Reporting in the pandemic: “Jonathan Blitzer repeatedly called and texted. Video chats proved crucial.”

Jonathan Blitzer

From a story in Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists, headlined “From the Front Lines: Journalists step up to keep the public informed about the biggest medical crisis in a century.” This is from writer Jonathan Blitzer describing the reporting for his New Yorker story, ‘The Body Collectors of the Pandemic”:

The 4,500- word story includes an incredible amount of detail. One funeral home, which might host 12 funerals in a given week, handled more than 123 bodies the first week of April. . . . And yet the story was reported remotely. With no choice but to stay inside due to lockdown orders, Blitzer repeatedly called and texted each director for more than a week to track their movements and see what they were doing at different points in the day.

“Ordinarily my impulse as a reporter is to go straight to the scene of what I’m writing about,” said Blitzer. “But during the pandemic, my boss made clear: You really should limit your contact to the extent you can, because there are public health consequences. That led me to be more creative about how I can report.”

Video chats proved crucial, allowing Blitzer into rooms and scenes he could not visit otherwise. . . .”To do reporting in this way, narrative reporting which puts a premium on getting a lot of textural, closely observed detail. I’m finding that you have to do double or triple the amount of work you’d do normally,” he said. . . .

Like many working from home, he struggled to define his working hours, often answering messages and taking phone calls from 7 a.m. into the evening hours. . . .

“It’s a terrifying feeling to be in the center of the story you’re writing about,” he said.

Speak Your Mind