Whether you’re getting the latest news by sitting in front of the TV or scrolling through your phone, you can’t escape the nearly endless COVID-19 coverage from journalists and reporters breaking down the latest developments from around the globe. Rather than attempting to absorb the ever-changing volume of daily coverage, I recently started looking at it in a different way - through the eyes of the reporters. I began to wonder, what's it like to report on the Coronavirus crisis day in and day out? My curiosity led me to launch a new series, “On The Frontline.” Within each episode, I’ll interview journalists who’ve been dedicating every waking hour to reporting on this unprecedented pandemic.
I decided to kick off this series by chatting with Business Insider’s Senior Health Reporter, Anna Miller.
While Americans are stuck at home questioning how the Coronavirus will continue to affect every facet of their present day and future lives, Anna is providing the answers. Now more than ever, she realizes her job is essential, and while it keeps her extremely busy, it also makes her incredibly happy to serve the American people in these times of great uncertainty.
Not only has Anna’s coverage topics changed drastically from general health and reproduction to daily breaking news, but her day to day has changed as well. She now spends her time balancing breaking news, covering insightful features/profiles, and WHO briefings. Due to the accelerated pace in which she is working, Anna says there is so much more "housekeeping" work of simply responding to emails, scheduling interviews, posting stories on social media. Unlike slower news days/season, responding to or reading an email feels critically important, she says.
What’s more, all the stories she wrote a month ago up until yesterday need updating as new research and data comes out, which is all the time.
Q: How has your role as a reporter changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: I’m used to covering all kinds of topics, but in the past three weeks it has only been Coronavirus coverage. There are 50 reporters and editors at Business Insider dedicated just to covering the virus. It has been inspiring to see the entire newsroom come together and report on this virus as a team. In addition to balancing breaking news, insightful features and profiles, and WHO briefings, I’m finding that there’s SO MUCH more “housekeeping” work than usual, such as responding to emails, scheduling interviews, and posting stories to social media. Of course, this has always been a part of the job, but the pace, like everything else, is extremely accelerated these days.
Q: What does a “day in the life” look like for you?
A: First thing in the morning, I check our team spreadsheet to see which topics need coverage, and then I report on one or two topics each day on average. I prefer analytical pieces and pieces about different experiences people are going through right now, from patients, to healthcare professionals, etc. On top of covering new stories, I have to ensure that all the stories I had written in the last month get updated as new research and data is released, which is every day! I could have a full-time job simply keeping my stories up to date.
Q: Which stories are you finding readers are most engaged with?
A: Personal stories, particularly stories from those living in other countries, because they serve to show people what America’s future could look like due to the virus. For example, one of the top stories was from a mother in Italy warning Americans about the things she wished she would’ve done before the virus took hold of their country. Another popular story was from an American woman who shares her experiences of living in Shanghai amid the virus. Readers are interested in stories like these because they foreshadow what we could potentially see happen in the U.S.
Q: What are experts telling you (the reporters) on the frontlines as far as what we can expect in the future?
A: We’re hearing that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s going to be a couple of months at least before we see the light, but it varies state by state. We’ve also been told that we shouldn’t expect life to go back to normal right away, but rather a slow rise back to normalcy. It could be a year.
Q: What types of stories are you working on right now and what types of experts are you in need of?
A: Personal anecdotes. That’s how the audience really connects. For example, a story I’m working on right now covers women and couples postponing their fertility treatments. Procedures like this are considered “elective” right now, which has been a controversial topic.