Canadian journalist Nathan Munn wants to bring empathy to Covid-19 reporting

Covid Update boldly explores the humanity behind pandemic stories worldwide.

Canadian journalist Nathan Munn wants to bring empathy to Covid-19 reporting

In the past two years, the pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide. Journalism has played a key role in educating the public about important issues, but it hasn’t been without its flaws.

“A lot of important stories related to the pandemic were being under-reported, or not reported at all, or reported in an unfair way,” explains Nathan Munn, chief editor at Covid-19-focused publication called Covid Update.

One of Covid Update’s recent stories focused on Australia's healthcare workers and teachers pushing back on vaccine mandates. Although frontline workers and educators were portrayed as heroes previously, many media outlets are now throwing them under the bus without listening to why they believe so strongly in medical autonomy. Nathan believes that people like them deserve to be heard and he feels compelled to tell their stories fairly.

Launched in August 2021, Covid Update is an independent digital magazine dedicated to telling stories that reveal the pandemic's impact on people, no matter where those stories fall on the political spectrum. The site publishes analyses, profiles, and investigative stories each month.

Nathan shares his thoughts on how Covid Update can add value to the world’s conversation about the pandemic.

Punk rock musician-turned-journalist

Currently, Nathan is a solopreneur at Covid Update. He works with freelancers to publish a diverse array of stories from people all over the world, and from all walks of life.

Nathan’s path into journalism started in his teens, when he was a punk rock musician writing songs about issues that were important to him. At the same time, he explored the world of indie publishing by creating and selling photocopies of magazines and his friends’ graffiti.

During that time, he was kicked out of high school for constantly skipping class. He worked as a dishwasher and had a stint as a social media coordinator for various porn websites. Before becoming a full-fledged journalist, he wrote songs all through his twenties and then worked as a B2B content writer in his thirties.

Nathan’s brief experience at a government-led journalism program for youths planted a seed that would later turn into a writing career.

“What prompted me to become a real journalist was when police across Canada started receiving military-grade armoured vehicles, back around 2013,” he says.

“I found that disturbing, and started investigating how this was happening. As I dug into police budgets, I discovered other disturbing programs, and those documents led to my first published piece with VICE Motherboard.”

This experience got him hooked on writing for the media. Since then, Nathan has published around 35 features with VICE, as well as personal essays in Maisonneuve, Popula, and others.

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Covid Update illuminates human perspectives

covid update recent story - south african human smugglers
A recent Covid Update exclusive: South African human smugglers are more concerned about the police than Covid-19.

According to Nathan, all media is naturally biased, including Covid Update. The site’s mission is to shine a light on different perspectives and important issues related to Covid. This is done by providing viewpoints from places other than mainstream media like Fox and CNN.

“To be blunt, the degree of tribalism and mockery of ‘the other side’ encouraged by much of the media these days makes me worry for the future of our society,” explains Nathan.

He adds, “Vaccine-hesitant people are your neighbors, your friends, your family. They include healthcare workers, firefighters, police, government workers, and teachers. Are we really going to dismiss all these people as crazy or evil? It’s dangerous.”

The Canada-born journalist believes that we need to approach these people and their stories with empathy. His goal with Covid Update is to present the more human side of those currently being demonized, and approach every story with an open mind, no matter which end of the political spectrum the story’s subjects fall on.

While Covid Update covers vaccine-hesitant groups, Nathan discloses that he is in fact pro-vaccination. In every story, he always makes sure to convey the reality that the virus has killed millions and is devastating the world’s healthcare systems.

Readers can find other unique perspectives on the site, such as how the pandemic has affected Thailand’s sex workers, and why South African human smugglers aren’t concerned at all about Covid-19 safety protocols. Nathan’s team also puts out stories from more developed nations such as Australia, the US, and Canada.

He aims to turn Covid Update into a global platform for writers to tell stories that matter to them in a supportive and encouraging environment.

As a one-man team, Nathan is not concerned about turning a profit from his passion project for now.

He says, “Telling these stories and fostering empathy for everyone in this crazy time is more important than making money."

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Story pitches are welcome

Covid Update welcomes story pitches from freelance journalists. Nathan says he seeks stories that pique his curiosity, ring true, and have a strong human interest element.

“I like stories about people: what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what’s happening in their lives."

Interested freelancers can submit pitches to Covid Update on ContentGrow by filling out this form.

Covid Update also welcomes syndication deals to help distribute its stories to other media platforms.

Reflecting on the project, Nathan highlights that publishing Covid-19-related content is a minefield that will get him shadow-banned from social media platforms and yelled at on Reddit.

He says, “But I’m up for the challenge! These stories are too important to be tossed aside."

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