This week, we’re all hitting our stride in the office – and on the streets. Coronavirus may be working its way through Florida, but our readers show us repeatedly that even while wearing masks, bathing in hand sanitizer, and publicly shaming anyone who so much as coughs, our community takes care of its own.
A few weeks ago, we reported on how Isabelle’s would pay its employees through its unfortunate COVID closure. This week we’re running a short piece about our public safety employees staging a quick parade past the home of a woman who turned 100 during quarantine. We get mail and hand-delivered checks to help keep us going, and voicemail messages thanking us for returning to print. More and more, I feel like we have an abiding sense that we’re all in this together – and we’ll get through it together.
But it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Some of our advertisers aren’t able to advertise yet because they don’t have the money coming into their businesses. If you have an extra $10, please spend it at locally owned businesses.
I wish I could tell you I’ve been great at practicing what I preach, but I made a mistake. Our payroll company – which is not local – promised competitive worker’s compensation rates. Florida law says every company must carry it, and I, lost in a whirlwind of “to-do” items (the process of buying a paper is one big to-do list, I’ve learned, and I’m eternally grateful to my mother for passing along her list-making gene), applied for coverage through Square.
Today, they informed me that they couldn’t offer us worker’s compensation insurance “due to the exposure in the field for interviews.”
Two weeks ago our cover story was a wild turkey trotting through a neighborhood. Last week it was a fender bender on one of our main streets. I’m not sending reporters to the front lines of war; I’m sending them to city council, and right now, they’re doing it from their couch. Granted, things can get heated there, but last time I checked the City of Gulfport manages to get worker’s compensation — and they have people tooling around town hanging off the back of garbage trucks. They insure firefighters and police officers. Sending Laura Mulrooney to get a photograph of a rogue turkey or to ask the weekly Gabs question has to be lower risk, right?
I suspect the risk stems not only from journalists and their responsibility to report on the growing unrest across the country, but perhaps from having a leader who refers to the press as the “enemy of the people.” Cries of “Fake news!” and sneers of derision at the “lamestream media’’ have made anger at — and violence towards — journalists more commonplace. I’ve watched videos of journalists attacked while covering protests, and it makes me shudder. Oh, yes, I’ve said to El Cap as we watched the video, this is a lovely time to buy a newspaper.
Now, it seems, there’s little distinction between the New York Times and the Gabber Newspaper, at least in terms of how insurance companies see us. I wish that were a joke, but no, apparently the risk is too great for a national insurance company to cover us. And, honestly, I do think about it – a lot. It may feel like we’re just the little ol’ Gabber, covering centenarian birthdays, but not all our letters say, “Thanks for coming back, we missed you!” Some are from readers viscerally upset at their perceptions of how we’re twisting reality. And yes, they call us fake news.
What’s next? Well, for me, I’m doing what I should have done in the first place: I’m calling the same agent who covers our home and who found us media liability insurance. They’re local and, I hope, have a little more common sense.
Contact Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.