Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing things [journalists] usually record. While on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry… the story of civilization is what happened on the banks.— Will Durant, The Story of Civilization
The journalism on COVID-19 is nothing short of lifesaving. Those of you in the heat of it — local journalists — are sacrificing so much to keep your community safe.
There is now another topic we need to add into our reporting mix — providing hope and help to those feeling the emotional effects of self-isolation.
Living in isolation is not normal — for you or for your community. Isolation has a very real psychological cost in emotional health. Humans have never been meant to “go it alone.” The emotional cost of isolation is loneliness which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Journalists need to be aware of it in themselves and report on it.
And there is so much to be hopeful about. As you report on the numbers — the sick, the closures, the ways to stay healthy — make sure you now commit to reporting on the amazing acts of selflessness and support that are happening too.
The news story we will all remember is not the story of a virus, it is the story of the people.
Here are some reporting ideas that might bring hope to your audience.
While we certainly don’t want to be encouraging people to gather in groups, we do need to make people aware of areas in need. Someone needs to pack and hand out lunches for children who are no longer eating in school. Someone needs to check in on those who are older, deliver food for them, shop for them, drive them to doctor’s appointments or help them set up telemedicine software, and maybe just provide companionship. Parents who must work (medical professionals) need childcare.
Idea: All over your cities and towns, people are doing these things — selflessly helping their neighbors. Someone needs to do it, and many are. Perhaps you can provide a listing service for volunteerism and do stories about those in need and those who are helping. You can find these stories on social media like Nextdoor or anywhere neighbors are talking about their neighborhood.
So many of your viewers are facing seemingly insurmountable financial issues. The servers, bartenders, actors, musicians, event planners, valet drivers, etc. who work contract jobs in our gig economy now have exactly zero income coming in. They can’t pay rent or bills, some can’t afford medicines or even food. And yet there are many short-term jobs opening up at grocery stores for stockers and cashiers; at restaurants for delivery drivers; even at Amazon if you happen to have a warehouse close.
Idea: Perhaps you can put together a job listing service connecting people who need one with those expanding services even in the short-term.
The story of people
People are trying to normalize the completely abnormal — parents trying to entertain their kids, the goodwill of those waiting patiently in line at the grocery, the heroic medical professionals giving up their normalcy to save others. Now is the time to seek out those inspiring profiles that so often get side-barred because of the need to report on facts and numbers.
Idea: Perhaps now is also the time to actually look for those viral videos that can lighten the mood. People at home, trying to make the best of it with nothing to do, can be hilariously creative on social media. Perhaps you show some of those to your viewers and ask viewers to share their favorites.
Idea: People sitting at home are surfing the web more than ever looking for things to do. Are there yoga instructors and fitness coaches, or chefs and bartenders, or craft experts waiting to fill the need with short, daily videos that offer some consistency in a complicated time. Perhaps you can supply them.
Cities and towns are shut down and many in your community are exercising the caution inherent in social distancing and self-isolation. That means people can lose that feeling of being “all in this together.” As we report on the life-saving facts around a virus, let’s not forget to report on the people and the very real emotional toll this crisis will, and is, having.