June 2, 2023

Best Practices

COVID-19 Resources for Journalists


The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation has posted journalism safety modules for use in undergraduate programs. The modules are available to view in downloadable PDF or flip-book formats, and include 16 different curricular ranging from best newsroom practices to digital security and disaster coverage. Explore the modules here.
Dart Centre Europe has posted a resource page with guidelines for reporting on and interviewing survivors of sexual violence that occur in conflict. The page includes key questions journalists should ask themselves before starting, assessing safety of sources, evaluating ethical pitfalls, and how best to approach an interview to mitigate harm and work compassionately. Explore the resource page here.
OPC Vice President Azmat Khan, an investigative reporter with The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, and a professor at Columbia Journalism School, posted a tipsheet for investigative journalism that she uses as a reference for students.
The A Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance has posted a list of legal assistance resources with links to organizations that provide advice, support and legal assistance to freelance journalists globally. ACOS also offers a discount on insurance for journalists and other members of the media. It covers journalists travelling to any country in the world and includes conflict zones, embeds and travel in a military vehicle or helicopter.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a guide for journalists covering natural disasters and extreme weather in connection with wildfires in California. The guide includes advice on risk assessment, how to minimize dangers, checking insurance, and other best practices, as well as a list of contents for an emergency kit. Read more here.
IJNet publishes an email newsletter that includes articles, grant and training opportunities and resources. Read more and subscribe here.
Russell Midori, the OPC Foundation’s Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship in 2016, wrote an extensive piece for the OPC on best practices for covering civil unrest.
The nonprofit journalism organization 100Reporters launched a project that tracks government moves around the world that exploit the COVID-19 crisis to expand surveillance, enable corruption, and weaken transparency and government accountability. UnderCovid aggregates news about those issues from a broad range of media sources with an interactive world map, to highlight “encroachments that exploit the fear of coronavirus to redraw the balance of power between government and citizen,” and also produces original reporting “to map, expose and analyze moves to lock down civil liberties and government accountability, under cover of crisis.” Read more here.
The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has updated its site with several new resources, including articles on fighting COVID-19 disinformation, reporting on communities of color during the pandemic, audience engagement in a time of social distancing, and photojournalism in the coronavirus era.
The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) held a panel on July 8 to discuss how to handle disinformation about COVID-19. A recap on the organization’s site includes several links to resources and a roundup of useful advice from the program.
The A Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance has launched Arabic, French and Spanish versions of the COVID-19 News Organizations Safety Protocols. Those who want to help spread the word can access social media tools here. All versions of the protocols are downloadable from the ACOS website here.
The Fund for Investigative Journalism is offering emergency grants to U.S.-based freelance investigative journalists working on stories on the coronavirus that “break new ground and expose wrongdoing in the public or private sector.” The small grants will be available over the next few months on a rolling basis of up to $10,000 for freelance investigative projects that have a strong U.S. angle involving American citizens, government or business. Stories must be published in English and have a media outlet in the United States.
Photographers Without Borders has compiled two key resources for COVID-19, one for storytellers, and another for activists responding at the frontlines all around the world. The storyteller resource includes resources for mental health, emergency relief grants, and resources for freelance photographers.
Everyday Projects, a group dedicated to combating media-driven stereotypes, has published a page of general tips for visual journalists covering COVID-19. Tips include practical advice and reminders like avoiding unnecessary travel, being wary of official infection numbers and restricting exposure, as well as detailed steps for how to sanitize camera gear.
The GroundTruth Project published an interview with photojournalists about their best practices while covering the pandemic. OPC member Max Becherer, photo editor at The Times-Picayune and The New Orleans Advocate, talked about working with subjects and maintaining transparency to prevent risks, like asking if elderly people live in a home he might shoot.
National Geographic is offering rolling grants ranging from $1,000 to 8,000 for local coverage of “the preparation, response, and impact of this global pandemic as seen through evidence-based reporting.” The organization is especially interested in reporting that covers social, emotional, economic, and equity issues.
The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) launched a Global Health Crisis Reporting Forum in March to help journalists provide accurate, life-saving information on the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 2,500 journalists from 100 countries have joined. The Forum, open only to journalists, connects reporters with health professionals and other experts through a webinar series. In conjunction with the International Journalists’ Network (IJNet.org), the forum also provides resources on covering COVID-19 and fosters cross-border collaborations via a Facebook group. The ICFJ has also posted a page with resources for covering the coronavirus, and has a Health Forum Newsletter that you can sign up for via this link.
The ACOS alliance has posted a tool kit to help freelance journalists negotiate terms to keep them safe while reporting on the pandemic or any risky environments. The article, titled “The Model Contract Project,” published on the Medium website and written by Andréa Schmidt and Anna Therese Day, includes key issues such as paying for flexible flights under uncertain travel restrictions, getting advances for safety-related costs, and insurance.
The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) has posted a list of new sources of funding for coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The list includes emergency funds from the National Geographic Society, a Coronavirus News Collaboration Challenge from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Internews Information Saves Lives Rapid Response Fund, the Africa-China Reporting Project, the IWMF’s Journalism Relief Fund, and dozens of others.
The group A Culture of Safety (ACOS) has assembled a substantial list of COVID-19 resources for journalists, including links to practical safety advice, funding opportunities, hardship and emergency funds, and reporting resources such as guides for fact checking.
The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has launched a page for COVID-19 resources for journalists. It includes a page of ICFJ research on the impacts of the pandemic on journalism, recommendations on combatting disinformation, webinars with health professionals, and a ways to connect with other journalists covering the crisis.
The Rory Peck Trust also has a resource page for pandemic coverage. It includes safety guidelines, funding sources, job opportunities and online training videos.
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) has been hosting free webinars with panelists to discuss COVID-19 reporting. The webinars are recorded and posted on the IRE website for those who cannot attend live.
The Google News Initiative has launched a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to deliver aid to small, medium and local news publishers globally. The funding is open to news organizations producing original news for local communities during the crisis, and will range from the low thousands of dollars for small hyper-local newsrooms to low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms, with variations per region.
Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation has compiled a large repository of documents on COVID-19 via FOIA requests. Explore the database here.
The Tow Center has been compiling a database on US newsroom cutbacks that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers have aggregated sources including news reports, press releases and Twitter announcements. Browse the tracker here.


