‘When you’re sure, be brave’: Atlantic staff writer shares coronavirus reporting lessons from 2020

Throughout 2020, journalists across the country have shared their best practices for working through the pandemic. As we approach 2021, we’re asking what they learned this year and what they hope to learn in the year to come. 

Name: Olga Khazan

Current job: Staff writer, The Atlantic

Previous Institute Q&A: Embracing the ‘weird’: Health reporter launches book during pandemic

What are the main lessons you learned this year from your reporting that you’ll use next year?

Khazan: Coronavirus science that seems certain today might change next week, so keep that in mind when you’re writing stories. It’s still okay (more than okay!) to call out bad policies when you see them, but be sure to caveat what we know now and how that might change in the future. The flip side of this is that what might seem so controversial as to get you “cancelled” one minute will be common knowledge and totally accepted the next. So when you’re sure, be brave.

How did your work change during the pandemic? 

Khazan: I took way fewer reporting trips. I’d like to think I got better at phone reporting as a result? But it was also my main way of connecting with people, so perhaps I was just so happy to be reporting by phone that I enjoyed it way more than I normally do.

What do you hope to learn or cover in the coming year? 

Khazan: How we define “essential” when it comes to essential workers getting the vaccine. 

How are you taking care of yourself now that you weren’t at the beginning of the pandemic? 

Khazan: I’m trying to spend more time outside, taking walks. I’ve realized that while walks don’t burn as many calories as runs, I enjoy them more and find them more replenishing. No one is looking at me anyway so it doesn’t matter how much weight I’ve gained 😃

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