Sources, studies and self-care: AHCJ freelancers give advice on COVID-19 coverage

Carolyn Crist

About Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist (@cristcarolyn) helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications. Contact her at carolyn@healthjournalism.org.

reporter-taking-notesAs many health care journalists have reported that they’re covering “all COVID, all the time” during the past two months, AHCJ freelancers offered their advice about the best ways to approach reporting and writing, as well as their own mental health while working on assignments.

Overall, the advice highlights many of the principles that reporters already hold dear — choose your sources carefully, review the science behind published studies, and find ways to carve out personal time from a 24/7 news cycle.

Related to news coverage at this moment, the freelancers also suggested doing background research with new webcasts and press briefings online, finding story ideas in new communications and newsletters created by trusted sources, and creating a routine to stay on top of the most recent research.

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Webcast can help you report on the impact of disparities on the pandemic

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

skyline from some projects in The Bronx

Photo: Axel Drainville via Flickr

A growing body of data indicates that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting both communities of color and vulnerable populations such as incarcerated and homeless individuals.

Two studies earlier this month — one from AIDS research group amfAR and another from the Kaiser Family Foundation — found that communities of color and low-income individuals account for a higher percent of COVID-19 cases and deaths in comparison to the broader U.S. population. Since early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been reporting more details about COVID-19 patients’ race and ethnicity, as well as underlying health issues, which has increased news coverage of this issue. Continue reading

Promise and pitfalls of preprints explored in AHCJ webcast

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient.

Photo: NIAID via FlickrTransmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient.

More than 50 health journalists and others participated in the April 30 AHCJ webcast on research preprints, but if you missed it, you can watch the recording here. Despite having written about coverage of preprints before, I learned a ton by listening to John Inglis, Ph.D.; Ivan Oransky, M.D.; and Angela Rasmussen Ph.D.

The opening presentation by Inglis, who co-founded the bioRxiv and medRxiv preprint servers, was particularly illuminating on the history of preprints and the criteria used to vet them — information I haven’t seen anywhere else in the multiple articles I’ve read and linked to about preprint media coverage. Continue reading

A look into dentists under pressure to overtreat by their chains

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

DentalChainTroubles

Photo: Anthony via Flickr

A reporting team’s in-depth investigation into a growing dental chain offers a troubling chronicle of dentists under pressure to meet revenue targets and patient allegations of overtreatment.

Reporters from USA Today and Newsy, the investigative unit owned by E. W. Scripps Company, spent more than a year examining the inner workings of North American Dental Group. The Pittsburg-based chain represents “a new trend of dental offices bought by private-equity investors and turned into revenue-generating machines,” their project explained. Continue reading

Emergency grants available to freelance journalists during COVID-19

Carolyn Crist

About Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist (@cristcarolyn) helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications. Contact her at carolyn@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: BigOakFlickr via Flickrv

During the current coronavirus outbreak, freelancers have reported a mixed bag — some work is on pause, but other work is booming. Whatever your situation, several journalism organizations have stepped up to offer emergency relief and reporting grants.

While reviewing the list below, the most important factors to keep in mind are the eligibility requirements for each application. In some cases, the grant is meant only to support those who have contracted COVID-19 and lost work because they were sick. In other cases, the grant is designated for particular types of reporting work. Continue reading

Webcast to explore the high cost of failing to cover the uninsured during pandemic

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Clinical lab scientist Nancy Leonard prepares samples to be tested for COVID-19. She wears a face shield and gloves for protection because she is handling material that may contain the virus and will transfer patient samples into smaller tubes for testing.

Photo: Sarah Pack, Medical University of South Carolina

Leaving anyone uninsured during this viral pandemic increases the risk of spreading the disease.  A warning report on Monday from the Urban Institute projects that an estimated 25 million to 43 million Americans may lose their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage in the coming months due to the economic effects of the new coronavirus.

In “How the COVID-19 Recession Could Affect Health Insurance Coverage,” UI senior fellow Bowen Garrett and research associate Anuj Gangopadhyaya base their estimate on the possibility that the unemployment rate could reach as high as 20%. The report was produced with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Continue reading