You probably did not expect coronavirus to become part of your daily life so fast. Few Americans did. The full scope of coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, and the number of people who are affected, but don’t know they’re infected, are part of what has created anxiety. As fear and uncertainty mounts, people are coming to community radio. They are seeking answers to their questions about coronavirus. They are also seeking solace and shelter from the worsening headlines.
Many college and community radio stations have done their best to keep their studios open. Some are implementing rules on access and the number of guests allowed on site. Others are permitting volunteers to produce remotely. Virtually every station is taking a critical look at their programming. Where possible, stations are stepping up to do their part in educating their communities.
How might your station respond to the evolving concerns over COVID-19? Here are a few ideas:
- How can your station cover COVID-19 in the context of your resources? Some stations are mostly music, or have no news department. Others have minimal staffing during this period. You might consider starting a blog with periodic local updates. Poynter offers ways to report responsibly on coronavirus, while ensuring your audience understands the gravity of the situation. “Journalists should remember — and emphasize — that coronavirus is, for most people, non-lethal. The World Health Organization said the disease caused by the new coronavirus has a 3.4% mortality rate. That is deadlier than the seasonal flu but the seasonal flu does not spread as easily.”
- An important role your station can play is in answering listener questions about coronavirus. Hearken recently did a presentation on ways to engage your audience about this issue. The key is to be open-ended with your questions and to listen.
- Many stations postponed their spring on-air fundraising to a later date. However, some are not in a financial position to push back campaigns for too long. NFCB offers some pledge drive advice on issues to consider for your COVID-19-impacted campaign. From doing pre-recorded programming to not offering fund drive lunches, there is a lot for your station to make decisions about.
- Whether you are reporting to audiences or just need to keep your volunteers informed, it is essential your station stays plugged in to your state and country emergency preparedness personnel. You may wish to participate in media calls to hear the latest developments. Your station should also keep posted with the most accurate health news via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has a COVID-19 page exclusively dedicated to news and reliable safety information.
- If your community is in a situation where you may have to ask staff members to work remotely, it can be a surreal experience for them. Many people are used to getting up, showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and heading to work Monday through Friday. When this routine ends and you are forced to do your regular tasks out of the office, the first few days can be bewildering. LION Publishers provides 18 recommendations for productivity at home for those new to this style of work.
You are encouraged to frequently use NFCB’s website for ongoing coverage of emergency preparedness issues in community radio. So you do not forget to visit, you can subscribe to a weekly roundup of posts at nfcb.org. The weekly email is free and open to all.