Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Fault Lines reveal coronavirus disparities (and coverage of them)

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Fault Lines affect how journalists see the public and influence how communities experience coverage about themselves. Robert C. Maynard, who developed the concept, describes the Fault Lines of race, class, generation, geography, gender and sexual orientation as societal tectonic plates that lie beneath what we see on the surface. In a series of posts for each Fault Line, the Maynard Institute is exploring how these forces affect coronavirus coverage.  

Race: “With respect to COVID-19, it’s important to understand why some populations have been more vulnerable than others. It’s not enough to report the numbers, journalists need to probe for reasons. They need to develop coverage that reflects the systemic issues that color American society. For example, while Black people make up about 30 percent of Chicagoans, they make up 72 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Same thing in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, where black people account for about 26 percent of the population, but more than half of all COVID-19 cases. And in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is 32.9 percent black, black people accounted for 44 percent of confirmed cases.”

Class: In “New York magazine’s March 10 article “The Coronavirus Puts the Class War Into Stark Relief,” reporter Sarah Jones looked at the difference in decisions to close schools made by private and public educational institutions. In Missouri, an all-girls Catholic school was prompted to close after a man violated quarantine orders and took his daughter to a school gala, possibly exposing others to COVID-19. Jones pointed out that some schools can make the decision to close school easier than others. Families with means can handle a closure, while it puts a strain on working-class and middle-class families.”

Gender: “This week, there were many stories about how men in New York City were dying at a higher rate from COVID-19 than women. This New York Times story talked about how similar rates of death were found for men in Italy and China. A bunch of stories about this disparity could be found across multiple platforms. I wonder, however, if more women were dying than men, would their deaths receive the same amount of coverage? To take this one step further, if more women of color than men were dying, what kind of coverage might they receive?”

View more analysis here of Fault Lines and coronavirus coverage.