Many news organisations that otherwise keep their content behind a paywall are allowing readers free access to news about COVID-19 and its dastardly impact.
This scenario creates an opportunity for newsrooms to focus more on localised and specialised content. For instance, readers are interested in knowing how COVID-19 is affecting their state or county? What measures are being taken by the authorities to ensure the safety of doctors and healthcare workers fighting this pandemic from the front lines?
Scouring the Internet in search of people who belong to the community that you want to engage or report on can be laborious. The section below offers some practical suggestions on how to make the process efficient.
Example: a group of COVID-19 survivors from Italy who are in the high-risk age bracket.
Here's an example of how you might find a Facebook community that could be relevant for your story.
Running a search on Facebook with the words “COVID-19 sopravvissuti in Italia” (a translation for “COVID-19 survivors in Italy” using Google Translate) gave the following results for groups.
Searching for “senior” on the public group “Covid-19 emergency info Rome” lead to a post about a helpline for senior citizens, launched by a Rome-based non-profit to offer psychological support to the elderly as Italy grapples with a high-burden of COVID-19.
Going through the information posted on the Facebook page of that non-profit may offer useful information about the demographic that you want to reach out to. The members in that group might know of a survivor and the non-profit might be a good resource as well to help you connect with your subjects.
To gain the trust of an individual or community it’s important that you communicate to them at the outset what are your motivations in reaching out to them.
Do you understand the language they speak? If not, find someone who does. If they have posted stuff in a language you don’t read, a good starting point could be Google Translate.
When soliciting content or reaching out to your target community through public social media platforms add a hashtag (#) and a keyword with your message and ask people to respond with that same word and #. The #keyword combination can help you comb through your social media feed for all the responses that you have received.
Create a Google Form with some basic questions to circulate among your target community. It can help you learn a bit about them and understand how they may be able to contribute to your project or story.
Recognise the time, energy, and effort that someone might be putting in to give you relevant content. Give them due credit to incentivise them to share more authentic content.