Mason Graduate Taylor Telford reports on COVID-19 news

Shravani Page | Staff Writer

Telford sitting in front of The Washington Post sign at her work.

Former Mason graduate Taylor Telford works as a breaking news reporter at The Washington Post and has been reporting on COVID-19 over the past few weeks.

Over the past month, Telford has constantly been working on stories regarding COVID-19. She works with how incoming information about the virus is presented to the nation. The Post has been reporting on COVID-19 for the past few months and now has most domestic correspondents and employees working from home.

“We were definitely one of the earlier companies to turn to working from home,” Telford said. “I think it’s because we’ve been covering it from a distance and through our international correspondents. I think our office is completely empty now, and everybody is just doing all of their jobs through lots of conference calls and slack messages and emails.”

But working from home hasn’t stopped Telford from reporting on the pandemic. Telford said that there are many things she keeps in mind as a reporter when reporting on something as challenging as the pandemic. 

“The main thing that I try to keep in mind is that people’s understanding of this pandemic varies quite widely depending on who they trust and who their news sources are,” Telford said. “I’d say that the first thing I try and do is just be as clear and forceful with the facts as possible. I want to just give people a sense of scope and also try to anchor trying to put it in context and explain.”

One of Telford’s goals as a reporter is to emphasize and explain the precautions that need to be taken. Telford also said that there are still many people who are uninformed about the crisis — and she aims to spread accurate information.

“In the case of this pandemic, it’s causing very real danger because misinformed people are not social distancing and are risking their own lives and the lives of people around them,” Telford said. “I am trying to put it into context and explain that this is why our stores are closed and why we’re seeing the most layoffs that we’ve ever seen in America at the same time. I also try to explain why their lives are being overturned and why it’s so necessary that they stay home.”

The Washington Post has taken more online action to showcase new information as most of its employees have started to work from home. Telford talked about the new features The Post has introduced to help explain the pandemic.

“We’ve adopted a lot [of new features] like live vlogs that we like to update constantly,” Telford said. “Instead of just having a single story written by a single person, different reporters jump in and put in these mini stories that are 300 to 500 words. These stories are about important developments as they’re happening. So we have to figure out what the most important things are that deserve wider attention and make sure that we’re keeping up with the flood of other important information.

Telford said that one of the main goals of The Post is to give quick and accurate information.  But Telford acknowledged that panic could spread easily, especially during this time, where sensationalism can quickly occur in the media.

“The only thing that we can do is tell people the truth,” Telford said. “Obviously [avoiding sensationalism] is a tricky task because headlines have to be snappy to get people’s attention. Although there’s been a lot of attacking from people on the right about the possibility of the mainstream media sensationalizing coronavirus, I think that we weren’t adamant enough [when it came to explaining the virus] because of how our entire country seems to be about like the depth of crisis that we’re facing and how we’re all on different pages.”

Telford said that this is a scary situation for everyone and talked about what has kept her stable during this pandemic. She said that talking to others has helped her learn more about how others are dealing with the pandemic given their circumstances.

“This is scary for humans,” Telford said. “But as journalists, we are also just regular people who are scared of this. I think that the thing that has made me feel the most steady is when I’ve been getting to actually do work that is related to this and talking to people whose lives are being affected by its momentum. Because the privilege of a journalist is that you get to see those things and talk to those people.”

Photo contributed by Taylor Telford