The Maryland Vaccine Dashboard was a public-service journalism project created with the intent of helping Marylanders get vaccinated. The site provided information about how to get vaccinated in Maryland and in the state’s five most populous localities. The site included who can get vaccinated, how to get vaccinated and where to get vaccinated in each area, all presented in an easy-to-use, accessible format.
CNS created this project to help Marylanders navigate the confusing process of getting vaccinated, including the difficulty that residents faced when trying to determine how and where to get vaccinated. There were various vaccination sites managed by the state, counties, hospitals and pharmacies. Each entity had different rules, with information spread across multiple websites. The aim of the project was to simplify access to this information and help people get vaccinated. CNS decided to create a one-stop source of information, tools and data; a place where all the disparate information was collected on one easy-to-navigate website. We felt that writing news stories wasn’t the best way to produce journalism about this topic but instead to use our access and skills for the public good.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of this project was collecting the information and keeping it updated. Because rules and sites varied between each county and the state as a whole, the initial data collection took about a week. We also updated the data each week, which took several hours of research and collection. While the site was designed and built by 2 journalists, collecting the data and keeping it updated took the combined efforts of over 10 journalists. This was an essential part of the project. To accomplish our goals, the data needed to be updated and correct at all times.
What can others learn from this project?
I think that other journalists can learn to think outside the box about the best way to cover important stories and provide information to the public. We saw most large, mainstream media outlets covering the issues with vaccinations in a traditional, story-based format. While these stories did a good job of enumerating the issues associated with COVID vaccinations in Maryland, they didn’t help provide people with the information they needed to get vaccinated. We decided to approach the story in a public-service, solutions-oriented manner. I believe that this was a more appropriate approach during a public health emergency.