How I did it
Learn from these journalists how they have covered various aspects of infectious diseases. They provide valuable tips and sources and explain how they got past the challenges to better inform their audiences.
Science writer follows the trail of tick bites and a meat allergy
Science journalist Siri Carpenter says ‘follow the money’ to combat misinformation
Siri Carpenter, co-founder of The Open Notebook, a science journalism non-profit, suggests focusing on the business side of misinformation and who’s profiting by pedaling false narratives to the public.
Simple digital tools helped broadcast reporter track conflicting COVID-19 statistics
Learn from a veteran of the ‘misinformation beat’ about how to better check the facts
Here, PolitiFact staff writer Daniel Funke (@dpfunke) discusses his work and advice for other journalists seeking to get the facts out to the public and alert them to misinformation.
Science-trained journalist gives advice on simplifying the genetic details around COVID-19
Independent journalist Marla Broadfoot has a doctorate in genetics and molecular biology and is one of those writers well-positioned to be writing about this topic. In a recent interview for AHCJ, she talks about her coverage of COVID-19 over the past year for Scientific American and gives advice to reporters who write about the complicated topic of genetics.
Reporter digs for the details to convey deeper insights to readers during pandemic
Here Contrera talks about how the stories evolved, how her reporting changed and how she adapted her work approach to painting detailed and memorable stories about COVID-19. She also gives some advice on how other journalists can tell these stories in their communities too.
Staff writer talks about covering COVID, responding to anti-science sentiment
Here Smith talks more about her journalism journey this year and advice for colleagues on how journalists can respond to anti-science sentiment and COVID-19 disbelievers.
‘Question everything:’ 3 tips for covering health when you usually don’t
Official guidance and scientific consensus will inevitably shift, challenging journalists to provide new context and transparency in their coverage.
We reached out to Mandavilli to learn how journalists can cover unfolding pandemic stories, even when health reporting is not normally their beat.
How one Poynter veteran helps journalists generate fresh pitches about COVID-19
To write it, Tompkins draws upon his 30 years in broadcast and investigative journalism, as well as his previous experience authoring Poynter’s (now discontinued) morning general news email called “Al’s Morning Meeting.”
In this Q & A, Tompkins talks more about his COVID-19 daily email, how he finds story ideas and his thoughts on how the pandemic could change journalism.
How a tip exposed serious flaws in rapidly testing nursing home residents for COVID-19
While the administration is touting them as a quick way to identify asymptomatic carriers, Pradhan found out that’s not exactly how they’re supposed to work.
Pradhan’s piece offers journalists some excellent ideas for questions to ask of both nursing home administrators and public health officials — from exactly which tests they use on residents and staff to their experience with positivity rates.
Journalist describes role in helping compile, publicize national data on COVID-19
Betsy Ladyzhets, a freelance writer and New York City-based research associate at Stacker, is one of the many journalists volunteering time at the project. She recently launched the COVID-19 Data Dispatch newsletter to put data about the pandemic into a better context for friends, family, media and the public. Here she discusses why she launched the newsletter and gives advice to journalists on obtaining and using COVID-19 data.
Carving out your piece of the pandemic story can require persistence and ingenuity
Journalist finds lessons in the history of pandemics
For some context about the history of infectious diseases and their impact on humans, it's worth taking a look at Beth Skwarecki’s book “Outbreak: 50 Tales of Epidemics that Terrorized the World.” Each chapter is about 1,000 words and deftly and succinctly tells interesting tales about infectious disease outbreaks, many of which continue to plague the world.
Here’s an edited Q&A with Skwarecki, who is the senior health editor of Lifehacker, about her book and some obstacles that she overcame.
Global reporting in the age of coronavirus
Michele Cohen Marill's awakening to this reality came from an overseas reporting trip, just as the global dynamic of COVID-19 was shifting.
Africa-based correspondent influences the Ebola story beyond his coverage
Maliro has been covering the Ebola outbreak since September 2018. Since there are few journalists on the ground there, his perspective has played a role in shaping how the international community gets information about the ongoing outbreak. He frequently posts on his Twitter and Facebook page about stories he is covering and the people who he is with.
