RTDNA issues standards for news briefings during coronavirus

April 20, 2020 11:00

After reports from members about public officials restricting access to journalists and questions during daily briefings about COVID-19, the Radio Television Digital News Association has issued the following standards for daily briefings: 
  • Allow reporters to attend briefings and ask questions – as well as follow-up questions – in person. Journalists could be required to wear masks and gloves and could be screened for illness with a simple temperature check before they enter the room and could then be safely socially distanced by placing them at least six feet apart. If there isn’t enough room to accommodate them all, set up an overflow room, with socially distanced seating, for those who can’t get into the same room as the actual briefing.
  • Establish a rotating pool for video, audio and still photography among participating news organizations so that pictures and sound emanating from briefings are controlled by journalists, not the government. Ensure there are microphones set up so journalists' questions can be heard by viewers/listeners. The day-to-day operation of this pool should be administered by news organizations, not the government.
These suggestions have been used commonly on countless occasions in the past, with satisfactory effect for all involved. And they are not difficult to execute.
"We are calling on state and local authorities across the United States to be completely transparent with the public about the COVID-19, and to answer questions about it asked by journalists without unreasonable restrictions,” says RTDNA’s executive director Dan Shelley. "Government agencies and offices have a responsibility to the American people to provide full, unfiltered truth during this pandemic. Working reasonably with journalists to do so is necessary to this process.”
Please let us know if you’re having problems in your state. We’ll be happy to advocate for better access on your behalf. Send us a note at pressfreedom@rtdna.org.

Find more resources for newsrooms in the Coronavirus Coverage Center.