Student Reporting Guidelines

General Guidelines for Reporting During the Pandemic 

This is a brief guide to go over before reporting for the School of Journalism. It is based on briefings and planning done by the Wall Street Journal and NPR. It is not intended to replace your judgement or that of your professor and if you have concerns about your health during your reporting, please contact and work with your professor.

Also see specific guidelines below for audio and visual reporting.

Remember, journalism is a job that involves talking with members of the public and interacting with people. Our goal is to do that as safely as possible. There is no way to stay completely safe (whether reporting or not) and therefore this guide is aimed at helping you plan for and conduct reporting as safely as possible. 

Before Reporting

Do as much research and reporting as possible remotely. This should include in-depth digital searching and researching, phone interviews and occasional email interviews.

If you are intending to do in-person interviews or event coverage consider whether this can be done outside versus inside. Outside venues give you better ventilation which will reduce the possibility of aerial transmission. Large indoor venues are also better than small ones and places with low rates of infection are safer than areas reporting higher rates. 

Consult with the Missoula County and Governor’s task force sites for more information about where active cases are more pronounced.

Out in the Field 

  • Maintain 2 meters (6 feet) or more distance between you and the person you’re interviewing. If possible, avoid shaking hands.
  • Interview the person at an angle; not face-to-face. Interview outside if possible, and consider the wind direction. Wind that passes through both parties is the best kind.
  • If the interview must be indoors, pick a spot near an open window. Some kind of airflow is better than none.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and maintain a heightened level of vigilance.
  • Avoid eating or drinking items that have come into contact with other people (cups, forks, knives, etc.). If you come into contact with these items, wash your hands afterwards and avoid touching your face.
  • Remove all jewelry, watches, etc. before going out on assignment.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, clean them regularly, but avoid hand to eye contact.
  • Avoid using cash. Sanitize debit/credit cards regularly.
  • Ensure you wash hands before, during, and after leaving any affected area. Dry with disposable napkins.
  • While using mass transit, use hand sanitizer when disembarking.

Level 1 PPE

Examples: Photoshoot that allows social distancing, Interviews in open-air with six feet of separation. 

Requirements:

  • Hand sanitizer and 3-ply surgical or clean cloth mask. (As of July 21, 2020, Hong Kong (7.1 million people) only has a little more than 2,000 cases total. New York City (8.3 million people) has more than 226,000 cases. Why the difference? Answer: Face Coverings.)
  • If a 3-ply surgical mask is not available, cloth masks work in a similar fashion. As long as the nasal passages and mouth are covered with the proper support.

Level 2 PPE

Examples: visiting a person’s home, meeting a source at a closed in office.

Requirements:

  • Hand sanitizer, protective eyewear and N95 mask or clean cloth mask.
  • Be sure to clean your hands before and immediately after being in the location. Maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. Do not shake hands.
  • Minimize your time inside and if you must do the interview inside, keep your mask on and try and position yourself near an open window. 

Level 3 PPE (Known Infected Areas)

Examples: ICU wards, morgues, quarantine locations, and nursing homes.

Requirements: 

  • Full Tyvek hazmat suit, hand sanitizer, N95, and eyeglasses.
  • Before embarking on a level 3 assignment, you will need to purchase a spray bottle of surface cleaner. The latter is due to dangerous cargo and import restrictions.

What is COVID-19?

  • https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
  • Coronaviruses usually have mild effects on their hosts. It is not to be confused with influenza, or the common cold.
  • The current outbreak was termed SARS-CoV2 in January 2020. The west commonly refers to the virus as COVID-19. 
  • The virus requires a host to divide and multiply.
  • The main vector for transmission is through a sneeze of an infected person, and particles (fomites) reaches the palate of a target.
  • Proteins that cover the virus fomites attaches to receptor cells at the back of the palate, and the trachea or windpipe. Think of a three-pronged plug, attaching into an outlet.
  • On average, people are asymptomatic (presymptomatic) for 5.1-5.5 days before symptoms appear.
  • The virus cannot enter via your blood, or through open wounds. The fomites must be ingested or inhaled.
  • The virus can live on clothing for 7 hours, and stainless steel for 10 hours.
  • The New England Journal of Medicine notes that fomites can live on cardboard for 18 hours, and 48 hours on shiny plastic surfaces.
  • Fomites can live outside of the body at minimal strength for 80 hours. In comparison, HIV is only 15-45 seconds.

