on specific countries or regions and identify whether vaccination rates have increased, decreased or remained steady overtime. Think about factors, such as misinformation, that have prevented people from getting vaccinated, too, Adepoju said.
Diving into what measures have proved to be more or less effective in containing the pandemic also allows for story opportunities. Keeping an eye on what governments and public officials have promised and actually accomplished adds to accountability, Adepoju added.
Current trends and debunking misinformation
The management of the pandemic and other health crises was a major topic at the latest meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, as leaders discussed why countries need to prioritize investing in health. Tracking what international organizations that have been involved with combating COVID-19 are currently doing can lead to story ideas, Adepoju suggested.
Conducting searches on social media can give journalists a pulse on where the public interest lies on COVID-19. However, journalists must always look at social media with a critical eye and make sure they are corroborating information with reputable sources, including health professionals, public health authorities and government officials, Adepoju said.
Go beyond COVID-19
Keep in mind other major impacts that COVID-19 has had on global health. As countries prioritized their responses to the pandemic, other health issues may have emerged.
For example, there are countries where other health programs and initiatives might have been suspended so that they could focus more on their pandemic responses, Adepoju said.
Identifying specific issues that were exacerbated during COVID-19, such as domestic violence and unemployment, is another avenue for reporting.
Follow the money
There shouldn’t be a shortage of money-focused stories around COVID-19, Adepoju noted: lots of financial information is public, including the loans some countries received during the pandemic.
The World Bank is a good source of information about loans obtained by countries. Its database lets you narrow down your search and focus on projects financing COVID-related initiatives. Adepoju suggested journalists identify where countries are borrowing money from and what for. This information can make for powerful accountability stories.
“You don't have to know every detail about all the money that was borrowed,” Adepoju said. “You only need to take a closer look at just one of these finance pledges, and that makes a really good story.”