In early March, RSF began contacting newsrooms in local counties, cities, and states where the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading rapidly to determine if journalists were able to access protective facemasks. RSF’s focus was on local outlets with an average staff size of 10-20 journalists. Many of the newsrooms reported difficulty procuring masks and welcomed the initiative. In response, RSF worked with American Roots to procure the facemasks, including 100 that were donated by the company.
“With the scarcity of facemasks at the start of the outbreak, we were really concerned about the safety of journalists and immediately started contacting American retailers who were producing facemasks for frontline responders,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “While most American companies we spoke to were understandably reserving facemasks for healthcare professionals, American Roots immediately recognized the importance of journalists as frontline responders. Dozens of reporters around the world have been exposed to the virus and many have died. Protecting their health is crucial and we are extremely grateful to American Roots for their commitment to the safety of our journalists.”
With the resurgence of the coronavirus in the United States, RSF is contacting newsrooms experiencing heightened demand for personal protective equipment. We have also endeavoured to distribute as many masks as possible to newsrooms that represent minority groups hardest hit by the pandemic, including Black, Native American, and Hispanic community newsrooms.
"Three months ago we pivoted our 100% American Made and Union Made clothing company to produce urgently needed PPE,” said Ben Waxman, co-founder of American Roots. “We were incredibly grateful to RSF for the support and purchase of our 100% Cotton masks, and were happy to donate a portion of masks to such a critical organization. We believe now more than ever it is critical to the well-being of all Americans that the press is able to operate in a safe and true ‘freedom of the press environment.’ Having the right information now more than ever is critical to the future of the country. Thank you for all that you do to ensure accurate information is being reported and we are happy to help keep reporters safe and healthy in this time of crisis."
So far, RSF has distributed over 300 masks to newsrooms around the country, including:
- The Globe, Nobles, MN
- The Marion Star, Marion, OH
- The Journal News, Westchester, NY
- The Tama News-Herald, Tama, IA
- Sterling Journal-Advocate, Logan, CO
- Black Star News, New York, NY
- Atlantic News Telegraph, Atlantic, IA
- Carroll Times-Herald, Carroll, IA
- Cherokee-Times, Cherokee, IA
- Black Hills Pioneer, Spearfish, SD
- The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA
- INFORUM, Fargo, ND
- Chattanooga Times Free Press, Chattanooga, TN
- State Port Pilot, Southport, NC
- Tideland News, Morehead City, NC
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA
RSF is proud to partner with American Roots. To learn more about American Roots, click here.
The United States is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.