As I sit here at my desk, waiting for the other shoe to drop, I’m contemplating what the next hour, day, week and months will bring as the news cycle of COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve.
As a weekly newspaper, we try to plan as best as possible the stories we’ll publish for our readers. With new information constantly streaming in, we’re writing and posting new updates on our website and social media sites as they occur.
As I’m writing this People & Places column, I realize people are being asked to physically distance themselves from one another, and places — a lot of them — are either forced to close or are curtailed in what business and services they can provide.
Reporting in this new type of normal is not normal for journalists. This virus is horrific, and what scares me — and probably most reporters — is the fact that most predictions are — at best — a guess.
Journalists are reporting everything they can to inform our readers, viewers and listeners about what’s happening, when it’s happening and why it’s happening. Public facilities have closed. Many private businesses are forced to cease operations. People are getting sick while others are scared and wary of what’s to come.
I don’t blame them. No one knows how long this crisis will last. No one can predict what it will do to our economy in the short and long term.
After we finished with putting out the newspaper last week, I sat down with my editorial staff and told them to take a mental break. With most, if not all, of our time devoted on reporting about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Valencia County, I could tell we were all a bit worn from it all.
I suggested we focus on other stories — feel-good feature stories we had been working on before the pandemic hit our state. Like all people, we also need to decompress from the constant information and try to lessen our anxiety.
While my suggestion didn’t last very long (breaking news doesn’t stop because we want it to), we all knew we had to take a few moments to just breathe.
In times of crisis, newsrooms ought not stop producing the news but we can slow down, ask ourselves what matters most, and be a calm guide for readers.
This global health crisis has put everyone at risk, from our first responders to our health care professions and day care workers and grocery store employees. We applaud them for doing what they’re doing to help their fellow man.
Several “friends” I know have blamed the media for exacerbating the situation. That’s a shame because every journalist I know is just doing the job — reporting the facts.
And indeed it is why all of us are here, because in the midst of a pandemic, having quality information is second only to the work of doctors and scientists.
That burden is ours. Much has been said and written in recent years about whether journalism can be trusted and whether it matters. I believe that question has been settled in recent weeks.
Now our focus has to be on doing it well, on serving our audiences, giving them the information they need to cope and make difficult decisions.
We are in one of the darkest moments in our history. Journalism is among the few lights we have left.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.