This article first appeared in the ColoradoBoulevard.net March 2021 print edition.
Last year around the beginning of February 2020, I started preparing for some type of a self-imposed quarantine.
By Wafic Khalil
I didn’t know exactly what was awaiting us, but I sensed the urgency. Reading online articles from Lebanon, France, and other international newspapers, it was a matter of time before the pandemic hit the States. By the end of February, we discreetly contacted our writers, as to not cause panic to the public, and informed them of our plans. We were to suspend our Print Edition, stop covering live events, hunker at home, if possible, and withdraw a small amount of money from the bank, just in case. Many events were scheduled for the beginning of March. We sent out emails informing organizers about our plans not to send reporters out of concern for their safety. I also remember a few snickering emails we got back telling us they would be going ahead with their plans as scheduled, and how unfortunate that we would not be covering their events missing out while “other” media outlets will be present…
By the first day of the lockdown, we were ready, as much as one could be in an unknown situation like this. As an editor, it was my duty to make sure our communities were calm and informed. We had fifteen articles waiting in the pipelines ready to be published online. I had asked many of our writers to research, learn, and write about safety protocols (as much as we knew about the virus at the time). We also had calming articles on how to cope with the lockdown, as well as articles about the latest science. I remember reaching out to a few friends at Caltech. The scientists were understanding while a few others were surprised, raising concerns that I might be overreacting. We have since learned why some failed to see it coming. Many offices within the CDC were either gutted, silenced, or sidelined by the previous White House administration.
During the hysteria that followed, we tried to stay calm and compassionate. I remember one time deciding to publicly write on my Facebook page a rebuke of the Pasadena Star-News for publishing a “story” about a PUSD employee testing for the virus. Testing is NOT being positive, I said. Around that time, a local website, known for its sensationalized headlines, published another “story” of a Caltech student testing for the virus. (Later on the student and the PUSD employee results turned up negative). The Star-News was dangerously following in the footsteps of the sensationalized website, a National Inquirer of Pasadena. I was furious. That’s not what we need in the middle of a pandemic hitting our communities and the whole globe! We vowed to step up our coverage by highlighting all the wonderful things that were taking place around us: from bread making (and a wonderful sourdough recipe) to local markets initiating senior hours for safe shopping, to feel-good stories about neighbors lifting spirits with lawn concerts and meaningful, yet socially distanced, street gatherings.
Looking back, I’m proud of our team for handling the pandemic with grace, compassion, and no hype. We were humans helping other humans. We were all in it. Truly. Compassionately. Lovingly.
I hope everyone will be vaccinated soon. For those who have received their vaccines, congratulations. For those who are still waiting, and I’m one of them, we wait patiently. Until then, stay safe.
> This article appeared in the ColoradoBoulevard.net March 2021 print edition.
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