It’s a whole new world, folks. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, will change the way we’re working in the media for a long time.
It’s entirely possible that we will be in a recession, a quarantine, and perhaps even worse, for quite some time. It’s also possible that none of that happens, because the threat is dealt with swiftly. Let’s hope and pray that a swift ending, with minimal loss of life, is how this story ends.
No matter your view or opinion, from our perspective in the media, we are covering a crisis like none we have seen in decades—if ever. Now, with the governor’s emergency declaration and the legislature adjourning for a short respite to try and “flatten the curve,” the most important thing that we can do as the media is to continue to report accurate information.
But if we can’t get access to that information, how do we report it? Rest assured that the Louisiana Press Association is on the case. On March 16 LPA sent a letter on your behalf to the Louisiana Municipal Association, the Louisiana Police Jury Association and the Louisiana School Boards Association, urging them to take into consideration the public’s right to participate and the media’s right to cover public meetings before closing or limiting access to public meetings. Click here to read LPA’s letter.
The Louisiana Legislature, before it adjourned, was taking the temperature of those who entered the Capitol and only allowing every third seat to be filled in committee rooms. Your local governments can institute the same kind of measures. If they don’t, you should let us know. I’m expecting a lot of calls from reporters, editors, advertising folks and everyone associated with our business. This is an unprecedented situation. Be vigilant!
Between cancelled events, sports seasons and covering these history making developments, we must remember to closely guard the public’s right to know and participate in their government. We can hope, and pray—and when we’re done, we must continue to bring the people the information they need.
While we’re praying, God, please don’t let them take the LSU football season! If they do, can LSU please be automatic back-to-back national champs? Thanks.
Scott Sternberg is general counsel to the Louisiana Press Association and practices law with Sternberg, Naccari, & White, LLC in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Scott operates the LPA legal hotline and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; www.snw.law; 504-324-2141. This column is not to be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship or giving legal advice. You should consult with a licensed professional about your business and legal obligations.