NAB Gives Blueprint for Covering COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 mask
(Image credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—With the COVID-19 vaccine starting to roll out, people are interested in learning more about it through news coverage. NAB, along with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI), have partnered on a nationwide survey that offers broadcast journalists a guide into how to most effectively cover the COVID-19 vaccine.

Conducted by research firm SmithGeiger, the survey polled attitudes toward the vaccine, the information the public is seeking about the vaccine and the potential effectiveness of various vaccine education messages.

The survey found that people believed local news (TV, radio and print) was the most reliable source of information, with respondents wanting news on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. More than half of respondents (58%) say that an investigation into the safety/effectiveness of a vaccine or recommendations focused on wearing masks leads them to trust a news organization more.

Further, respondents had a strong preference for stories that make recommendations based on detailed reporting, wanting stories that just present the facts rather than personal stories from journalists or ones that provide no recommendations.

Also, using messaging that highlights a concern for others, like “protect yourself, protect your neighbor’ or “don’t put your family through the pain of losing you,” would result in about half of respondents being more likely to get vaccinated versus 16% that said it would make them less likely.

The overall survey found that six out of 10 respondents are planning to get vaccinated as soon as it is available to them; just 13% say they will definitely not get vaccinated.

Among those who are concerned about getting vaccinated, the main concern is the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, including more than half worried about the testing of the vaccine (51%), the effectiveness of the early versions of the vaccine (54%) or that the vaccine itself will make people sick (52%).

African Americans are among the most concerned about the vaccine (63%), as well as less confident that it has been adequately tested (42%).

“It’s no surprise that providing information about the COVID-19 vaccine is not a one-size-fits-all effort,” said Randy Picht, RJI executive director. “We think this research, which included a larger-than-usual number of respondents will be useful to all news organizations as they cover one of the most important stories right now and in 2021.”

The survey, which was conducted Dec. 4-12,  surveyed adults 18-64 who consume at least some news media at least once a week, with census-reflective quotas for age, gender, ethnicity and geography.. The results will be used to create a messaging toolkit focused on local and regional approaches for communicating about the COVID-19 vaccine. The toolkit is expected to be available in early 2021.

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