COVID 19- What it’s like to cover the news during a Pandemic

Kaia Proctor – April 9th, 2020

Al Coen is a veteran TV producer, and has worked in the news industry for over 25 years.

(Twitter- @allan_coen)

In an industry that never stops, Covid- 19 has ultimately done a complete overhaul on the way news is being produced.

Everything from the way press conferences are given, to the way video footage is obtained, to how interviews are being conducted has had to be adapted to stop the spread of the virus and keep both journalists and their sources healthy.

Al Coen is a TV news broadcaster who’s worked in the industry for over 25 years. He’s currently a part of the Global BC news team and spoke on how difficult it can be to inform the public on what safety measures they should be taking – when often these procedures are hard for journalists to follow themselves.

“We had a press conference at a city hall with the mayor. It was in a fairly big room but all the media were squished all together. There was a camera person three inches away from me with a mask on – and during the press conference they kept repeating ‘everybody keep their social distance, thank you back six meters’ –  and I’m looking around the room, the mayor was talking about [safety precautions], but they were not even being followed here. We’re telling the people to do this when the people in the room with you aren’t even doing it.” – Al Coen, broadcaster at Global BC

Not only are journalists having to keep in line with the same safety procedures as everyone else – they’re having to keep up with a rapidly changing flow of information. Making sure they are keeping the world updated with not only accurate, but also unbiased data.

Coen also spoke on how difficult it can be to portray news accurately when it comes to a situation that is as volatile and constantly changing as the spread of Covid-19 has been in the past few months.

He says when things started shutting down in Canada, it left everyone he works with in a state of shock.

“The initial response from everyone was almost disbelief. For [journalists] in the field, inside the station, management, just to get their heads around because, unlike a regular news cycle things weren’t changing by the hour, it was changing by the minute.” -Al Coen, broadcaster at Global BC

The constantly changing information has also resulted in a lot of feedback from viewers. Despite their best efforts, Coen says it can be difficult for broadcasters to give the public information in a way that doesn’t induce panic in some.

 “People are upset. They can’t phone the embassy, they can’t phone the police to get upset, they can’t phone the politicians to get upset. 

Who’s the one person or organization they can call? 

The media. 

So, very often, you get the first blowback of ‘Oh the media is blowing out of proportion. Why isn’t the media doing more? The media is doing too much.’ 

Every once in a while somebody will say ‘thank you for doing a supportive service’ but a lot of times we’re the first stepping off point for somebody who’s mad. 

They want to tell you why they’re mad and you’re the first person that will actually listen to them so that that is the toughest part I think.” -Al Coen, Broadcaster at Global BC

While panicking can be a natural response to unpredictable and potentially dangerous times, the BC Center for Disease Control has said the best thing people can do to protect themselves and their family is simply to wash their hands often, keep physical distance from others, and stay at home as much as possible.

To hear more about Coen’s take on how Covid-19 is affecting the news industry and his advice to future journalists listen below: