How I Started Out in a Pandemic


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I took my first reporting job in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m sure that this will define how I approach reporting for the rest of my life. 

Coming onboard at the Examiner, I had the rare opportunity to write about an incredible variety of topics – housing, law enforcement, education, taxes, domestic violence, energy, politics, business and, of course, public health. 

Essentially, what I got was a birds-eye view of the state of Connecticut. From that vantage point, it became easy to see how everything – especially this year – is interconnected. 

Physics tells us that any object is only as strong as its weakest point. Throughout the year, I have watched as the pandemic struck the weakest links of every system our society has put in place. The public health precautions and the measures our governments have taken to help the most vulnerable are forcing us to personally grapple with what once seemed like a more philosophical question: 

Am I my brother’s keeper, and, if so, to what extent?  

I hope we have learned to regard with suspicion all “easy answers” to this question. We should be grappling with this, and we should all be prepared to make sacrifices. Nothing sturdy or worthwhile  is built without a lot of sweat, blood and tears.  It requires input and cooperation from people on every side of an issue. 

The great thing about being a journalist is that I get to witness that cooperation. Sure, there are conflicts, misinformation and bad decisions. But I have spoken this year with amazing people in every sector who have spent long hours working to improve access to health care, to make sure that school kids are able to connect and learn remotely, to help people pay their rent and to improve practices in law enforcement. 

News coverage, when done well, is not all negative. There are legislators, police officers, activists, non-profit executives, teachers, scientists, medical workers and private citizens who are all trying to make something good come out of this nightmare we’re living. 

2020 was a year full of problems. In 2021, I hope we have the courage and the stamina to create some lasting solutions. 

My plea to you in the coming year: Please pay attention. We at the Examiner can write about these things, but our work means nothing without readers. Don’t fall into the temptation of thinking that no one cares, or nothing can change. Engage with the issues – use your voice and your vote, and tell your friends to do the same.   

I wish you all Happy Holidays, and I look forward to the joy we will all experience when we can see one another again in person, without the need for masks, plexiglass screens or Zoom meetings. 

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.