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Resources for Freelancers Navigating COVID-19

This guide gathers the best information we could find to help make responsible decisions and do great work during the pandemic. We do not expect to continue to make frequent updates to the page. It was last updated on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

Let us know (by emailing [email protected]) if you’re struggling to find information that we can help you identify or if something here is notably out of date. 

Your primary source of information and guidance about the spread of COVID-19 should always be the CDC, state and local health departments, and your own local news outlets who are best positioned to provide fact-based assessments of local conditions. 

Recording Safely

With vaccines more widely available within the US, calls for tape syncs are beginning to return to AIR’s tape sync forum and on other audio lists. 

While it may be possible to maintain an appropriate distance and gather high quality recordings safely, a conventional tape sync arrangement puts the recordist and the subject in very close contact. It is not clear yet whether vaccinated individuals can still transmit the virus. Even if you are vaccinated, you may unwittingly carry COVID-19 to another person. 

AIR has compiled an extensive round up of remote recording tips and tricks that many producers have used to avoid tape syncs altogether.   

If you are going to record in the field, we strongly recommend that you refer to the CDC’s workplace recommendations as well as OSHA’s guidance on workplace safety. The CDC guidelines are meant to reduce asymptomatic spread of the disease. Anyone who is sick or recovering from COVID-19 should follow CDC guidance on how long to stay in isolation. In many areas of the country, local guidelines are much more permissive than CDC recommendations, even as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. We strongly recommend that anyone recording in the field use the guidelines established by OSHA and CDC as a minimum safety precaution. It will often be appropriate to be substantially more conservative than OSHA and CDC recommend. 

What about your kit? 

It appears unlikely that COVID-19 spreads by surface transmission. However, if you’d still prefer to sanitize your kit, we’ve rounded up some useful tips.

If you’re recording live, DPA Microphones has some good advice about proper microphone hygiene. We haven’t compared their suggestions to the CDC’s recommendations on sterilization, but that’s the most comprehensive guide to cleaning delicate equipment that we’ve found. 

Guitar Center carries a sanitizing foam explicitly designed for microphones.

Inside Radio’s round up of tips for keeping your studio safe recommends using individual mic muffs and not sharing headphones. They noted that $10-15 generic muffs work fine -- you don’t need one designed for your particular mic. 

KNKX’s station engineer advises that mics and metal wind screens can safely be wiped with a cotton cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol. They also told us that disinfecting wipes are fine for the outer plastic parts of headphones, but ear cushions are likely to be damaged by cleaning products. Cushions can be wiped off with a damp cotton cloth, but a damp cloth will not sanitize anything: Don’t share equipment that cannot be sanitized. 

Apple and Samsung have both said (at least, per the WSJ) that it is fine to clean your phone screen with isopropyl alcohol wipes. It’s also fine to decline to share your cell phone. 

As reporters, hosts and producers adapt to recording and collaborating remotely and without tape syncs, we’re seeing a lot of great resources surface to help with remote recording. We’ve started gathering those guides and tools in a separate, collaboratively edited guide to recording remotely. We’ve gathered a few great tip sheets there, from independent producers as well as Marketplace, Transom and NPR. 

Reporting Guides

Director’s Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, Teamsters and IATSE collaborated on an extensive report on film and television set safety standards that is well worth reviewing for suggestions on how to improve safety in an environment like a film or television set.

Lenfest Institute’s comprehensive round up of resources includes a thorough and growing list of information sources and reporting guides that will be useful for reporters covering COVID-19. 

Whether you’re in a newsroom or supporting a podcast audience community, Hearken’s guide to Handling Audience Questions in a Crisis is an excellent resource. In addition, the  NPR+Friends Slack (open to anyone with a staff email at an NPR affiliate) has a thriving #social channel where newsroom staff have been sharing strategies and successes.

Freedom of the Press Foundation published a guide to working from home securely that is worth reviewing whether you’ve been working from home for days or years. 

If you manage social for a podcast or community, WGBH provides a newsletter for social media managers, including some reminders about setting guidelines and keeping a handle on misinformation and speculation on your social channels. Consider subscribing

If you’re covering the crisis directly, and haven’t already found a community of practice to share questions with, AIR staff are routinely posting new webinars to our Community Forums. Public Media Journalists Association, PMJA has posted a recording of their webinar on Covering COVID-19 with KUOW & KNKX.

A group of experienced data journalists is collaborating in the #covid19 channel on the News Nerdery Slack

Sources of Financial Support

A number of well curated guides are tracking funding sources:

Stay Well

Above all, don’t forget to take care of yourself. If covering breaking news isn’t your job, it’s okay to stop following the minute-by-minute coverage. And if you are responsible for breaking news, make a staffing rotation and stick to it. When you’re off duty, be off duty. Start some sourdough. Darn your socks. Call a friend. Eat healthy meals. Reduce your screen time.

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your own immune system may be getting depleted. If you do get sick, you’re going to have a harder time recovering if you’re already worn down. Get plenty of sleep, keep your body as healthy as possible. Keep your exercise routine up, eat your vegetables!