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Working from home isn’t an option for photojournalists, whose job involves documenting what’s happening in the world. They’re used to facing hazards in the field, from media-hating crowds to natural disasters, but COVID-19 is different.
“I have never backed down from an assignment of any kind. This I’m terrified of,” a photographer at a small newspaper told award-winning freelancer Melissa Lyttle. “I love my job but I’m given no choice. Honestly, I’m scared to death.”
The fear comes from the apparent failure of some employers to provide any protective equipment or guidance. But other newsrooms have instituted standard protocols to help their journalists stay as safe as possible.
At the San Francisco Chronicle, photo editors developed a checklist based on guidance from public health experts and feedback from photographers.
Before sending a photographer out on assignment, editors now have lengthy conversations with people they are planning to photograph to assess if it will be safe for everyone. For portraits, they ask if the person has been sick. When entering new spaces, they try to gauge if there will be room for physical distancing.
John Moore, a correspondent for Getty Images, has photographed people who are sick with the virus. For one shoot, he dressed in a full protective suit with a respirator mask.
“I had spoken with one of them ahead of time, so they would know what to expect and not be so taken aback when I showed up at the front door looking like I was wearing a