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If you haven't yet read Jared's recent Last Minute Musings column on how we at the Banner would address anonymity during the COVID-19 spread, I encourage you to. I think it would give some grounding into my thoughts shared here in this week's post.
Though I've not been told the identities of any COVID-19 deaths in Putnam County, Jared sums up the M.O. of any ethical journalist with respect to one's right to privacy.
It absolutely isn't our place to disseminate names of the deceased without permission. Of course we're going to defer to our county and state officials when we ourselves need the information. It is truly inherent to our efforts that we be committed to sharing any information as we have it, without overstepping that line of trust and communication.
In these interesting times, my reporting has been more about the mutuality necessary to get the stories, as well as remaining in the loop through my different connections.
Practicing social distancing has rightly become a concern for administrative bodies as a whole. They have to balance a public meeting while also promoting public safety.
The Indiana Public Access Counselor's Office recently issued a set of guidelines, in which it provides that agencies and boards can limit meetings to those considered essential to them. It also provides that documents can still be requested by the public.
Before I was going to cover the North Putnam School Board's monthly session two weeks ago - when COVID-19 really began to come into our local view - I got a call from Superintendent Nicole Singer. She told me honestly that while she couldn't stop me from attending, she was trying to have the meeting be limited to 10 people altogether.
All I asked was that the meeting notes and personnel report be sent to me the next morning, to which she agreed. I didn't see this as trying to skirt public access given the circumstances. Things were moving quickly then. Nothing was - and still is - certain.
The point here is that I understood the reasoning behind Dr. Singer advising me not to go. I wasn't about to criticize her for being up-front with me about trying to keep others safe. Indeed, both of those documents were in my inbox by 9:30 a.m. afterward.
Though newspapers are considered essential business under the stay-at-home order, I would absolutely respect another such provision and do my part to encourage social distancing. However, I will continue to keep to my regular beat as much as possible.
The Cloverdale School Board efficiently conducted its recent special meeting with only Superintendent Greg Linton, Board President Vivian Whitaker and myself in the room. The rest of the board members either phoned in or participated via video chat.
This is a flexible example of what I will expect until the emergency declaration is lifted.
Maintaining those relationships is still crucial, but they must remain reciprocal in the "new normal" we now work in. First and foremost, it will always center around trust.
As the measures to help slow the spread of the coronavirus continue to impact our schools, local businesses and routines, I will still put my head down. We must all acknowledge that though this will stay with us for a while longer, other stories matter.
I will still get after it and do my job the best I can. In its essence, this hasn't changed.
The Putnam County Health Department reported Wednesday morning that 11 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed here. This is up from the nine just on Tuesday.