The ordinary drive of a journalist to seek and publish information of public interest is sometimes the source of soul-searching here in the newsroom.
Is "public interest" synonymous with "interesting to read"? Is "interesting" the same as "necessary"?
We'd all like to know more than we do, about the people around us and the decisions they make, but not all of this information is knowable, for reasons including privacy, secrecy and government stonewalling.
But as we all know, nothing fires up a journalist more than being told information will only be revealed on a "need-to-know" basis.
We're now into the fourth week of the school year, and, by all accounts, the worst-case scenario of schools shutting down with tsunamis of COVID cases has not come to pass.
We know that in the second week of school, there were 909 cases reported across 119 schools in the ACT. There were only 18 schools that did not record a case that week, which means 90 per cent of Canberra schools reported at least one case in the week ending February 13.
We have also recently been told - after repeated questioning - just three schools have experienced hard-to-control clusters of cases that required outside assistance to deal with.
This is, surely, information that should be at the fingertips of any government, waiting to be disseminated as a means of reassuring a public anxious to know whether the decision to proceed with the school year has been the right call.
Curiously, this information often comes after questions are taken by the government on notice, as though no one had anticipated them.
It often looks like a balancing act, predicting, on the one hand, what types of information will be made available at any given time, and what questions journalists will raise at any given moment.
In an ideal world, these competing factors wouldn't be in opposition at all, but be perfectly aligned. But the fact remains schools are doing better than we could have expected as we geared up for the start of term, and school communities deserve to see this in numbers, words and sentiment.
Senior epidemiologist Peter Collignon says the number of cases being reported in the school community are indeed reassuring, and that there would certainly have been a major spike in cases by the end of the third week of term had they proved to be the sites of super-spreaders.
This is good news but, as usual, no excuse for complacency. A lot has been asked of school communities since COVID became part of everyday life.
Teachers and students have had to adapt, stay apart, learn new skills and adjust their expectations. Parents have been given more insight into the rhythms of the schoolroom than they ever thought possible.
They have all put their faith in science, experts and a government willing to listen to both as they venture into a world now defined and shaped by a continuing pandemic. And they - teachers, parents and students - deserve to know every step of the way how these decisions are playing out.
Even if the news is bad - and especially if things look optimistic - it's ever more important to ensure our path ahead is clear of obfuscation and wilful silence. The narrative around contracting COVID has completely shifted, and there should no longer be any stigma attached to the prevalence of cases.
And it shouldn't take a persistent journalist to ensure everyone has the information they need.
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