Covering the Coronavirus: When the Story Shifts Faster Than You Can Write It

barcelona1While many people have found themselves with some welcome time off, quarantined at home in the midst of COVID-19, that’s not the case for journalists, especially those of us who always work remotely. For me, the pace of work has increased as I’ve been assigned articles about various repercussions of the virus. The challenge in writing these stories is that events are unfolding and changing so rapidly that the stories are often outdated before they can be published. This was the situation I faced after a recent visit with my daughter. She had been in Lyon, France, teaching English as part of the Fulbright program. My husband and I had planned to visit her at the end of February. Since the virus hadn’t progressed much beyond China at that point, we kept our plans for the trip, traversing Lyon, Paris and Barcelona and even paying a visit to my 96-year-old Parisian aunt. When I relayed this experience to one of my editors at a publication I regularly write for, he suggested the inter-generational experience we embarked upon as the virus was closing in might make for an interesting piece. He couldn’t make any promises that his editor would agree. But I decided to write the essay anyway. His editor declined to run it. And within a week of my submitting it, there was a full blown pandemic underway. As a result, the story of our commitment to stick to our plans and visit with an elderly aunt in the face of the spreading virus seems irresponsible and cavalier. Keep in mind that when we were there, the situation wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it is now. The publications I usually write for didn’t feel comfortable publishing this essay in such a fast-changing environment, which is understandable, but I didn’t want it to disappear. So I published the piece on Thrive Global. I felt in this instance that having the piece published was a nice way to document this very special journey that I had with my daughter and husband.