On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working at a small daily newspaper in northern Minnesota.

I was the regional editor, and a defacto No. 2 position, in a newsroom of 11 people. 
I had no idea that when I reported to work that morning that I wouldn’t leave the office for the next 48 hours. Or that in the next week, our entire newsroom would fall into a habit of working 20 hour days, leaving enough time to go home to catch a nap, perform some basic hygiene and kiss the kids and spouse goodbye.
And while after the first week, we got better about staggering our people resources to get us through the crisis, and making sure that people got time off, the effort was too little, too late. Our people and our families suffered immeasurably during that time.
Eight years later, I found myself a city editor at a mid-level daily newspaper with a staff of 60-plus. Our city that year was threatened with a once-in-500-year flood that had it broken through the dikes, would have wiped out a metro area of 150,000-plus.
This, too, became a protracted news crisis that required around-the-clock, urgent coverage. And while after the first week of wall-to-wall coverage, we got better about metering our newsroom’s hours, the effort again was too little, too late. The people in the newsroom suffered, as did many of our families. 
Now we face a pandemic. And by all accounts from the experts, it seems that this too will be a protracted news crisis that will require weeks -- if not months -- of vigilance. 
But this time we have the added challenge of vastly reduced news staffs and audiences that are trained that they can get their news on demand, as in right now. … Production cycles? They are foriegn concepts in this new world!
So all of this begs the question: How are we going to rise to the challenge of covering a severe national health emergency while also taking care of our journalists, photographers and editors?
I’m sure that you’ve all already ramped up to full crisis coverage mode. The news has already required that of most of us, even for the smallest of publications. But this is also the time to think about how you can manage this workload with your smaller staffs over a period of time that might cover weeks, or worse.
Having worked in newsrooms for 20 years, I know the people who fill them. They have an internal drive to tell people the news. Most have altruistic streaks a mile wild, and they do not want to let down their communities on their watch. 
But this also means that someone has to be the one concerned about taking care of the people who do not think about caring for themselves.
Who is that person in your organization?
How are you going to stagger schedules so that reporters, editors and other key staffers are available when you need them?
Who is helping the people at your organization also take care of their families? As we all know, our jobs are different. People don’t always see our jobs as “essential” in times of crisis. And this doubt can bleed into our families as well. So who is helping support the journalists’ families when needed?
And these are only a few of the questions. The list we should be asking is long.
I have no lack of confidence that our community journalists will rise to the occasion during this pandemic. … I just hope that meanwhile our newspapers have learned from past crisis coverage situations about how to help our staffs maintain their mental health and familial relations in healthy ways while we do it. 
Best of luck to all the journalists out there on the front lines. … Stay healthy and safe!
Devlyn Brooks is president of Modulist, a media services company specializing in the processing of user-generated paid content submissions for newspapers. Devlyn spent 20 years writing and editing in newsrooms big and small, dailies and weeklies.

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