As I traveled back to New Mexico in February of 2020, I looked around the Atlanta airport and noticed an unusual number of travelers donning face masks. I had just begun reading about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and, looking around, suddenly felt like a hapless extra in the film Contagion. As soon as I was back at my desk, I arranged to speak with experts at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the first of what would turn out to be (checks calendar) 21 months and counting of near-daily reporting on COVID-19.
After New Mexico had its first cases on March 11, 2020, covering COVID at SFR became a full-time endeavor for me and much of SFR’s staff, whether it involved reporting on the daily numbers; the health advisories; the business implications; and, soon, tragically, the mounting deaths and hospitalizations.
For many of those stories, I relied on health and science experts here and beyond as I—and everyone—took a crash course in epidemiology. One of those stories, “Model Citizens”—highlighting scientists’ quest to forecast the pandemic and featuring the work of those same LANL scientists—later would win first place in the Society for Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies contest in its science and technology features category.
In December of last year, New Mexico’s first vaccines arrived and I watched as health care workers at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center received their first shots and wondered what the future would bring. Still wondering. The state’s vaccination efforts became part of my daily reporting, both for SFR’s website, print edition and our weekday morning newsletter, The Morning Word. The one-year anniversary for COVID-19 came and went. Restrictions loosened and tightened again.
As I write this, New Mexico once again is battling a surge of COVID-19 cases, alarmingly high hospitalization rates and a new vaccination effort for children 5-11. As has been the case since Day 1, my inbox pings with messages from readers, seeking information, clarification and often supplying detailed and incisive questions I incorporate into my weekly queries to state health officials. We’ve all been in this together and will continue to be so; that relationship—the bond readers have with the Reporter—has driven my work for the entirety of my journalism career here.
I began with the Reporter as an intern in the early 1990s, served as its editor for more than a decade ending in 2011 and these days, as noted, keep myself busy trying to ensure our readers have access to the news that’s shaping all of our changing lives. I also have the privilege of training the next generation of journalists through the Reporter’s nonprofit arm, work that has led to inspiring collaborations with other Santa Fe institutions and national awards as well.
Many media outlets made a point of lowering their paywalls for their COVID-19 coverage, noting the importance for readers to have access to crucial information. That’s been the guiding principle for the Reporter since its inception in 1974: We believe our readers always need access to the news, whether it’s about a public health crisis, elections, the arts or any of the events impacting our engaged community. We believed that before the pandemic, during the pandemic and will continue adhering to that mission when we all get through these strange days.
Just as we need your help to guide our reporting, we also need your help to keep the Reporter going for the next 48 years and beyond. I hope you will join us as a Friend of the Reporter, and look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out there one of these days.
This letter from Julia Goldberg is the first in a series we are publishing about Friends of the Reporter, a new model for supporting our local journalism mission. Visit sfreporter.com/friends, to make a one-time or recurring donation or via check at PO Box 4910, Santa Fe, NM 87502. The New Mexico Local News Fund will match up to $3,000 in donations received through the end of 2021. Our website and weekly print edition each Wednesday remain free to all readers.