Here Maliro talks with AHCJ’s Bara Vaida about what it is like to be a local correspondent on this international story.
Reporter describes how she uncovered an infectious disease nightmare
Before indoor plumbing, hookworm was prevalent in the southern United States. Successful efforts funded by John D. Rockefeller in the early 1900s led many to believe the parasite had been eliminated from the country by the 1980s. But a 2017 study cast doubt on that perception. Researchers found evidence that people living in Lowndes County, Ala., were infected by hookworm.
In 2018, Vice News reporter Arielle Duhaime-Ross decided to follow up on the study and learn whether Alabama’s department of health had done anything about it. Shockingly, the answer was no. Here, Duhaime-Ross talks more about how she reported on this groundbreaking work.
Editor shares tips for reporting on China's mysterious pneumonia
Lisa Schnirring, news editor at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy since 2007, has been covering this story as it has been unfolding.
Schnirring talked with AHCJ about how she has been keeping up with the news at it has been unfolding over the past few weeks, providing a valuable guide to other journalists who might be looking for resources to cover infectious disease outbreaks.
Getting to the truth when covering measles outbreak
Newsome was confronted with this challenge when writing an in-depth story for CQ Researcher on the recent measles outbreak, and the story behind how the contagious disease has made a come back in the era of modern medicine. A big piece of the story is the spread of misleading information by organizations that exploit people’s fears about vaccines, and the role the media played by giving these organizations a voice in an effort to provide balance, she says.
Reporters, she says, should be more focused on the scientific evidence that shows vaccines are safe and effective, rather than giving voice to fears. To read more about her thoughts and how she reported her story on measles, read the edited interview with Newsome.
Book examines how mosquitoes and their pathogens have shaped history
Waking the public up to the threat of antibiotic resistance
Today, there are fewer than 50 antimicrobials in the pipeline and resistant bacteria are slowly but surely spreading across the planet.
Getting the public to understand and pay attention, however, remains a challenge for health journalists. Matt Richtel, a science reporter for The New York Times decided to take on the task on of trying to get Americans to understand the growing threat with a series that began in April 2019.
Richtel talks to AHCJ’s Bara Vaida about how he approached the story and its challenges.
Reporter visits Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand to cover rise of malaria deaths in Southeast Asia
Her story “Malaria’s Ticking Time Bomb,” won first place in AHCJ’s 2018 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism for a public health story published in the small market category. Here she talks further about how she did her story.
Covering a measles epidemic with cultural sensitivity
Amanda Eisenberg, a New York health reporter for Politico, has been in the middle of covering this unfolding epidemic. She and her colleagues have not only been covering breaking news stories about the outbreak, but also have found different angles. Eisenberg talks more about how she is covering the measles outbreak there.
Covering the link between environmental causes and disease
How to make climate change and health a less underreported issue
Marsa looks at climate change through the lens of agriculture disruption, air pollution, the spread of infectious diseases, heat waves, health system disruption, water pollution and drought. She also examines a few successful policies that have been aimed at addressing the disruptions caused by the warming planet.
Marsa recently sat down to talk with AHCJ and provided some tips to help colleagues wishing to cover climate change and health.
Science background helped student journalist’s reporting on predicting infectious disease outbreaks
Scientist and journalism student Prajakta Dhapte became fascinated with this predictive process and decided to delve into the modeling arena for a story published in Georgia Health News. See what she learned in this Q&A with Bara Vaida.
Advice from a reporter experienced in interviewing people in stigmatized populations
In her article, in addition to providing an in-depth perspective from several experts, Boerner also gave the reader the story of Bryan C. Jones, who had left a prison in Ohio and almost immediately ditched his HIV drugs because he knew they were no longer working.
Boerner discusses how she identified Jones and was able to include his story in her piece. As journalists covering health know, finding someone living with the condition a story covers can be difficult. The additional factors of a background involving incarceration and a period of housing instability can complicate the process even more.
Tracking down the biggest food recall of 2018
One his beats is food recalls, which led him to his recent story highlighting the biggest food recall in 2018. The story was about McCain Foods, a multi-billion-dollar foodservice corporation, based in Ontario, which manufactures frozen foods. The story, which no one else had reported, puts a spotlight on how much of the food system is vulnerable to contamination.
