Turpanjian College of Health Sciences Offered a New Course to Armenian Journalists on the Coverage of COVID-19 and Other Outbreaks
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YEREVAN, Armenia — The American University of Armenia (AUA) Fund, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Armenia, is implementing the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project “Support to Control COVID-19 and Other Infectious Disease Outbreaks.” The project is working to strengthen Armenia’s capacity to control COVID-19 and other communicable disease outbreaks and emergencies of potential public health concern, while also advancing the government’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response strategy.
Within the scope of this project, an innovative e-learning course for journalists was developed by the Avedisian Onanian Center for Health Services Research and Development (CHSR) of the AUA Turpanjian College of Health Sciences (CHS) in collaboration with the Thomson Foundation (TF). The “COVID-19 Coverage” e-learning course aims to help journalists to effectively and safely report on topics related to COVID-19 and other pandemics. The course consists of five modules: COVID-19 epidemiology; ethical and practical challenges of covering pandemics and epidemics, looking specifically at the COVID-19 outbreak; managing information overload to create credible, verified content for audiences; the science behind COVID-19 vaccines; and the role of journalists in communicating public health messages.
Reflecting on the importance of the course, Tsovinar Harutyunyan, associate professor at CHS, said, “Journalists and media workers have played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic. People everywhere are submerged in unprecedented flows of information and misinformation, and turn to media sources to find accessible and reliable information. We hope that our course will help Armenian journalists get acquainted with accurate information, the best examples of international journalism on pandemic coverage, and apply the acquired knowledge for the benefit of Armenian society.”
Aghunik Hovhannisyan, a journalist working at Armtimes.com, who successfully passed the course, was especially impressed by the sections focusing on working with reliable sources. “At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we had an information crisis; the media field was often filled with misinformation,” she said. “It was much later when we realized that it is possible to find professionals and use international information platforms.” According to her, the course was interesting for various specialists working in different functions of journalism, such as fact-checkers, editors, special correspondents, and others. She also highlighted the importance of learning from one’s own mistakes and being prepared for future challenges. “The presented material was built on the examples brought from the international media, which reminded us of our omissions and mistakes in covering COVID-19. We cannot say that we have overcome the virus; as long as there is a risk of new outbreaks, journalists must remain vigilant.”
Another participant who successfully completed the course, Viola Voskanyan — who is still studying journalism — elaborated how the course helped her gain knowledge on reporting outbreaks. “My knowledge about the infection was very superficial. I would find it difficult to write a journalistic article on that topic,” she said. “Now I know the details, and I know how to cover the topic. The course provided many valuable skills that we will use in the future for covering other topics as well.”
The AUA Turpanjian College of Health Sciences works actively to improve population health and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals to be leaders in public health, health services research, and evaluation, health care delivery, and management.