communities need journalists

Dear Fellow Journalists:

Two weeks ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic was still in its infancy in many parts of the United States, I wrote to you with encouragement to inspire you and your colleagues to keep serving the public despite these unprecedented and trying circumstances.

I wrote at that time, in part:

I know the hours you are working are long. I know the conditions under which you are working are trying. I know that while you are working hard to meet the multiple deadlines you face every day, you are also worried even more about your family, your loved ones and your friends – not to mention your own health.

Most of us got into journalism to serve the public. Now more than ever your public service is important. Stay motivated, stay safe and continue asking questions and reporting stories that will help our communities get through this time of uncertainty.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has gotten worse, instead of better, since then. But my pride for how you are meeting this challenge has grown immeasurably. The way you continue to serve your communities is nothing short of amazing. Particularly since you are doing so, often, at great personal sacrifice.

The challenges presented by this crises have also inspired you to innovate in amazing ways. You are following RTDNA’s “Guidance to keep your team safe” to ensure you’re both able to serve your communities and protect them, and yourselves, as much as possible.

You are building trust with many Americans who had bought into naysayers’ “fake news” screeds, yet now rely on you – particularly at the local level – for critical information. Many of you at the local level have used on-air time to explain to your viewers, listeners and readers what your role is during this national crisis. You’ve helped promote unity, despite the persisting rants to the contrary.

Many of your stations have expanded newscasts and consistently remind communities that we’re all in this together. You have joined forces with competing stations to offer messages of support to the public. Better yet, you have collaborated with competitors to provide coverage of important news conferences and safety briefings.

A number of your newsrooms have done all of this while seeing some of your colleagues acquire, fight and unfortunately, in some cases, die from the virus that’s sweeping across the land. My heart goes out to all journalists combating the disease.

On Friday, March 27, at his daily COVID-19 briefing to the people of New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a particularly eloquent statement that helped put the current disaster into context. It was designed for health care workers and other emergency responders, but it also resonated with journalists:

Ten years from now, you’ll be talking about today with your children or your grandchildren and you will shed a tear. Because you will remember the lives lost. And you’ll remember the faces, you’ll remember the names, and you’ll remember how hard we worked, and that we still lost loved ones. And you’ll shed a tear, and you should, because it will be sad.

But you will also be proud. You’ll be proud of what you did. You’ll be proud that you showed up. You showed up. When other people played it safe, you had the courage to show up. And you had the skill and the professionalism to make a difference and save lives. That’s what you will have done.

And at the end of the day, nobody can ask anything more from you. That is your duty: To do what you can, when you can. And you will have shown skill, and courage, and talent. You’ll be there with your mind and you’ll be there with your heart. And you’ll serve with honor. And that will give you pride, and you should be proud. I know that I am proud of you. …

We go out there today and we kick coronavirus’ ass – that’s what I say. And we’re going to save lives. Thank you, and God bless each and every one of you.

Your work on the front lines isn’t easy and it will continue to get more difficult before this is through. But I am ever grateful that you have courageously shown up and proactively responded to this crisis. I have no doubt you will continue to act in such a manner.

Your communities need you now more than ever.

Stay healthy. Be safe. Care for your colleagues and family. And keep serving your communities.


Dan Shelley
Executive Director
Chief Operating Officer

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by Dan Shelley, RTDNA

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