3 lessons from covering Ebola in 2014
In both the U.S. and abroad, one of the biggest stories of 2014 was Ebola. We covered it at Poynter, too, from style notes to profiles of journalists in the U.S. and West Africa who reported the unfolding story. I asked three journalists who've reported on Ebola about what they've learned.
Dr. Seema Yasmin, reporter and subject matter expert, Dallas Morning News:
I saw the journalistic maxim: "It's better to be late than wrong" play out in front of me. We sat on information and saw others publish names and other details that turned out to be inappropriate to publish at that time or totally inaccurate.
Live Twitter chats were a great service to our readers. We received many questions about the transmission, treatment and symptoms of Ebola and were able to answer them rapidly on live Twitter chats. We received feedback from readers who said they appreciated the opportunity to have questions answered in real-time.
Amy Maxmen, freelance science journalist:
Talk to locals. Talk to locals. Talk to locals. Do not just talk to aid agencies.
Tulip Mazumdar, BBC global health correspondent:
The key thing I learnt while covering the Ebola story is how contagious fear can be. Fear is mostly based on misunderstanding, mis-information and rumour - not facts. That's why a journalist’s job is so crucial. Across West Africa, and in the rest of the world, some of the reactions to the epidemic were fuelled by fear, not facts. This has stopped many people getting help and treatment, which helped spread the disease, and made the worst-affected countries feel more isolated. This unprecedented outbreak is a timely reminder of how important our job is - explaining the story and getting the facts about this virus out to audiences all over the world.