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Reporters in Thousand Oaks were exposed to grief and trauma even before the Camp Fire began.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Reporters on the job in Thousand Oaks, California.
UNITED STATE

Read the letter Pittsburgh journalists sent to their industry colleagues in LA

By Lila MacLellan

In the past few weeks, through devastating violence and natural disasters in the US, some professionals have inevitably been reminded of the value of their work and the reasons they felt called to join their trade—whether it be teaching young people, defending the disempowered during legal proceedings, saving people injured by gunfire, making software that makes life better, or covering news affecting communities large and small.

The intensity of our times has also, in many cases, moved people to identify as professionals first, in solidarity with others in the same field, as fellow defenders of a shared vision, across regions and companies.

Employees from Amazon, Google, and Facebook, for instance, who are by definition working to outsmart one another on most days, have recently inspired one another to petition against the sharing of AI technology with the US Department of Defense and law enforcement. This week, doctors across the country virtually linked arms to push back against the National Rifle Association’s assertion that “self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” They posted messages and sometimes graphic photos of blood-drenched scrubs and operating tables, reminding the NRA and everyone else what their lane looks like on a near-daily basis.

In another moving example of solidarity with fellow tradespeople, yesterday (Nov. 12), journalists in Pittsburgh, who two weeks ago were called upon to cover the worst anti-Semitic hate crime in US history, when a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue, sent lunch to fellow journalists at the Los Angeles Times. LA reporters are now tasked with writing on not only a recent mass shooting that killed 12 in Thousand Oaks, California, but devastating fires in the state, blamed for 42 deaths at the time of writing. They have no choice but to expose themselves to the trauma and grief of victims, and of their own communities.

The catered lunch also came with a moving letter, in which the Pittsburgh reporters let their West Coast colleagues know that their work is not going unnoticed, and that what they’re experiencing is familiar to others. “We know what it’s like,” the letter begins. “The initial horrifying reports crackling over the scanner. The mad scramble to verify information, the urgent need to separate fact from fiction, the drive and pressure to file.”

Matt Pearce, a national correspondent at the LA Times, documented his gratitude on Twitter, noting that his newsroom had also received donuts from colleagues in San Diego.

As one commenter noted, both gestures held that much more significance at a time when the US president is calling the media “the enemy of the people.”

Read the full letter from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh to their industry colleagues in Los Angeles:

We know what it’s like.

The initial horrifying reports crackling over the scanner.

The mad scramble to verify information, the urgent need to separate fact from fiction, the drive and pressure to file.

It’s all hands on deck. It’s trying to wrap your arms around a monstrous story. It’s interview after interview with grieving families, friends, witnesses, first responders.

It’s grueling.

And through it all, we know that you, our brothers and sisters in the trenches, are putting yourselves last and the story first.

It’s what we do. What we all do. And now, sadly, it’s your turn to make sense of evil and tragedy.

But as you perform at the highest levels and make your colleagues, your city, your readers, your industry proud—proud by telling the stories only you can tell about yet another devastating explosion of gun violence, this time in your community—it’s also our turn.

Our turn to support you with a little bit of spiritual and material sustenance.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s newsroom is just getting back to normal after a gunman stormed a synagogue in our city on Oct. 27., killing 11 congregants inside and wounding six others, including four police officers. We know how hard you’re working, how physically and emotionally drained you are, how long it takes to reset.

With that in mind, please accept the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s treat of a meal to help keep you going as you continue doing what you do bets: Covering the story.

With solidarity, sorrow and empathy.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh Local 38061