Insight from the March 25th NPPA Town Hall
Being able to tune into the National Press Photographers Association Town Hall, originally hosted live using Zoom on March 25th, has given me more information and insight into working during the current global pandemic. Times are strange now but the NPPA took time to host a town hall with many fantastic journalists, all of whom shared their experiences and perspectives during their coverage of COVID-19. The nation has been knocked down to its knees by COVID-19 sweeping across the world. State governors have created executive orders closing businesses, setting mandatory social distancing, and creating stay-at-home orders to protect the citizens. The pandemic has made being a photojournalist even more difficult. Journalists are still working and going out to cover the news to keep those at home informed, however the work is tiresome, dangerous and scary. To keep ourselves safe many recommended washing your hands more frequently, using sanitizing products everywhere you go, wearing a protective mask or bandana over your face as well as cleaning your equipment and other items you bring in the field with you. Along with mentioning safety precautions for journalists, a major point that I believed was important was the mental health of those around you and yourself being a working journalist. The pandemic isn't just attacking our physical health but all the mental health of those in quarantine and those on the front lines. Even though we are physically separate in these trying times, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. We must know that even with social distancing, we are still not alone. With broader access to phones and internet people are still able to connect with friends and family.
The NPPA also brought up dealing with management during these unprecedented times. "A new area we have to think about is, 'I live with someone who is immune compromised'," said Jill Geisler, Yolola/Freedom Forum. Our health and the health of our families is just as important as everyone else's and we should not be putting the people we care about at risk of contracting COVID-19. Geisler spoke about being able to get health accommodations for work to protect yourself and your family. The American's Disabilities act has accommodations for mental health and due to the viris management should be able to make accommodations based on your safety dealing with COVID-19. By establishing better communication with management and employers, safety becomes the number one priority making room for health accommodations. The work place safety set myself and family at ease, knowing there are ways to protect myself. The tips the NPPA gave to current essential workers and photojournalists alike made it easier to understand that we are able to say No. We can decide what is safe for us and our families and refuse certain jobs or tasks that we deem problematic or unsafe for us.
My favorite point brought up during the NPPA town hall was that the unselfish stories and upbeat stories are just as important as the news about COVID-19. Talking about the goodness in humanity and the good in the world makes people feel more at ease in their communities and helps them feel more confident in the media. Al and Sidney Tompkins spoke about the seniors in high school who will not be able to enjoy their Prom's or walk at graduations. Sidney Tompkins also mentions college and university seniors who will not be able to have the satisfaction of attending their graduation after working hard for their degrees. These are times that students are supposed to remember for the rest of their lives. Sidney Tompkins said these are the times that we need to seek out good times, happy stories and uplifting messages to help uplift moods. Kindness and goodness are strengths that humans have. "When things get bad, we get better," Al Tompkins said during the NPPA talk. Cathleen Curtus of Buffalo News said she started a project of documenting girls in their Prom dresses, in driveways and yards, having them enjoy the moments of wearing their dresses. The story is about fun and moments to uplift everyone. Stories like these are the backbone of news because many people want to read happy material and not story after story about death, violence of the virus. The NPPA Town Hall touched on many topics that photojournalists think about daily and should continue to ask questions about. It was an insightful talk with information that I hadn't thought too much about until the topics were brought to my attention further. Everyone should take the opportunity to sit down and watch the town hall to get a feel for what journalists are going through.