Media group urges public officials to treat local news publishers as 'essential' as grocery, pharmacy amid outbreak

A media group is hoping for the country's leaders to stress the importance of news publishers amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern weighed in on what businesses are considered "nonessential" and "essential" as local and state governments continue to push social distancing by closing down establishments that could allow the virus to spread.

"Public officials across the country have begun ordering the shutdown of 'nonessential' businesses for periods of time. The goal of these orders is to appropriately react to our COVID-19 health crisis. However, these orders can also lead to some confusion about their application to news publishing operations," Chavern said on Monday.

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Chavern stressed the importance of local news outlets having an "absolutely essential function" in reporting important information to the general public during the nationwide panic.

"It should be readily apparent that local news publishers are carrying out an absolutely essential function in conveying accurate, reliable and critical information to the public at a time of great need," Chavern wrote. "Many consumers are using our digital products, which can often be created and accessed remotely. However, there are still a large number of readers who rely exclusively on the production of our print products."

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He continued, "Therefore, when issuing these orders, we would urge public officials to clarify that all news publishing operations are 'essential,' akin to grocery, pharmacy and other businesses critical to the public’s welfare."