At his daily press conference last March 23, Quebec Premier François Legault declared what many have known for a long time – journalism is an essential service.
Never has it been so difficult to work as a journalist, but never has it been so important. In spite of the unprecedented health crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus, CUPE members must continue doing their invaluable work either at the office or, at times, from home.
“The first few days were rather difficult, because several technical problems had to be ironed out. How was I going to work with my cameraman/editor remotely? How was I going to have good sound quality to record my voice? How was I going to conduct all these necessary interviews over the phone? But despite the odds, we managed to do it,” explained Raquel Fletcher.
According to her, the key to success during these chaotic times is the incredible collaboration between colleagues, politicians, commentators and even journalists from other media organizations.
“Not too long ago, all of us were working side by side at the National Assembly Press Gallery. We’re attempting to recreate this camaraderie, while maintaining the critical mind that is a must in our profession,” added Fletcher.
Bryan Chauveau is a writer/editor and at times the Bureau Chief at LCN, a 24-hour news network in Quebec. Although his building is virtually empty, not all employees can work from home. Some of them, including him, have to come into the studio.
“It’s almost impossible to do studio work at home, so we changed the way we produce news to reduce the probability of contamination,” said Chauveau.
Historically, newsrooms have been hives of employees searching for, gathering, editing and releasing news. Today, they have undergone a total metamorphosis, and flitting around from one place to another is now forbidden.
“Reporters in the field are no longer in direct contact with us. Their offices have been moved to another floor. They have poles that keep them apart from their interviewee. Our office spaces are cleaned several times per shift, and we physically keep our distance. In short, we do what we have to in order to protect ourselves, but we’re convinced that information is essential during these times of crisis.”