AP Style Guide Updates on the Coronavirus

In early March the Associated Press Style Guide made updates in relation to the coronavirus outbreak named COVID-19. Here is an overview of the updates made. These updates are taken directly from the AP Stylebook website.


A family of viruses, some of which cause disease in people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces.

The viruses can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19, the latter of which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

As of March 2020, referring to simply the coronavirus is acceptable on first reference in stories about COVID-19. While the phrasing incorrectly implies there is only one coronavirus, it is clear in this context. Also acceptable on first reference: the new coronavirus; the new virus; COVID-19.

In stories, do not refer simply to coronavirus without the article the. Not: She is concerned about coronavirus. Omitting the is acceptable in headlines and in uses such as: He said coronavirus concerns are increasing.

Passages and stories focusing on the science of the disease require sharper distinctions.

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. When referring specifically to the virus, the COVID-19 virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are acceptable. But, because COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the virus, it is not accurate to write a new virus called COVID-19.

SARS is acceptable on first reference for the disease first identified in Asia in 2003. Spell out severe acute respiratory syndrome later in the story.

MERS is acceptable on first reference. Spell out Middle East respiratory syndrome later in the story.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Do not exaggerate the risks presented by any of the three diseases by routinely referring to them as deadly, fatal or the like.


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The Ethical Use of Interns

By Kerry Francis, APR

Summer is fast approaching, and students are looking for internships and preparing to graduate. As you prepare to hire interns, there are a few questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re using interns in an ethical manner.

What should I pay my interns?

Compensation can be in the form of an hourly wage, class credit or a combination or both. While an unpaid internship sounds like a great solution when budgets are tight, getting something of value for free – the intern’s work – raises ethical questions. A few points to help determine compensation:

  • Are the interns replacing a regular employee? If an intern is doing work that you would pay another employee to do, they should be compensated.
  • Are you billing clients for the interns’ work? PRSA’s Board of Ethical and Practical Standards (BEPS) advises that interns should be paid if they are performing real, billable work.
  • Does your company have a policy? Some organizations have policies around if and how much interns are paid.

In addition to the ethical issues, there also are legal considerations when determining the compensation for interns. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires for-profit employers to pay employees for their work. In some cases, interns are considered employees. The FLSA uses the primary beneficiary test to determine in an intern is an employee – simply put, if an intern is the primary beneficiary of the internship, they aren’t considered an employee under the FLSA and you aren’t required to pay them. This U.S. Department Labor Fact Sheet offers more information, but check with your Human Resources Department or legal counsel for guidance.

What kind of work should I assign to my interns?

The first thing to remember is that the student is the primary beneficiary of the internship experience. While you benefit from the work your intern completes, the benefit to the student should guide your decision-making. You should be assigning your interns real-world, portfolio-building work that allows them to develop skills that will prepare them for that first job – not grunt work that no one else wants to do.

While you should be assigning your interns “real work,” it’s important to remember that they are students first. The assignments you give them should be flexible enough that they can take a few days off to complete an important school assignment or study for an exam.

How should I supervise my interns?

Supervising interns isn’t that different than supervising regular employees. The same processes apply, including setting goals, holding regular meetings to touch base on progress, and offering ongoing coaching and feedback. You may need to spend more time offering explanation about the work and your expectations, as well as helping your interns connect their work with the company’s objectives. This is critical to helping interns gain real-world experience that they can learn from and apply.

If your interns are completing the internship for class credit, be sure you understand what documentation is needed for them to earn that credit so there aren’t any surprises at the end of the internship.

Do employee policies apply to my interns?

A good rule of thumb is that, if you are paying your intern, all the same policies that apply to regular employees apply to interns. If you aren’t paying your intern, only broad policies that encompass non-employees such as contractors, vendors, and visitors apply, such as workplace violence and sexual harassment policies. Regardless of whether or not you pay them, it’s a good idea to have your intern complete the same orientation process as a regular employee – this ensures they receive the same information about policies and procedures, and it gives them a glimpse into what to expect when they start their first full-time PR job. Just be sure to point out any policies that don’t apply to them as interns so there’s no confusion.

An important note: Interns are young and may have little to no experience in the workplace. It may be difficult for them to identify and report inappropriate behavior due to their inexperience, or fears that they will be labeled as a complainer early in their career. It’s critical your interns know they have the same protections as regular employees. Be sure they are aware of your company’s policies, and who they can raise an issue to without fear of reprisal.

Should I hire a post-graduate intern?

I’ve seen questions around the topic of post-graduate internships from employers and recent grads who are looking at different employment opportunities. To put it simply, post-graduate internship are great opportunities for recent grads and employers, but they are still internships and should be treated as such. The same guidelines I mentioned above apply. Remember that any internship is a learning experience and the primary beneficiary is the intern, not the company – a post-graduate intern should not be viewed as an entry-level employee.

Internships are a great way to help the next generation of PR professionals to gain real-world experience. Structuring them in an ethical manner is important to helping students gain the most out of the experience.

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Healthy Eating During COVID-19

By Michael Vannest, APR

Ok, I will be the first to admit I didn’t buy all the coronavirus hype two weeks ago. I thought it was an overblown, overhyped, media-driven hysteria with nothing to warrant the precautions being placed.

Fast forward two weeks and I was wrong about everything. Now, I am the one running to the grocery to get provisions. Stocking up on the necessities to get through the next several weeks. And I am not talking about hoarding toilet paper, or boxed food. I am talking about stocking up on the things that will keep my wife and me healthy and promote a good immune system.

It is important to note that as we all go through these uncertain times together, we need to focus on keeping ourselves as healthy as possible. By that, I mean understanding everything about COVID-19 and what government and health officials are telling us and most important - what foods will keep our bodies prepared to fight.

What should I eat and stock up on?

Simple. Anything on the perimeter of the grocery store.  This includes fruits, vegetables and meats. Stay away from the aisles unless it is for spices. Trust me, you do not need anything in the aisles.

Now in a perfect world, you want to eat non-processed whole foods.  However, from a budget point of view, that may be hard. If you are shopping on a budget, some, and I stress some, processed meats are fine (i.e. lunch meat) but look for the processed meats with minimal additives and no added sugar.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, whole and unprocessed foods with no antibiotics or sugar added will provide your red and white blood cells with the added nutrients needed to combat a virus.

Studies also have shown eating the right whole foods will not only boost your immune system but helps increase brain power.  How about that? Not only will eating the right foods fight off the coronavirus, but it will also make you smarter!

So, what do you look for when stocking up at the grocery store? Here is a shopping list.

Simple grocery list to follow

  • Chicken breast, turkey meat, fish
  • Apples, grapes, dates, oranges, and pears
  • Veggies – any and all!
  • Almond milk
  • Water
  • Rice
  • Quinoa

So I purchased this food, how can I keep it fresh?
Freeze it! Everything in the above shopping list freezes perfectly and will keep for weeks and months. Pressure cooking and canning are other great ways to preserve your extra items.  

Food for thought tips

  1. Blanche vegetables such as zucchini, squash, asparagus and green beans.
  2. Thoroughly rinse all meats before you cook.
  3.  Spaghetti squash can create a lasting meal for days and feed an army. Here is a great recipe.

What are some sites to get healthy recipes?

Here are my favorites:

Remember: shop smart and shop for the things that will keep your immune system healthy. You won’t regret your decision. Use this time to take care and love yourself. We all will get through this and be healthier for it.

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