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Poynter is a thoughtful nonprofit. This journalism think-tank today put up a column on its site questioning whether newsroom managers around the country are prepared to beat back swine flu. The piece, by Al Tompkins, asks the following questions, all of which I, as this paper’s editor, feel compelled to answer.
Poynter Question: Would you strictly enforce the “if you are sick, stay home” rule?
This rule rules at Washington City Paper, except when it doesn’t, like when we’re short-staffed, which is quite often. Even so, I once had to escort a very hard-working reporter to the reporter’s car after I had diagnosed the reporter as ill. There’s always someone around, though, who’ll tell you that the policy has been unevenly implemented over the years.
Poynter Question: What kinds of policies are in place for employees with sick kids? Would you require or allow workers to stay home with sick children?
A: Absolutely no policies are in place for employees with sick kids. Case-by-case basis.
Poynter Question: What kind of assistance would you consider offering employees if schools or child-care centers shut down because of an outbreak?
A: Assistance? Hey, we’re a newspaper! We don’t give assistance to anyone anymore.
Poynter Question: Would you allow more people to work from home to reduce the chances of germs spreading?
A: Yes, provided they blog 15 times per day.
Poynter Question: Has anyone discussed whether some traditional newsroom jobs may be left open or cut in the event of a severe outbreak?
A: No, and please, Poynter, don’t give ownership any ideas!
Poynter Question: Are there extra precautions your newsroom might take to protect pregnant workers and employees with medical conditions?
A: I think we sent an e-mail encouraging hand-washing, but will have to check.
Poynter Question: Have you developed special health-safety instructions for reporters and film crews reporting stories on the H1N1 outbreak?
A: Instructions? Yes: Do a great story that drives tons of Web traffic. Be well.
Photo By Darrow Montgomery