Covering COVID-19 news for an indifferent public

Covering the news can't be done at home. It requires getting out there and reporting what is happening.

Finally, had time this weekend to read what could be the last-ever printed copy of “News Photographer” magazine, published by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

Without the ads and other support that used to fund printing of the full-color magazine, NPPA announced the current edition was the final one for, at least, the time being and quite possibly forever. The magazine will be produced online but not on processed wood pulp.

As a longtime member of the association that represents what I do as a photojournalist, the magazine was a lifeline in a profession under attack by a changing economy and appetite for news in print.

The last edition chronicled the work of news photographers and freelancers covering the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in challenging assignments that exposed many to the threat of contracting the virus.

I hadn’t thought that much about the threat when I went out to photograph others living in a lock downed Virginia with stay-at-home orders. I always wore a mask, washed my hands constantly and cleaned my cameras after each use,

To the best of my knowledge, I was never with someone who has the virus, at the time, but the magazine reported on hard hit rural areas in Georgia, Kentucky and other areas not much removed from Floyd County. Other reporters who encountered those with the virus had to go into self-imposed quarantines for at least two weeks.

The stories and photos showed more deaths and infections in those areas than what we have seen in Floyd County. But I have also covered court in Pulaski and assignments in Carroll counties where the infection rates and deaths are 10 times higher than in Floyd.

Amy’s post-operative therapy requires trips to Christiansburg twice a week, which is facing increasing infection and death rates. I’m also in that area at least once a month as Floyd County’s representative on the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) New River Board of Directors.

I see far more mask use in Christiansburg. Kroger, Best Buy, CVS, Walmart and other businesses take enforcement of Virginia’s mask rule seriously.

So, it appears, do most of us who cover the news. I cover Circuit Court in Floyd each week and do so behind a mask and where we sit six feet apart in the gallery.

Still, some people I deal with as a reporter or photographer insist on getting in my face, particularly when they want to mouth off about why they don’t wear masks or practice social distancing.

They seem unconcerned about the more than 143,000 people killed by the virus in America or an infection rate that will top 4 million this week.

Even so, those of us who cover the news will do whatever we can to get the word about the raging pandemic that is far from over and will not just “magically” disappear in the near future.

In our profession, we strive to deal with facts, not word of mouth or gossip. We don’t listen to elected “leaders” who have a record of more than 20,000 lies in less than four years.

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