Themed Playlist: Multimedia Journalism and COVID-19

From Allison Frisch (Ithaca College):


Multimedia Journalism and COVID-19: Pandemic Reporting Beyond the Mainstream


Multimedia journalism allows us to see the ways living with a global pandemic affects myriad demographics such as communities, families, essential workers and those working in and depending on the health and political systems in the U.S. and around the world.


These are people-centered nonfiction works. They expose health and social inequalities through a micro rather than macro look at the impacts of COVID-19.


Independent nonfiction narratives, photos, podcasts and videos explore reporting beyond mainstream for-profit newsrooms and their focus on access journalism, in which reporters function as scribes for the political and corporate classes. Additionally, these independent non-fiction projects reject the false equivalence structure, common in mainstream media, that imposes the notion of “two sides” of an event, ignoring the nuanced, complex, and multi-layered issues of stories such as COVID-19.


The works in this playlist are international, from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Peru, the United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, and more.


These multimedia projects range across formats and interfaces, from an Instagram photojournalism collaborative, a geopolitical podcast, a video interview, photo essays and a narrative non-fiction piece. Their makers move beyond simply capturing news for an audience and its entertainment and enjoyment.


These myriad projects reveal how COVID-19 is experienced, endured, confronted and presented to the world. They are small stories with large implications. They capture inequities of race, socioeconomics and nation in ways CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other for-profit media marginalize, trivialize, sideline or ignore.


And this work is adaptable, scalable, and responsive. These technological developments and multimedia platforms afford more democratized access to these projects. This means audiences generally are not required to pay for content locked behind paywalls. Instead, it is shared on social media, and passed between people and groups organically.


These independent multimedia projects thread the factual and the evidentiary through the voices and experiences of everyday people such as detainees, health-care workers, patients and families. They range from urgent conversations to sublime images.


These pieces from the COVID 19 period of global pandemic function as ethical, urgent and necessary reportage that will call out to future generations.


In quiet, insistent ways and with deliberately ethical strategies of representation, this work states: We were here. We walked through the fog of the unknown. We stumbled and we triumphed.


Unlike journalism chronicles of the past, emerging digital technologies and interfaces propel a paradigm shift in how stories of everyday people in a world-altering event such as the COVID-19 pandemic engage the world.


During this moment of unprecedented and continually unfolding upheaval, we are eyewitnesses to the merger of a multi-platform, multimedia landscape with a global pandemic.


These varied platforms such as photo, podcast, video and more allow us to engage COVID-19 with our senses as well as our minds. These works thrust us all into a sensorium of great poignancy and urgency.




Views from Quarantine: Samantha Chow (State Press, Sept. 2020)

Views from quarantine (Samantha Chow)

See Gallery Here: Views from Quarantine

Living under a 14-day quarantine in two small dorm rooms and a bathroom at Arizona State University, student photojournalist Samantha Chow picked up her camera on Day 9 and began to document life for her and her peers under COVID-19 quarantine in the college dorms.


She didn’t pick up her camera right away. First, Chow processed her loneliness by running back and forth in her small space until her feet hurt. But that, she quickly realized, wouldn’t do.


One of Chow’s pleasures in life is people-watching. So, she contacted those living around her and asked if she could photograph them from a distance through windows and across open spaces. She offered prompts to those who acquiesced: “I asked them to show me something interesting in their dorm or pose in a way that expresses their personality,” Chow writes.


The project reveals the detailed protocols and rules imposed on students at precisely the moment when breaking free was idealized as the liberation from the confines of childhood.


The project speaks to the tenacity of the human spirit to thrive within the confines of quarantine. As many students in the U.S. and elsewhere are navigating higher education within many constraints and restrictions due to the pandemic’s spread, Chow’s piece provides a rare glimpse into the specificity of the quotidian of a young person, rather than the charts, graphs, and spectacle of mainstream media.




No Masks, No Gloves, Open Dorms — Detainees Describe Life in ICE Detention During the Pandemic (Valerie Shenkman, The Intercept, 2020)


No Masks, No Gloves, Open Dorms, (Valerie Shenkman, The Intercept)

Chilean-American filmmaker and multimedia journalist Valerie Shenkman records the testimonials of immigrants in New York and New Jersey, detained for minor criminal charges in detention centers such as Hudson Correctional Center and Essex County Correctional Facility.


The project’s significance resides in the voices we hear, perspectives corporate media often marginalizes in favor of policy experts or others with power. Denied medication for chronic conditions and left unprotected in open dorms, immigrants who have lived most of their lives in the U.S. recount the ways in which they were “lost in the system.”


