Journalists under increasing pressure to be safe amid coronavirus pandemic - 'The mouthpiece of the public like never before'

Making the news is a risky business. Journalists are first responders too – not with first aid or a firehose but with our eyes and ears and the questions we ask.

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For our next story we're turning the cameras on ourselves, not to brag but to reassure, that we too are doing our bit to stay safe. Source: 1 NEWS

And we’re used to some hazards – disasters, riots, unstable places or just people who don’t want you there.

“We do that job anyway but now it’s absolutely heightened. I can’t think of another story that has such an effect across society and across all levels of society,” John Gillespie, TVNZ’s Head of News and Current Affairs, said.

TVNZ is an essential business – media is crucial right now, when so much is changing so fast and the normal ways of holding people accountable are under pressure.

“We always are the eyes and ears of the public, but this one’s even more intense we’re certainly the mouthpiece of the public like never before so we need to question authorities, Government what’s going on for people that are in lockdown and can’t do it themselves,” Mr Gillespie said.

So, 1 NEWS is sending reporters and crews out there to find the stories and do the job.

A TVNZ journalist sent into a high-risk situation, say when posted overseas for several years, gets hazardous environment training.

In theory, they can spot trouble and avoid the worst, keep calm under threat and know how to reach safety. Some learn what to do if a helicopter ditches over water. Some can scramble into a chemical suit in three-and-a-half minutes and handle a 4WD on a goat track.

But can we remember to wash our hands and keep our distance? And not just for a few days but day in, day out for weeks while this level 4 lockdown continues?

This is not a breaking story or a foreign disaster where the news teams will turn up do their job and go back home to safety. This isn’t like the time TVNZ sent teams to Japan for the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that became the Fukushima meltdown. In, down out and gone in under a week. Or riots in Bangkok or Paris, where a safe refuge is a few streets over.

This is a virus we are trying to keep at bay everywhere. The frontline is at the front door. This will be like running a marathon.

The Committee to Protect Journalists covers the essentials for the essential job media need to do – and they’re much like what the NZ Government is asking of all of us.

Keep your distance, mind your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands and seek help if you’re worried or exposed.

So, TV journalists are getting to grips with digital video chats and when we travel, we’re keeping our distance on camera, striving for two metres' clear air. Constant handwashing and disinfecting the gear are part of our new normal.

"People must trust us to come to where they are. We have to get out there and show what’s happening right across the country and so people need to trust us that we’re leading by example and taking care of ourselves as well as them, more importantly, and the audience can see that."

Fair, balanced and accurate are the basics. Now journalists are adding safer, because being able to tell the stories and make the news has never felt more vital.