We’ve all done it – peek through the curtains and out into the sunshine and wondered why the neighbours decided to take their fifth walk of the day. Fumed about the jogger that passed a bit too close. Or the cars at the neighbourhood park that dump kids into the fields to run around in circles for an hour to burn off energy.
But there are thousands of people who need to be in the world each day to take care of our vulnerable, to keep our economy on life support and to keep everyone informed about what’s happening in their world.
There are signs around the world that the social cohesion is starting to fray as frustrated citizens wander out of the house and take their freedom into their own hands.
In Michigan, armed men stormed the state capitol to scream about the restrictions. In the Cairngorms, officials are reminding residents not to harass the seasonal workers who are essentially trapped in the community and can’t get home until restrictions are lifted.
And in Edinburgh, a woman out for a jog threatened STV News reporter Laura Alderman before dumping a bottle of liquid (presumably water) over her head.
“If it wasn’t for social distancing I’d slap you,” the woman snarled. “A slap is what you need.”
Taking up too much pavement while filming some shots of the Edinburgh Zoo for a story about how the world-famous facility is coping under difficult conditions. It’s not exactly Watergate – but it’s an important story that means a lot to our viewers.
When Alderman replied that journalists are key workers who are allowed (and encouraged) to be out in the world doing their jobs and informing the public, the woman yelled at her for “taking the moral high ground”.
That’s some good irony right there, and it’s all there in Alderman’s statement to police.
Things aren’t going to get easier any time soon. But we’re only going to make it harder on ourselves and others if we take up the role of the police and look to dish out vigilante justice to anyone who dares step outside without prior written permission.
STV News is dedicated to publishing and broadcasting stories from across Scotland. It’s a challenging time and we’re doing everything we can to maintain social distancing and gather stories in safe and efficient ways.
Earlier in the crisis I wrote about why we’re out in the world when others are being asked to stay in.
Journalists are key workers and the government has recognised it’s important for news reporters to be out in the world to tell the stories surrounding this horrid illness. Seeing is believing, and journalists are the eyes and ears of the nation. Official reports are important, but we can’t simply accept everything the government tells us as fact. We need to report. We need boots on the ground. We need to observe and report what we find.
Some people believe television reporting requires several people – a reporter, a camera, maybe a sound person and a helper. That was once the case, but today’s reality is quite different. Our reporters have their own cameras and can gather everything they need on their own. They will occasionally have a camera person with them, but that’s about as bulky as a team will get.
I appreciate the concerns many have voiced about the welfare of our staff. We’ve taken measures to ensure their safety and have amended our operating policies to shield everyone we speak to from illness.
• Skype and video conferencing are our preferred methods of interviewing our sources. This is a good way to get voices onto the television without having to sit face-to-face.
• Of course, not everyone has Skype. Not everyone in Scotland has access to adequate WiFi or the technical know-how. In these cases, we will send a reporter to do the interview. They set up a microphone on a stand and then back up two metres. The interviewee then stands at the microphone. We’ve also sat outside windows as the person inside the home phones us to talk through the glass. Innovation is rampant.
• We will broadcast from a public location if the location is important to the story. A reporter standing on the Royal Mile to talk about empty streets doesn’t put anyone at risk and is in line with government guidance. Seeing the zoo during lockdown is low stakes.
• When visiting key sites such as hospitals and care homes, we follow government guidance and wear appropriate protective equipment. We also maintain adequate social distancing. It’s also important to note we can’t just strut through the halls of hospitals – we ask first. The hospitals have important stories that need telling, and they are also inviting us in to help inform the public about their efforts and daily situations.
We spend a lot of time talking about whether it’s necessary to leave the office on each and every story. I think we’ve gotten it right, for the most part. When we’ve erred, it’s been on the side of caution. I can live with that. Safety will always come first – and that goes for our staff and every person we interview.