Stream No Masks, No Gloves, Open Dorms here:





Coronavirus in Italy, (Francesca Volpi, Italy, 2020)


Coronavirus in Italy (Francesca Volpi Photography,

Francesca Volpi’s photojournalism reportage on coronavirus in Italy occupies spaces reserved for those afflicted with COVID-19 and those essential medical workers treating them. In Volpi’s intimate connection with the ravages of pandemic, the toll is beyond the statistical. It is visible in the composition of flowers and coffins as well as in the fear in a symptomatic patient’s eyes.

This is a vital close-up look at COVID. This project offers something beyond wide shots of drive-through testing stations and hospital hallways. It transports the spectator into the spaces where humanity meets, wrestles with and confronts pandemic.


View Coronavirus in Italy here:







Covid Latam (2020)


Covid Latam

Covid Latam is a collective photojournalism project, featuring 18 photographers documenting coronavirus across Latin America. Through an Instagram account, 9 female and 9 male photographers train their lenses and unique perspectives on the toll of the pandemic in Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Mexico and seven other Latin American countries.


Instagram significantly democratizes access to grassroots photojournalism.

This new form of visual journalism remains truly independent from profit incentives and audience algorithms. The result is a multi-perspectival kaleidoscope of COVID perspectives.



See the story:

Documenting the Pandemic in Pictures: The Guardian

View the project: covidlatam Instagram




Photojournalist Sebastião Salgado: Brazil’s Reckless COVID Response Threatens Indigenous Survival, (Democracy Now! May 26, 2020)


In an expansive and vital interview, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman speaks with photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, whose work gives him a firsthand look at the disproportionate toll coronavirus has taken on the Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon region of Brazil.


Brazil’s Reckless COVID Response (Democracy Now!

Goodman’s focus on a deeper narrative reveals the ways government power is more alike than different across the globe. By looking at Bolsonaro and the effects of his policies on Indigenous Peoples, viewers can consider their own country’s government actions through the policies in Brazil. This strategy sharpens viewers to the inequities and failed policies in their own country.


Salgado wrote an open letter to the government to condemn its crimes against humanity as a response to the pandemic. President Jair Bolsonaro denied the public health crisis, likening it to the flu and echoing the response of U.S. President Donald Trump. Both leaders ultimately tested positive for COVID-19.


Stream the show here:

Updated statistics and other information: The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil




Weak State: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Exposed America’s Dysfunctional Democracy (The Intercepted, July 22, 2020)


U.S. and China relations combine with a continual drumbeat of blame amid COVID-19 in this piece. Military and anthropological expert David Kilcullen explains this relationship in an interview by Intercept reporter Murtaza Hussain.

Weak State (The Intercepted)

The podcast approach is extremely significant in the COVID media landscape. It allows the listener to hear a deeper discussion of the nuanced geopolitical posturing between two powerhouse nations. It investigates the way that posturing could impact the people of both countries, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Today, in early October 2020, the U.S. death toll due to coronavirus exceeds 200,000. Two months earlier, in August as this podcast aired, the U.S. death toll was 140,000.


The prescient insights offered in this piece around public health, the economy and the military portend a fall and winter in which the U.S./China blame-game and significant loss of life march on.


Stream the Podcast here: Weak State: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Exposed America’s Dysfunctional Democracy






Detroit’s winning spirit helps it fight back against COVID-19 (Cassandra Spratling, National Geographic, May 15, 2020)


Detroit’s winning spirit (Cassandra Spratling)

Source: National Geographic

Photojournalism by Danny Wilcox Frazier

Life. Death. Life.

The rhythm of a community in the throes of pandemic presents a stark reality. This piece summons vibrant storytelling combined with photojournalism of the most sacred and mundane.


Deploying narrative writing and photojournalism, this project is significant in its ability to bring the community of Detroit to the rest of the country and the world. It mobilizes the internet pipeline and social media to move beyond its institutional home of National Geographic.


Amid COVID and the deaths it produces, this piece contends there is hope in life.


The global pandemic and the U.S. government’s slow and ineffective response revealed health disparities imbedded in the system of privatized medicine and inadequate public health, exacerbated by the virus.


Read, view Detroit’s winning spirit helps it fight back against COVID-19 here





Allison Frisch is Assistant Professor of Journalism and Documentary Studies at Ithaca College. Frisch is an award-winning journalist who reported for two decades in the New York Finger Lakes region and in York, Pennsylvania. She worked as a multimedia journalist and managing, regional, and executive editor. She has been honored for feature writing, investigative reporting, and digital innovation. Her experience includes reporting, writing and editing community public health coverage. She teaches journalism history, focusing on local pandemic coverage; documentary industries; documentary immersion; and journalism innovation. Her research focuses on local media models and sustainability, 19th- and 20th-century periodical culture, and cinematic video journalism. Find more information on Frisch and her work here.

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