Democracy and Information During a Pandemic

Solutions Journalism Network

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rising by the day in the United States and around the world, and with “shelter-in-place” and “social lockdown” policies in effect around the world, it's difficult to not feel frightened and overwhelmed. Yet alongside the minute-by-minute news updates about the virus's spread, solutions journalists are on the ground reporting on what's working.

The stories in this collection (see below) articulate a range of challenges the pandemic presents to democracies, which typically don’t have the "luxury" of draconian social interventions such as those employed in China to fight the virus. The free flow of information—a free press, government transparency, citizen participation, legislative representation—are hallmarks of a functional democracy; the stories in this collection address the singular challenges to those hallmarks during the global crisis. 

South Korea has learned to leverage its democratic strengths such as accurate information, trust in government, and mobilizing civil society to dramatically limit the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization is fighting what it calls an “infodemic” of misinformation about the pandemic by utilizing social media platforms to spread reliable information. Two stories on Voting by Mail examine how the pandemic might affect domestic US elections, and what would be involved in a dramatic scaling up of the system.  See the collection Voting from a Quarantine for more solutions journalism on this issue.

Finally, Paid to Stay Home underscores how some western European countries’ social safety nets are likely to lessen the impact of the coronavirus through high levels of trust in government, collective action, and economic security.

Click here for more teaching collections on COVID-19.