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Trade group asks California to prioritize journalists for COVID vaccine

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A trade group representing newspaper workers and other journalists has sent a letter to California’s Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Committee with a request to prioritize journalists for the vaccine.

On Tuesday, the California News Publishers Association (CNPA) shared its letter with members with a suggestion that they send the same letter or a similar one to county health officials in their coverage areas.

The letter asks Newsom and the state’s vaccine board to consider including journalists in Tier 1 of the state’s Phase 1B rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The need for accurate and credible public health information has never been more acute in our state,” Charles Ford Champion, the president and chief executive of the CNPA, wrote. “Yet the men and women in the news industry who gather and report this vital community information are being overlooked when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”

The individuals listed in Tier 1 of the Phase 1B rollout include educators, child care workers, food and agriculture workers and emergency service professionals. State officials say these workers are prioritized because they perform essential duties that typically cannot be done remotely.

Many journalists have been working from home since the start of the health pandemic early last year — the Sacramento Bee, for instance, recently announced it would transition to remote working for the foreseeable future — but Champion and the CNPA said journalists should be prioritized anyway because they perform essential duties similar to police officers or firefighters.

“They are on the front lines — first responders in every sense of the word,” Champion said. “As Governor, you have the authority to order that news producing organizations be elevated to Phase 1B, Tier One.”

Champion said the CNPA had previously asked Newsom to consider prioritizing journalists for the COVID-19 vaccine, but that request went unanswered.

“So we are pleading once again,” he wrote. “Please acknowledge the vital role journalists play and adjust the order to accord them a higher priority on the vaccination list. The lives of California residents may be on the line if our news gathering members cannot do the important work of keeping the public informed during this unprecedented health emergency.”

It was not clear if the CNPA had received a response to their letter as of Tuesday evening. A spokesperson for the trade group has not yet responded to a request for further information.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).