Like virtually everyone else these days, we at Internews’ Earth Journalism Network have seen our work and personal lives greatly disrupted by the growing outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
We realize it’s a trying time for everyone, particularly journalists who are trying to cover developments in an informed and accurate way. We also realize the more traditional environmental stories we’ve long tried to prioritize may take a backseat for the moment.
“As with most programs, it now feels like we’re dealing more with the coronavirus fallout than anything else,” says EJN Executive Director James Fahn. “It is requiring us to re-think many of our current activities, but like any major crisis, it also presents some opportunities.”
In response to the outbreak, EJN’s staff has advised our 12,000+ journalist members, first and foremost, to stay and healthy and safe. We have also let our journalist grantees — who are mostly either reporting on individual stories or bolstering the resources of media in their communities – that we understand their activities may be disrupted, either now or in the weeks and months ahead, especially if they involve travel. We have requested they keep us informed of their progress and let us know if there is any way we can provide more assistance.
EJN has also been in the unfortunate position of having to postpone some of our own activities. We’ve had to delay a Training of Trainers course in Indonesia and a conservation and wildlife workshop in East Africa that were scheduled for this month.
It’s also unclear whether our Fellowship program to the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon and a training workshop taking place in the Maldives – both set to be held in June – will be held on time. Nevertheless, we are currently moving ahead with our judging process to select finalists, in the hope that the activities will eventually take place. We ask for your patience and understanding if they need to be re-scheduled as, like everyone else, we are unsure exactly when the current crisis will ease up.
Other EJN activities will continue wherever possible. For instance, we expect that new story grants will be awarded by some projects in the coming weeks, even though we understand implementation may be delayed. EJN will be keeping our partners and members informed of our progress.
Meanwhile, a number of Internews projects have responded to the outbreak by adapting current work to address the overwhelming need for information surrounding COVID-19. EJN Content Coordinator Imelda Abano has recently written this story with tips and advice about covering the pandemic from reporters in the Philippines. We’ve also shared the following resources journalists in our network might find helpful:
- A guide on how to safely cover the coronavirus outbreak from the Committee to Protect Journalists;
- A coronavirus resource for reporters with advice on responsible reporting, information sources, FAQs and a searchable database of virus mistruths by First Draft, an organization that supports global collaborations to fight misinformation; and
- A list of tips for covering COVID-19 as well as questions investigative reporters should be asking about the virus from the Global Investigative Journalism Network.
Finally, while the situation surrounding the pandemic is certainly dire, we see ways in which we can respond, in particular by raising awareness about zoonotic diseases – contagious diseases that stem from our interaction with animals, as COVID-19 is suspected of doing – although we are not currently funded to develop activities on this topic.
Nevertheless, we are planning to do whatever we can to assist reporting on the important interplay between human, animal and ecosystem health. EJN staff are collaborating with both the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the Columbia University Earth Institute on activities designed to increase reporting and understanding about the pandemic. We are also working to hold a webinar on the topic, and in discussions about supporting more stories on wildlife issues and related topics where we are able to do so.
If you have other ideas for how EJN might better be able to function during these troubled times, please feel free to let us know. As always, we appreciate your feedback and will do our best to support improved coverage of the world around us.
(Banner photo: Virus cell. Credit US Department of State)