 

 

Audio

Audio Reporting During the Pandemic

Before doing any audio reporting for the School of Journalism, please read this guide. Information here is based primarily on guidelines assembled by NPR and Transom.org. It is not intended to replace your judgement or that of your professor. If you have concerns about your health or the health of your subjects during your reporting, please work with your professor.

Remember, journalism is a job that involves talking with members of the public and interacting with people. Our goal is to do that as safely as possible. There is no way to stay completely safe (whether reporting or not) and therefore this guide is aimed at helping you plan for and conduct audio reporting as safely as possible.

Before Reporting

Do as much research and reporting as possible remotely. This should include in-depth digital searching and researching, emails and phone calls.

 

If you intend to do in-person interviews or event coverage consider whether this can be done outside versus inside. Outside venues give you better ventilation which will reduce the possibility of aerial transmission. Large indoor venues are also better than small ones and places with low rates of infection are safer than areas reporting higher rates. However, know that conducting outdoor audio interviews or interviews in large venues comes with its own set of challenges (see below).

Consult with the Missoula County and Governor’s task force sites for more information about where active cases are more pronounced.

Reporting in the Field -- Before, During and After

BEFORE your reporting assignment:

  • If you don’t feel well, tell your professor and do not report in the field.
  • Talk with your professor before every reporting trip. What are the benefits/risks of this assignment? Can this story be reported without going into the field? Are there other clever ways to get tape? What’s your plan to keep yourself and others safe?
  • Remove all jewelry, watches, etc. before going out on assignment.
  • Avoid using cash. Sanitize debit/credit cards regularly.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, clean them regularly, but avoid hand to eye contact.
  • Drive to your assignments in the field whenever possible. If using mass transit, use hand sanitizer when disembarking.

DURING your reporting assignment:

  • Don’t shake hands
  • Wear a mask
  • Don’t be at a scene longer than necessary. Get in, get out.
  • Maintain six feet or more distance between you and the person you’re interviewing. Use a shotgun mic or boom pole if you have one. If not, set your recorder close to your subject and stay six feet away while asking your questions. Better yet, ask your subject to record their side of the conversation using the built-in Voice Memo app on their iPhone or Android. Then, ask them to email you the audio file after the interview so you can sync it up with your questions. This will give you better audio quality for their responses.
  • If you are holding the mic, keep your mic (and yourself) at an angle to the person’s mouth. Don’t stand directly in front of his/ her face. Interview outside if possible, but remember that wind noise is not your friend. Use your dead cat on top of your mic to cut down on wind noise. Wind that passes between both parties is the best kind.
  • Never let your subject hold the mic.
  • If the interview must be indoors, pick a spot near an open window. Some kind of airflow is better than none.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and maintain a heightened level of vigilance.
  • Avoid eating or drinking from items that have come into contact with other people (cups, forks, knives, etc.). If you come into contact with these items, wash your hands afterwards and avoid touching your face.
  • Ensure you wash hands before, during, and after leaving any affected area. Dry with disposable paper towels or air dry.
  • Know/follow all local health directives where you are reporting

AFTER your Reporting Assignment -- Clean your Gear!

  • Wipe down your audio recorder with a bleach wipe or 70% alcohol wipe after each field reporting trip, paying close attention to knobs and buttons.
  • To wash your windscreen (aka your dead cat), add 3 cups of warm water to a bowl or plastic Ziploc bag. Add ½ teaspoon of dish soap to water and mix. Submerge windscreen in water and massage gently for 45 seconds. Rinse with clean water and squeeze excess water out of windscreen. Let air dry overnight or use a hair dryer to speed things up.

