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New guidelines issued to help reporters navigate extraordinary time for news

7 April 2020

Pile of newspapers next to a laptop

Journalism has a vital role to play in providing information about the Covid-19 outbreak at a time of great uncertainty, worry and disruption, a Cardiff University academic says.

Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, who is based in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture, has spent a decade studying the role of emotions in journalism, including in the coverage of crises and disasters. At the request of the Welsh NHS Confederation, she has compiled an advice document for journalists covering the outbreak, drawing on input from independent experts across journalism, PR and academia.

The guidance is primarily aimed at journalists new to covering health topics or those redeployed from other areas. It focuses on how to safely cover the pandemic and stresses the importance of countering misinformation.

“The unprecedented demand for information demonstrates the importance of robust news media in a democratic society,” Professor Wahl-Jorgensen said. “At the same time, we must be alert to the need for protecting the vital work of the NHS, as frontline staff treat the rising number of patients affected by the illness.”

“I hope the guidance will serve to support news media across Wales in their efforts to help us make sense of what is a hugely worrying time for us all.”

Darren Hughes, Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said: “Dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak is an enormous challenge for the NHS and its staff.  Coverage of the outbreak is dominating the news agenda with journalists having an integral role in supporting the public through this difficult time.  They will be reporting the most up-to-date information and scrutinising the response from Government, the NHS and public sector bodies.

“This guidance, written by journalists and academics, is intended to help those reporting on health issues. Particularly those new to the brief. It outlines the challenges presented to the NHS when working with the media and how journalists can report on the latest issues safely and responsibly.

“We would like to thank Cardiff University, and colleagues from across the UK for putting together this advice which we’re sure will provide a solid framework for journalists and colleagues throughout the NHS in Wales throughout this outbreak.”