Photo by Liza Summer via pexels.
Long COVID, long haulers, post-COVID syndrome, post-acute sequelae of COVID — from the early days of the pandemic — there have been news stories about people who don’t recover from the virus in 10 to 14 days. Instead, they are still ill weeks or months after their original infection and more than two years on, and no one completely understands why.
The uncertainty, combined with the millions affected, makes long COVID a trendy (but crucial) topic for health journalists to cover.
In a panel at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin moderated by independent journalist Margaret Nicklas, two physicians and two long COVID researchers presented a primer on what we know about the condition and what remains a mystery.
The physicians’ perspective
Michael Brode, M.D., internal medicine specialist at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and medical director of UT Health Austin’s Post-COVID-19 Program, sees the symptoms of patients with long COVID as fitting into three categories:
- Damage from the virus itself (usually correlated with the severity of the disease).
- Post-viral lingering symptoms such as cough or chest pain.
- Dysregulated post-immune response and neuroinflammatory syndrome.
Meryl Davids Landau
Freelance writers, even those with years of experience, can run into challenges working with the editors who commission their pieces. At the “How to be your own copy editor (and advocate),” panel at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin, editors and successful freelancers shared tips in a session that evolved into a broader conversation between the panel and the audience.
Freelance writer Meryl Davids Landau began the session by offering a few tips based on her own experiences as both a novelist and a writer of nonfiction health and science articles. She said writing fiction made her non-fiction writing better, and suggested that writers try to make the anecdotes in their stories read more like fiction. “Put yourself in the readers’ shoes and ask if they are enjoying reading the article,” she said.
Landau also suggested that writers get ideas by attending scientific conferences, or simply by thinking of story that they are best situated to write, perhaps due to personal connections or contacts.
The three editors on the panel — Rob Waters of MindSite News, Carmel Wroth of National Public Radio (NPR) Shots Blog and Matthew B.H. Ong of The Cancer Letter — all emphasized how important it is for writers to stay in contact with their editors. “The most important thing about the relationship between an editor and a writer is that it is a relationship. As an editor, I want to connect with my writers,” Waters said. It never hurts to overcommunicate, Wroth added, provided the writer keeps in mind that editors are themselves suffering from information overload. It’s particularly important for writers to reach out when a story veers away from the original concept — and Waters and Wroth both said that a writer communicating that should also propose a solution.
A writer who has far too much information to put into a single article can always pitch a series to their editor. “They will probably say no,” Waters said, but at that point, the writer is free to pitch the other article to another publication (unless the contract with the original publication says otherwise).