Call for Applications: Knight Center Free Online Course for Journalists Covering COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over the world — and the news. To help arm journalists with knowledge and tools to cover the virus and the health, social and financial crises it is causing, the Knight Center is offering the free online course “Journalism in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 now and in the future.”

The MOOC (massive open online course) runs from May 4 to 31, 2020 and will be offered simultaneously in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, taught by award-winning science journalist and author and TED speaker Maryn McKenna.

This free training program is organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with UNESCO and the World Health Organization (WHO), with support from the Knight Foundation and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Availability in Spanish and Portuguese, and tailor-made activities to Latin American and Caribbean journalists, are possible thanks to UNDP support.

The four-week course, divided into weekly modules, will cover:

  • Week one: The history of pandemics and disasters in the 20th century. The module will also look at whether governments planned for future pandemics.
  • Week two: Covering COVID-19 now. What has happened with the pandemic in the past four months, especially concerning healthcare crises, international supply chains and debates over social distancing and mask-wearing. How have different governments responded? Finally, how important is freedom of expression and detecting misinformation and disinformation?
  • Week three: Hope for treatment and vaccines. What are the competing claims for treatments of the disease and what is the timeline to finding a vaccine and antibody test? What is the role of hype and media bias in advancing and debunking proposed treatments?
  • Week four: The way forward. The final module looks at story angles for moving coverage forward and answering questions about how COVID-19 has changed our world. It will also look at journalists’ self-care in the process.

The course consists of video classes, PowerPoint presentations, readings, quizzes and discussion forums.

Students who successfully complete course requirements have the option of paying an administrative fee of U.S. $30 to receive a certificate of completion in PDF format. The Knight Center will evaluate the cases of students who need a waiver of that fee. No formal college credit is associated with the certificate.

Like all Knight Center MOOCs, the course is asynchronous, meaning participants can take it in the days and times that best suit them. However, there are recommended weekly deadlines to complete activities so as not to fall behind.

In this unprecedented pandemic, as well as the health and economic crises, many journalists are being taken off their regular beats or given additional reporting duties to cover the virus. The course will also speak to those professionals who do not normally cover science or health beats.

“Coronavirus is the only story in the world right now, so it makes sense that people are coming into it, or being reassigned to it, from many other beats. I hope this course can help them get up to speed,” McKenna said. “But also, I hope they will bring their expertise to the course community, too. As this new normal rolls forward, coronavirus will also be a food story and an education story and a story of urban planning, among other angles — and people who cover those beats and others can help the rest of us see what stories might be possible.”

Register for the course today and make sure you’re prepared to cover the biggest story of our lifetimes

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