Recording with Your Computer or Smartphone From Home

Conducting audio interviews via computer or smartphone is acceptable in cases where you or your subject don’t feel safe conducting in-person interviews. Use the following apps for best results: 

TO RECORD AUDIO INTERVIEWS WITH YOUR COMPUTER:

  • Zencastr.com is a great app that allows you to call someone’s phone from your computer and record the conversation on your computer. It only works on Chrome and Firefox, and only on a desktop or laptop (no tablets, smartphones, etc) though, so be aware. You will need to sign up for a free account to send an invite, but the person you’re interviewing doesn’t need an account to be interviewed. Zencastr will record both sides of the conversation in separate tracks, which you can download at the end of the call onto your computer, or upload directly to Google drive or Dropbox. Click here for a video tutorial on Zencastr.
  • Zoom also allows you to record video or audio only conversations from your computer. You need to sign up for a free account to send an invite, but the person you’re interviewing doesn’t need to have an account. Your free student Zoom account lets you conduct 40 minute interviews only. But, if you click on “employee” instead of “student” at umt.edu, you’ll be able to conduct longer interviews. Access the employee version of Zoom here. Make sure you click “record” before the interview begins! Finished audio files will be downloaded to your doc folder on your desktop or laptop.

TO RECORD AUDIO INTERVIEWS ON AN IPHONE

TO RECORD AUDIO INTERVIEWS ON AN ANDROID PHONE

TRACKING YOUR AUDIO PIECES FROM HOME 

You may be asked to track your audio pieces from a make-shift home recording studio (also known as your closet, most likely) for your audio courses. For tips on reporting and tracking from home, check out this advice from some of NPR’s best reporters.  As well as this advice from NPR on setting up your own home studio and this advice from Transom.

 

 

Visual

Visual Reporting During the Pandemic

This is a brief guide to go over before reporting for the School of Journalism. It is based on briefings and planning done by the Wall Street Journal, NPR and NPPA. We have also consulted a local newspaper and TV station on their protocol. It is not intended to replace your judgement or that of your professor and if you have concerns about your health during your reporting, please contact and work with your professor.

Remember, journalism is a job that involves talking with members of the public and interacting with people. Our goal is to do that as safely as possible. There is no way to stay completely safe (whether reporting or not) and therefore this guide is aimed at helping you plan for and conduct reporting as safely as possible.

Before Reporting

Do as much research and reporting as possible remotely. This should include in-depth digital searching and researching, phone interviews and occasional email interviews.

If you are intending to do in-person interviews or event coverage consider whether this can be done outside versus inside. Outside venues give you better ventilation which will reduce the possibility of aerial transmission. Large indoor venues are also better than small ones and places with low rates of infection are safer than areas reporting higher rates. Consult with the Missoula County and Governor’s task force sites for more information about where active cases are more pronounced.

For capturing video and photography contact and consult with subjects prior to the shoot. Talk with them about their comfort level. If it’s an indoor environment discuss the requirement to wear masks during those shoots. Everyone has different health concerns and levels of comfort and we need to respect that.

Ask these questions before a photographer/videographer goes to an assignment: 

  • Do you or anyone who will be present during the photo session have the Coronavirus and/or come into contact with someone who has?
  • Are you currently sick or do you have COVID-19 symptoms?
  • Is there a cell phone of a person who will be present when the photographer arrives?
  • Can the photo shoot occur outside for this assignment?

If assignment is inside:

  • Are all of the people in the building practicing social distance and mask wearing?
  • Is there enough space in the building that the photographer can move around without violating social distance? We need to ensure that we don’t put the photographers in a situation where they are in a confined space with others.
  • If you have concerns with an assignment, address them beforehand. Your safety and the safety of your family is our top priority.

 

Out in the Field - General Reporting

  • Maintain 2 meters (6 feet) or more distance between you and the person you’re interviewing. If possible, avoid shaking hands.
  • Interview the person at an angle; not face-to-face. Interview outside if possible, and consider the wind direction. Wind that passes through both parties is the best kind.
  • If the interview must be indoors, pick a spot near an open window. Some kind of airflow is better than none.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and maintain a heightened level of vigilance.
  • Remove all jewelry, watches, etc. before going out on assignment.
  • Avoid eating or drinking items that have come into contact with other people (cups, forks, knives, etc.). If you come into contact with these items, wash your hands afterwards and avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid touching surfaces or objects
  • If you wear eyeglasses, clean them regularly, but avoid hand to eye contact.
  • Avoid using cash. Sanitize debit/credit cards regularly.
  • Ensure you wash hands before and after leaving any affected area. Dry with disposable napkins. Avoid touching your face and other personal items until you have washed or disinfected your hands.
  • While using mass transit, use hand sanitizer when disembarking.