Helpful Organizations


Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues

RISC trains and equips freelance journalists to treat life-threatening injuries on the battlefield.


The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

The Dart Center trains journalists and provides support to colleagues with newsroom mentoring, briefings, seminars and peer-support programs.


Frontline Club

Frontline Club offers multi-disciplinary workshops to teach traditional media skills training as well as new media and digital storytelling skills.


Rory Peck Trust

Rory Peck Trust provides funding for hostile environment training for freelancers. To qualify, applicants must have worked as a freelancer in news gathering and/or current affairs for a minimum of 18 months.


The International News Safety Institute

INSI provides basic safety training free of charge to over 2,000 news media personnel in 30 countries. The training consists of tailor-made packages designed to meet the needs of local and regional journalists, addressing their specific requirements. Their book, No Woman’s Land: On the Frontlines with Female Reporters is dedicated to the safety of female journalists and was critically acclaimed when it was published in March 2012.


The International Center for Photography

This center in New York offers more than 400 courses that range from traditional film and darkroom practice to digital media. Options include short-term classes and workshops that last one day, one weekend, one week—or longer. Address questions to education@icp.org.


Watch a video with Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste

Greste was imprisoned in Cairo for 400 days. In this interview, he talks to INSI about the #FreeAJStaff campaign and media safety.


Global Journalist Security

GJS provides hostile environment courses and other training for journalists, aid workers and human rights defenders.


The Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ)

CFWIJ fosters and supports camaraderie between women journalists around the globe. “Through our mentorship program and advocation for a safe and flourishing professional environment, we are creating spaces for women journalists where they can be nurtured, stay safe, and expand their skills. We work with no national or ethnic boundaries, and offer support to women from all backgrounds.” Read more here.

Free Training Manuals and Resources

Assignment Safety Checklist

A Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance put together this important checklist to ask journalists before a dangerous assignment.


The ACOS Alliance is keen to facilitate access to insurance to freelancers and local journalists around the world. You can find here some new options that cover not only reporters, but fixers and stringers, drivers and translators on the ground, regardless of where they are based, at discounted prices. The ACOS Alliance receives no financial consideration or benefit from any insurance programs, and does not endorse any particular scheme.

GroundTruth Project: Field Guide for Correspondents

Updated in 2015, this document begins with new guidelines for journalists and news organizations titled “A Call for Global Safety Principles and Practices” to help reduce risks for reporters working in conflict zones.

Witness Media Lab

Citizen video verification and curation resources from across the web.

CPJ: Journalists Safety Guide

This handbook deals with a range of practical issues such as approaching checkpoints and hostile subjects. Available in nine languages.

IWPR Training Manual

This manual from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting contains a chapter on journalist safety and is also available in English, Arabic, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik.

SEEMO Safety Net Manual

This manual from the South East Europe Media Organization includes a chapter on reporting during demonstrations, social unrest and other violent situations. Also available in 12 different languages.

Internews: Reporting Atrocities

The 7-chapter Toolbox for Journalists Covering Violent Conflict and Atrocities features a whole section on practical strategies for keeping yourself safe in a war zone.

Online Privacy Guide for Journalists 2017

A guide for journalists in a world of ever-decreasing privacy.

Additional Resources…

IPI’s On The Line Reporter Digital Safety project.

NPR’s tips on how to spot disinformation.

Abine’s DeleteMe paid service that removes information from data aggregation services and people search engines.

Poynter report on disinformation around the world.

British journalism organization tips on fighting disinformation.

Firstdraftnews.org on disinformation training for journalists.

Guidelines on social media policy from Poynter and NPR.

DigIntel’s Digital Propaganda and the News Series: • DigIntel’s studies on how misinformation affects journalists, including recommendations for newsrooms on how to protect/help journalists who are targeted with disinfo/harassment.

CPJ border crossing tips.

News Organizations Safety Self-Assessment A tool for news organizations to review and improve current safety protocols.

CPJ digital safety kit.

CPJ election safety kit.

Pulitzer Center ethics and standards for journalists.

HEFAT training (Hostile Environment) from CPJ and IWMF.

Foley Foundation Journalist Safety Curriculum.

The James W. Foley Journalists’ Guide on Journalists’ Safety

Click below for a curriculum guide for undergraduate and graduate students from the Medill School of Journalism, through its National Security Journalism Initiative, and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, in partnership with Reporters Without Borders and A Culture of Safety alliance.

Industry Standards for Safety Training

The Industry Standard for Safety Training (ISST) is a baseline curriculum for safety training courses for journalists that is recognised by the news media industry. The ISST is a result of a consultation process involving stakeholders from the news media industry and not-for-profit journalism organisations that sought to build consensus around safety training standards.

US State Department: Ground Rules

Click below for guidelines from the State Department on interviewing State Department officials.

Reporters Without Borders: Handbook for Journalists

Lists of useful tips and excellent chapter on safety behind the lines. Available in English, French, Urdu and Kurdish.

International Center for Journalists: Disaster and Crisis Coverage

Contains chapters on managing crisis coverage, reporting crises and staying safe.

SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation

The Journalist Survival Guide animated videos will prepare you for action in case of a tear gas attack, shooting, injury and other risks. Available in English and Arabic.

Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma: Tragedies and Journalists

The free PDF lists ways for journalists to battle the psychological effects of covering traumatic events.