By Jeff Browne, Executive Director
Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash
Sadly, we’re No. 1
As I sit in my basement on a leaden March afternoon in Iowa City, the United States of America has become the world leader in a sad and desperate statistic — COVID-19 infections. It’s 5:30 p.m. CT, and the U.S. has now reported 82,830 cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus now sweeping the world. Italy has reported just more than 80,000, and China more than 81,000.
We saw more than 13,000 new cases on Wednesday, March 25, and we’ve seen another 14,619 today, Thursday, March 26. Italy’s rate of infection has stabilized, while China’s rate has slowed to a few dozen new cases per day.
Blame can be cast around, and that’s a particularly popular thing to do, both in the White House and in Democratic political campaigns. Why were those spring breakers so cavalier? Why don’t we have enough masks, enough ventilators, enough tests, enough empathy for each other?
(Here’s some brilliantly happy news about masks, courtesy the Service Employees International Union, which located 39 million N95 masks Thursday.)
On one level, that level where professionals engaged in life-and-death decisions and actions every day — doctors, nurses, firefighters, first-responders and literally anyone in health care — assigning blame is insignificant. They just need the equipment in order to perform their jobs and save the lives of others and themselves.
On a macro-level, those are key questions that need to be answered in order to hold people accountable and to avoid these types of mistakes in the future, and the investigations into those questions continue at places like ProPublica, The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, your local newspapers and news channels — and in your student media.
Along with some other valuable resources, the Student Press Law Center has compiled a list of the student journalism being done at high schools and universities around the U.S. You’ll see mentions of several of your fellow Quill and Scroll chapters in that list.
The Society of Professional Journalists on Thursday also wrote about a group of students at several schools across the country in their story about scholastic journalism in the Plague Days. You’ll see glimpses of the work done at:
- Saegertown (Pennsylvania) HS, a Q&S chapter since 1955
- Carlmont (California) HS, a Q&S chapter since 1964
- Jefferson HS for Science and Technology (Virginia), a Q&S chapter since 1965
- McCallum (Texas) HS, a Q&S chapter since 1960
- Coppell (Texas) HS, a Q&S chapter since 1990 AND
- Clarke Central (Georgia) HS, a Q&S chapter since 1955
To you all — congratulations. This is why journalism is protected in the Bill of Rights and remains a vital asset in any functioning democracy.
In the meantime, even if you’re not producing journalism at this time, you can do your part in this time of uncertainty simply by staying put, social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and providing emotional support for those whom you know and love. Also, don’t get caught up in debates and arguments that provide false dichotomies and choices. We are part of a human family as well as citizens and residents of our home countries. We prize our fellow humans over goods, money and luxuries.
Remember that as you connect with others in virtual environments while sheltering at home. If we love and cherish each other, there is hope.
I’ll leave you with the timeless words of Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers”:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –