|National Geographic map, adapted by The Rural Blog; to enlarge, click on it.|
But that spotlight also means that when local television journalists quit or are fired for refusing to be vaccinated, the whole community is likely to hear about it. "These journalists aren’t much different from other workers who have opposed employee vaccination mandates, whether in health care, law enforcement, education or any other field — except for one thing: They’re among the best-known people in their communities as a result of beaming into homes for years or even decades," Paul Farhi reports for The Washington Post. "Because of their high profiles, the fired journalists have captured local headlines and in some cases have become heroic figures to local vaccine resisters."
That includes meteorologist Karl Bohnak, who was fired from Gray Television-owned WLUC in Michigan's Upper Peninsula last month. "His Facebook post about the termination received thousands of comments — many supportive; many not — and was shared across right-wing blogs. Viewers threw him a party to celebrate his decision after 34 years on the air," Farhi reports. "Bohnak now calls himself an 'activist' against mandatory employer vaccinations, which he calls a 'violation of human rights.'"
One of Bohnak's reasons for refusing to be vaccinated shows that journalists aren't immune from misinformation: He said he was worried the vaccine would cause blood clots. When Farhi told him that research shows such a side effect is extremely rare, he said, "Let's agree to disagree."
"The biggest concentration of vaccine resistance among journalists appears to be at Gray, an Atlanta-based company whose TV stations reach viewers in more than 100 cities," Farhi reports. "According to various news reports, the company has fired at least seven newsroom employees since its companywide vaccination requirement went into effect on Oct. 1. But the number may be higher than that; Bohnak said two journalists left his station in recent days over their opposition to the vaccine policy, but their departures didn’t attract public attention."