Tag Archives: How I Did It

Managing reporter burnout during the pandemic

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 the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Chelsea Cirruzzo

Since the beginning of the pandemic, almost every health reporter I’ve talked with has experienced both the professional thrill of writing about an unfolding science story and the personal feelings of fear, anxiety and grief about the virus. The energy that it takes to stay on top of this relentlessly evolving story and manage our own emotions has led to reporter burnout. For this “How I Did It,” one journalist, newer to the health care beat, shares how she’s been coping.

Chelsea Cirruzzo, a health and local news reporter for Axios, began utilizing social media in college to elevate her voice as a journalist. She used Twitter to help find sources and gained a following of almost 15,000. But as the pandemic has worn on, Cirruzzo has decided that for her own well-being, she needed to limit her activity on Twitter. Finding that boundary, among other decisions, is helping her manage burnout. 

You made reference on social media to burnout in covering the pandemic. I think a lot of journalists share this feeling. How did you manage these emotions while covering this story? 

I think it just kind of came in waves, where it was like, ‘Oh, no, this is really scary.’ And then, ‘Vaccines are coming! This is exciting.’ And then, you’re seeing that these same iterations of inequities [and people] who are not getting what they need just based on where they live, how old they are, and what race they are. The story [repeated] itself over and over again. But [at the same time], I think it’s so important and I wanted to do these stories. It was a lot to write about and a lot to handle. On top of that, we all had our own things going on. I live with a teacher, and I have health concerns and was worried about my family. So, it was tough.

In March of this year, I wrote about the challenges health reporters have faced during the pandemic for Nieman Reports and found out many of my colleagues had similar feelings of exhaustion and burnout. But also, some were dealing with challenges I haven’t faced: Some of them lost loved ones to COVID-19. Asian American reporters, not just health reporters, faced racist attacks because of anti-Asian rhetoric being pushed by the former president. It’s hard for health reporters to remove themselves from the story right now because the pandemic has hurt everyone, so how do you continuously cover something that has become so personal?

Continue reading

How one investigative reporter took a local approach to covering COVID-19

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 the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Jerry Mitchell

Many journalists are searching for new ways to report on the impact of COVID-19. One approach is to mine public data showing health problems that existed in a community prior to the pandemic. Then, tell the stories about how those who were in poor health before March 2020 have been affected over the past 18 months.

One reporter who successfully followed the above approach is investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell, founder of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Journalism. He co-authored a series of stories looking at the connection between diabetes and COVID deaths. The series put a spotlight on how those in poverty, and especially those with diabetes, were among those at risk of dying from COVID. Mitchell hopes the series will wake Americans up to the danger of diabetes, not just in terms of the risk it poses for mortality from COVID, but also in terms of vulnerability to health threats in the future.

Mitchell recently shared with AHCJ what he learned while reporting on the series, how his organization approached the pandemic and offered advice to journalists on how to bone up on data reporting. (The following conversation was edited for clarity and brevity.)

Continue reading

How I Did It: Marilynn Marchione concludes an impressive career in medical writing

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.

Marilynn Marchione

Marilynn Marchione was the Associated Press’s chief medical writer for the last 10 years of her long career in journalism.

Deciding to retire this year was not easy because she loved her job and rarely woke up thinking, “How long till I don’t have to do this anymore?” The pandemic delayed her plans for more than a year because she didn’t want to miss the chance to report an important story and because it didn’t feel right to leave the job at a time of such enormous need.

Marchione took time out of her busy schedule recently — between relaxing on the beach and reading a good book — to share what she learned over her long career of covering medical research. From emphasizing the substantial responsibility of health journalists to get their reporting right, to discussing what she’s learned from her mistakes, to highlighting what chops are needed to report on medical research well, her wisdom is like a 10-minute master class on what it takes to be an accurate, thoughtful, responsible, and incisive medical reporter. Continue reading

Apps for substance use disorders, other conditions, may not be as private as we think

About Karen Blum

Karen Blum is AHCJ’s core topic leader on health IT. An independent journalist in the Baltimore area, she has written health IT stories for publications such as Pharmacy Practice News, Clinical Oncology News, Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News, General Surgery News and Infectious Disease Special Edition.

Sara Morrison

Sara Morrison

About one in five Americans report using mobile health applications (apps), according to survey data published by Gallup in 2019. But users may not necessarily be aware that the personal information they enter in those apps frequently is shared with third-party vendors that make some of those apps’ features.

In a recent article for Vox’s Recode, tech reporter Sara Morrison took a deep dive into data privacy — or a potential lack thereof — among mobile apps for substance use disorders, with implications for all health apps. She also covered the outdated laws that allow developers to share users’ information, often without full disclosure. Continue reading

Researcher and advocate for reproductive health equity tells her own story

About Melba Newsome

Melba Newsome is a veteran freelance journalist with more than 20 years’ experience. Her health and science features have appeared in Health Affairs, Oprah, Prevention, Scientific American, Chemical & Engineering News and North Carolina Health News.

Courtesy of Jallicia Jolly

When Jallicia Jolly gave birth to her first child, Rose, in February, she experienced some of the disparities in care she studies and writes about in her academic life.

Her essay published in USA Today, “I survived childbirth during three pandemics – COVID, racism, Black maternal health crisis,” places her own mistreatment at the hands of an anesthesiologist in the context of maternal health care across the country. “In looking back at my own experience giving birth to my healthy daughter, I am reminded of the stories of Black women who have received substandard care in health care systems and whose needs are deprioritized — and didn’t live to tell their own stories,” she writes. Continue reading