The INBA board recently discussed how journalists can continue transparent and effective reporting as our nation rolls out plans for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Below you’ll find a memo from our board president, Jenna Dooley, and a letter from the board explaining our continued commitment to the public service and how we hope journalists can continue doing their job safely.
December President’s Message
Journalists across Illinois have been reporting on stories related to the pandemic for the bulk of 2020 and most certainly will continue to do so in the months ahead as government officials develop the process for deploying a vaccine. Governor J.B. Pritzker designated the media as “essential” in an Executive order this spring, allowing reporters to continue the free flow of information. This designation also enabled direct access to frontline workers and patients to capture the full picture of the pandemic’s effects. As Illinois enters a new phase of prevention efforts, the INBA Board has prepared a statement directed to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike requesting open access to government functions related to vaccine distribution plans. We want to ensure our full intentions are clear in sending a timely statement in support of a transparent rollout of a lifesaving vaccine, noting the risk some journalists will take to cover this story and making clear we do not desire to advance in line before frontline emergency care workers and the most at-risk in our communities.
Our statement follows the spirit of other reporting organizations who are also reaching out to those in the highest positions of power to ensure we can continue to be in the best service to the public.
INBA Board Statement:
Dear Governor Pritzker and Dr. Ezike,
In the coming months, we remain committed to providing a critical lifeline to Illinoisans by disseminating transparent and timely information related to the state’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It is in fulfillment of our civic duty as journalists to relay to our shared audiences the state’s vaccine distribution plan and execution. It is imperative that we have open access throughout this process to ensure the public’s trust in us to share this accurate and life-saving information.
Additionally, we appreciate that you have previously recognized members of the media as essential as outlined in Executive Order 2020-32 related to the physical health risks of capturing the sights and sounds of this devastating public health crisis. To be the most effective in getting information to the public, field reporters require in-person access to frontline health workers, essential businesses, and patients directly affected by COVID-19. As such, we respectively request that you continue to consider field reporters for inclusion in subsequent priority phases of vaccine deployment behind what we wholeheartedly believe should be absolute priority given to health care workers, first responders, and at-risk populations including communities of color disproportionally affected by this virus.
If left to record history from afar, we fear we won’t be as effective in our service to the public to capture the true face of this deadly disease and the innovations at our disposal to prevent it.
Jenna Dooley, President, on behalf of the INBA Board
The Illinois News Broadcasters Association, formed January 22, 1955, is one of the largest statewide broadcast news associations in the nation. The organization is made up of about 200 members from throughout Illinois and surrounding states. The goals of the organization are to preserve and protect the public’s right to know, to ensure the free flow of information, to provide scholarships and to exchange information among members.