Out in the Field - Additional Protocol for Photojournalists and Videographers

  • Always wear masks and if outside and more then 6 feet away ask your subjects if they are comfortable with you removing your mask while photographing.
  • Only take the minimum amount of equipment necessary to an assignment.
  • Photographers should utilize longer lenses whenever possibly to maintain social distance. If using a wide angle or medium lens monitor your distance to your subjects.
  • Avoid setting your equipment or bags on the ground or any surfaces.
  • If you need to be closer to your subjects to get caption information, do so efficiently and quickly, while wearing a mask.
  • Do not use LAV microphones. These present a possible vectors for the transmission of the virus. Good audio is not worth the risk. USE boom mics and shotgun mics, from a distance of at least six feet.
  • Consider recording a phone/zoom interview if appropriate.
  • Videographers working in teams:
    • Stay socially distanced and wear masks when working together.
    • When working in a crew or team travel separate to assignments.
    • Each team member should shoot with their own camera.
    • Minimize the sharing of gear. Assign one person to run camera and one to run audio for example.
    • Follow gear protocols for using, storing and cleaning.

Back in the Office - Protocol for Photojournalists and Videographers

Video Editing

  • Sanitize work stations and editing stations before and after editing.
  • Videographers/editors do not share edit stations.

Equipment Care

  • Wipe down your equipment and bags between assignments, especially your phone.
  • Microphone covers should be thoroughly washed and disinfected at the end of every assignment.
  • Avoid “dead cat/wind muff” type of covers if possible because they are harder to clean.
  • Always decontaminate all equipment with fast-acting antimicrobial wipes such as Meliseptol. Please refer to EPA Guidance for thorough disinfection including but not limited to cell phones, tablets, leads, plugs, earphones, laptops, hard drives, cameras, press passes, etc. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
  • Make every effort to treat microphone surfaces and covers as infected items. They should be decontaminated with a 70% alcohol solution.
  • Decontaminate equipment after a shoot. Alcohol Spray (70% minimum) can be used on plastic and hard equipment.
  • Please check out this helpful post from a professional who spends a lot of time cleaning and preparing gear. https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2020/03/how-to-disinfect-camera-equipment-and-spaces/
  • When in doubt about whether equipment was contaminated, leave the equipment marked as contaminated and return to it after a 72-hour period.

 

Levels of Reporting in the Field

Level 1 PPE

Examples: Photoshoot that allows social distancing, Interviews in open-air with six feet of separation. 

Requirements:

  • Hand sanitizer and 3-ply surgical or clean cloth mask. (As of July 21, 2020, Hong Kong (7.1 million people) only has a little more than 2,000 cases total. New York City (8.3 million people) has more than 226,000 cases. Why the difference? Answer: Face Coverings.)
  • If a 3-ply surgical mask is not available, cloth masks work in a similar fashion. As long as the nasal passages and mouth are covered with the proper support.

Level 2 PPE

Examples: visiting a person’s home, meeting a source at a closed in office.

Requirements:

  • Hand sanitizer, protective eyewear and N95 mask or clean cloth mask.
  • Be sure to clean your hands before and immediately after being in the location. Maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. Do not shake hands.
  • Minimize your time inside and if you must do the interview inside, keep your mask on and try and position yourself near an open window. 

Level 3 PPE (Known Infected Areas)

Examples: ICU wards, morgues, quarantine locations, and nursing homes.

Requirements: 

  • Full Tyvek hazmat suit, hand sanitizer, N95, and eyeglasses.
  • Before embarking on a level 3 assignment, you will need to purchase a spray bottle of surface cleaner. The latter is due to dangerous cargo and import restrictions.