The News Media Alliance and a number of leading news media organizations, including the Public Broadcasting Service, National Association of Broadcasters, and the National Press Photography Association, sent a letter to the committee in charge of advising the CDC on COVID-19 vaccine distribution to request that front-line journalists be included among the early phases of vaccine deployment, reports Radio Online.
The news organizations were careful to acknowledge that healthcare workers, first responders, and the most at-risk populations should be prioritized for vaccine distribution. However, the letter also urges the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to consider the essential role journalists play in “educating Americans about the importance of vaccination, as well as aiding in the monumental task of informing the public about the logistics of the vaccine’s dispersal around the country.”
The letter pointed out that front-line journalists are regularly at risk of contracting COVID-19 while they are covering the plights of healthcare workers and patients, as well as rallies, protests and public events.
“To continue providing these critical services,” the letter reads, “journalists cannot simply work from home, but must interact with government officials and the public to report on the stories that matter, regardless of the risks they must assume. Despite efforts to protect themselves and the public, members of the media are necessarily exposed to the COVID-19 virus while doing their jobs and serving as ‘first informers’ in local communities across the country.”
The National Press Photography Association filed a similar request, separately, pointing out that visual journalists were particularly vulnerable due to the requirements of their work, reports the Poynter Institute. NPPA’s legal counsel, Mickey Osterreicher, demands “that journalists who have direct contact with the public on a regular basis, and particularly visual journalists, be expressly included in the phase of the COVID-19 vaccine that includes the essential and critical infrastructure workforce.”
Osterreicher argues that, “Visual journalists cannot work from home, and have put their health and lives at risk on a daily basis to cover both the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters of public concern, including matters critical to the health and safety of the public and critical to our democracy. These journalists must work in the conditions they find — regardless of the risk.”
The full list of signatories include the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the News Media Alliance (NMA), the America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), the Asian Americans Journalists Association (AAJA), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the National Newspaper Association (NNA), the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), the News Leaders Association (NLA), NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ).