KINGSTON, R.I. – Oct. 13, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 210,000 people and has infected more than 7.5 million since the first known case was detected in the U.S. on Jan. 20. Worldwide, the virus has racked up a staggering number of casualties – more than 1 million dead and 36 million infected. It has devastated the U.S. economy, left millions jobless, and has become a divisive political issue.
Science journalist Ed Yong has been covering the pandemic from the start for The Atlantic, writing more than a dozen stories on the troubled U.S. response to the crisis, the science behind the virus, and the efforts of public health officials to understand the novel coronavirus. Even before the crisis, Yong was sounding the alarm about the potential for a worldwide pandemic, writing “The Next Plague is Coming. Is America Ready?” for The Atlantic in 2018.
Yong will discuss the exacting job of covering the global health crisis on Thursday, Oct. 29, at the University of Rhode Island’s annual Christiane Amanpour Lecture, presented by the Harrington School of Communication and Media. The free, virtual lecture begins at 5 p.m. and will be live-streamed on the Harrington School’s social media platforms.
“Ed Yong’s writings, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, are a testimony to the need for cogent science journalism today,” said Jeannette E. Riley, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Yong stands as an exemplar for our students to strive for as they develop their own careers. We are fortunate to have the Amanpour Lecture endowment to support this event.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a generation-defining challenge that has humbled and humiliated the U.S., leaving past vulnerabilities exposed and future possibilities unclear,” said Yong. “In my lecture, I’ll talk about the unique challenges of reporting on this omni-crisis and my approach to pandemic journalism.”
For Yong, the work has been exhausting as he constantly immerses himself in coronavirus news without let up for months. “There are too many stories to cover, too many deaths, too much suffering, too little time,” he said in a June staff profile in The Atlantic. “I’ve just published my fifth 5,000-ish-word feature in 10 weeks, and the pace still feels utterly inadequate to the demands of the moment. The stakes are so high. Every day matters.”
Besides writing for The Atlantic website and print magazine, Yong has been featured in National Geographic, The New Yorker, Wire, Nature, New Scientist, Scientific American, and many others. His work has explored everything that is or once was alive – the quirky world of animal behavior, the equally strange and interesting lives of scientists, microbes that secretly rule the world, species that are blinking out of it, and the research that is making science more reliable or changing public policy.
A regular guest speaker, Yong’s 2014 TED talk on mind-controlling parasites has been watched by more than 1.5 million people. And his work has even led him to have a Chatham Island black robin named for him. It has also won him numerous awards, including the Victor Cohn Prize for medical science reporting, the Neil and Susan Sheehan Award for investigative journalism, the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award for biomedical reporting, and the Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences.
Fond of telling stories about aspects of nature that go unnoticed, Yong is the author of “I Contain Multitudes,” which looks at the microbes that share the human body and the influence they have on our lives. The book was published in 2016 and became a New York Times bestseller. He is working on his second book, “An Immense World,” which will explore the extraordinary sensory worlds of animals.
The Christiane Amanpour Lecture Series was endowed in 2008 by Amanpour ’83, Hon. 95, the longtime CNN chief international anchor and global correspondent. It has featured such renowned journalists as Stephen Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters News; Pulitzer Prize winning reporter C.J. Chivers of The New York Times; author and former ABC News journalist Carole Radziwill; and Gambian journalist Omar Bah.
Yong’s talk, “COVID-19: Science Reporting in a Global Pandemic,” is sponsored by URI’s Harrington School. Jason Jaacks, URI assistant professor of multimedia journalism, will moderate the program. The virtual lecture is open to the public. To take part, click here to register, and you will be emailed links to view the lecture.