Local journalists, including in Florida, help readers navigate COVID-19 maze
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Journalist wearing protective gloves and face mask against coronavirus COVID-19 disease holding microphone making media interview during virus pandemic
Journalists helping readers ... familiar story, new twist.

Calling a hospital to see if a bed was available for a COVID-19 patient isn’t part of Houston television news anchor Chauncy Glover’s job description. Neither is guiding a viewer online to find a place to be vaccinated.

He’s done both, and isn’t alone. Listeners and readers across the country are reaching out directly to journalists for help during the coronavirus pandemic, and many are responding.

“We are now doing more than we bargained for,” Glover said. “We have to be smarter on these topics. We have to know more. For so many people, it may be life or death.”

A Florida journalist is among those reporters facing this new pandemic-driven challenge.

CC Davidson-Hiers, a reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, has lost track of how many requests she’s gotten, many from elderly readers who can’t navigate online vaccination sign-ups.

It’s an abrupt turnaround from last year, when her inbox was filled with vitriol from people who called her an alarmist or worthless human being trying to scare people, just because she was writing about COVID-19.

Now, she emails links and suggestions to readers who contact her. When she gets calls, she will stay on the line and walk people through the process when they’re struggling with the internet.

“I absolutely love doing it,” Davidson-Hiers said. “I have to keep an eye on how sustainable it is. It’s something we’re all facing — the pressure of the pandemic and the stress of it all.”

Davidson-Hiers generally guides people to help themselves. But on two occasions — once for a person who had no internet and another for someone at a loss for how to use it — she has set up vaccination appointments for readers.

In retrospect, she was queasy for ethical reasons. Journalists are trained to observe and report, not to get involved in their stories.

There’s nothing wrong with doing your best to help people with information, said Kathleen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. But it’s wise to avoid situations where you learn someone’s medical records, or make a specific medical appointment or recommendation, she said.


Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Associated Press


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