In a Pandemic, What is Essential Journalism?

Journalism fancies itself well-suited to crisis. When times are bad, reporters purport to return to our roots, to act as disseminators not just of crucial information but also instructions: what to do, what not to do, who to call, what to look for, where to go. We take comfort in the routines that define what we do, and in the ego boosts that accompany. But this back-to-basics approach only works when the challenge is familiar.

As the COVID-19 outbreak has spread rapidly across the country, newsroom leaders have had to make decisions about how to keep an industry that relies on human contact running, even as public health experts and governmental officials mandate social isolation.

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