He also recommends sources for other reporters and talks about why he thinks we are having so many food recalls.
Uncovering a bombshell about Zika in Puerto Rico
What became clear during research is that the link between climate change and infectious disease is having serious consequences on maternal and infant health. There are a number of examples globally, but with the Zika crisis exploding in Puerto Rico at that time, she decided to focus her attention there.
Persistence, persuasion pays off with critical global health security story
Last summer she broke an important global health security story related to a dangerous flu circulating among poultry farms in China. It is a story she is continuing to report. Recently, she shared with AHCJ why she pursued the ongoing story and how she got it.
How one U.S.-based reporter shines a light on infectious diseases thousands of miles away
Weber shared with AHCJ how she has been reporting on the outbreak from thousands of miles away from where it is occurring and provides tips on how other reporters can cover similar stories. She also discussed how she reports on infectious diseases as a daily beat for a national news organization.
Journalist-author provides insights on covering the next infectious disease outbreak
At the end of their book, Salahi and Sabeti offer some concrete ideas to help the world can better navigate the next infectious disease outbreak. In an interview with AHCJ, Salahi discusses how she came to write the book and gives advice for journalists covering infectious disease issues.
Giving an emotional arc to pandemic preparedness story
The picture Yong paints is of an America that is both prepared and unprepared for a devastating infectious disease outbreak.
In this Q&A, Yong discusses the article’s inspiration, how he created an emotional arc to the story and the challenges he faced in writing it. He also talks about stories he wished he’d had an opportunity to cover and what other journalists might want to consider writing about themselves.
Digging into high prices for rabies protection
After interviewing her, he was struck by the details. Even though she didn’t think she’d been bitten, Davis owed more than $10,000 for shots. “Think about that,” Andy said on the phone. “These were injections, and this is her bill.”
There was an interesting twist to her story, too. Davis had to be in Florida once when she was due for one of her series of shots. In Florida, she learned that shots to prevent rabies were offered through a local health department and were free. But back in Georgia, she had to go to hospital ER where the shots were costing her thousands of dollars.
Bringing superbugs to life for the radio
Arditi, who was a long-time print reporter at the Providence Journal before moving to radio last year, brings a whole new dimension to reporting on superbugs and laboratory work by adding sound to what could otherwise be a dry story about a report. Arditi talked more about how she did the story with Bara Vaida, AHCJ’s core topic leader on infectious diseases.
Putting a human face on antibiotic resistance
The story vividly illustrates a potential new avenue for treating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Here, Dall explains more about how he wrote the story.
How creating a map drove a bigger hepatitis story
Now Weber explains how they discovered that separate outbreaks were happening across the country, from Michigan to New York — they just weren't getting national media attention. This was more than just a local malfeasance turned deadly; it was a broader trend nationally among homeless and drug-using populations.
Author reflects on writing a book about vaccines, medical research
How a fellowship led to a series on global emerging infections
The story was about a professor of epidemiology’s three-year quest to learn what in 2012 had killed a popular 5-year-old Milwaukee County Zoo orangutan named Mahal. Affection for the orangutan, plus concern that other zoo animals also might be in danger, led the zoo to send the animal’s body to the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine for an investigation lead by Tony Goldberg, a professor of pathobiological sciences. After three years of work, Goldberg determined Mahal had died from a new species of tapeworm previously only found in Finland and Japan.
Reporter shares tips for covering pandemic preparedness
Freelance journalist Bryan Walsh explored pandemic preparedness in a May 15, 2017, article “The World Is Not Ready For The Next Pandemic,” for Time magazine.
Digging into data to illuminate how vaccines reduce dependence on antibiotics
She took on the challenge of combining the two topics in a recent piece for FiveThirtyEight: “The Fight Against Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Might Start With Vaccines” – a piece she pitched to FiveThirtyEight at Health Journalism 2017& in Orlando in April, and it was published in August.
Covering use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture
Award-winning journalist and AHCJ board member Maryn McKenna digs deep into this frightening trend with her new book “Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.”
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