It has been a murky day today, not just outside but in my head.
As we continue to wade through the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am not sure that I have ever felt the importance of my job as a journalist more nor have I ever felt the weight of the service I provide so heavy on my shoulders.
Throughout this pandemic, people have been accessing the news at a higher rate than ever before. During the fear and confusion and chaos, all forms of media have now been deemed essential in order to continue to provide the people information they need not only to calm their minds, but to survive.
My company – APG – started a new form of reporting amidst the coronavirus public health emergency. Instead of just covering local news and interviewing our neighbors and leaders for their opinions and expert advice, we have moved to regional coverage. Now, when I want to write about how COVID-19 is impacting open meeting law or detention centers, I am reaching out to four times the amount of people that I normally would. These people range from over an hour away from my town to those down the street, encompassing a five-county region so that we can best use our reporters to cover the most unique situation any of us have ever witnessed in our lives. This type of reporting is difficult and time consuming, but it is important and crucial.
Today, I received the difficult news that our company will be scaling back the hours of all their people nationwide to 30-hour work weeks – a far cry from the 50 hours a week I typically require to do my best work. This is a direct result of the way this virus is crippling our nation’s economy, as businesses have to shut their doors and revenues drop to below 20% of their normal intake and these companies can no longer prioritize marketing and advertising.
When I first heard of this drastic change to my work, my first thought was not how I will survive financially. Instead, all I could think about was how I will be able to continue to provide the service I feel obligated to provide to the people of my community and my region. It hurt and it broke my heart to feel that obstacles were being put in my way to prevent me from doing what I believe I am supposed to be doing with my life. I felt that a piece of my identity was being slowly stripped away, and while some people may feel that is dramatic to say, it was truly how I felt.
Lately, I have found myself revisiting an op-ed piece I wrote following the June 2018 massacre at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland. That was a turning point in my life as I felt my profession was being exposed for both its vulnerability and its lack of understanding by the general public. I wrote out of desperation to bring understanding to the public how my job isn’t just my job – it is a passion, a calling, an identity. One part that has been running through my head continuously over the last couple of days reads:
“The pursuit is somewhat altruistic, but not entirely. We love this damn job… we are behind you in line at the grocery store, beside you in the pew, in front of you in the stands at little league games.”
While we may not be near you during this time, we are still with you – every step of the way. We want you to be able to arm yourself against this unprecedented time and whatever it may bring in the future.
My promise to you – Owatonna, Steele County, southern Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and every single person out there who has ever picked up a paper or logged into a computer and seen my byline – is that I am still next to you. I promise to do whatever it takes to continue to bring you the information you need and deserve.
Everything in my power. Whatever it takes.