By JOSHUA VALIQUETTE
Capital News Service
LANSING — Reporters are finding new ways to interact with their audiences while facing constant reminders of how important their local journalism is during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is harder to find the human aspect of the story without talking to people on a face-to face level,” said Mardi Link, a staff reporter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
That doesn’t stop them from writing important pieces on issues that matter to their local communities
“Tracking down the stories may require extra legwork, but our concentration remains in the communities for which we serve,” said Alan Campbell, the news editor of the Leelanau Enterprise.
Many newsrooms are using Zoom for staff meetings and as a resource to support their fellow reporters in these stressful times.
“I was burnt out towards the end of March, but my publisher, Julie Stafford, made a point to always ask us how we are doing on a mental health level and always watched out for us,” said Elisabeth Waldon, the news editor at the Daily News in Greenville.
Waldon said that both reporters and audiences can feel overwhelmed with the constant flow of stories on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve tried to write a handful of stories that are uplifting and help show all the great things our community has done despite the times,” Waldon said.
One of those stories described how the Ionia Fire Department put on a parade with its fire trucks for children who couldn’t celebrate their birthdays because they were stuck in their houses.
The reporter, Cory Smith, said that with the use of gloves, a mask and social distancing he was still able to interview people in the community for the story.
“It was great to see first-hand the joy on kids’ faces and hear how happy it made them that the firefighters came by to celebrate their birthday,” Smith said.
For other reporters, it has renewed their love of journalism to see first-hand how important their work is during this time.
“It’s our responsibility to report on our community because no other big publications will. Many people overlook these communities, but their stories are just as important,” said Evan Sasiela, a reporter with the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.
With that added responsibility comes added pressure to continue to publish their newspapers.
The Alcona County Review, a weekly newspaper owned for the past 25 years by Cheryl Peterson and her husband, John Boufford, has come under added pressure for ad revenue while their community of mostly older adults has come under the danger of the coronavirus.
“Our community is only getting older. Businesses closing during the pandemic has only revealed the threat our newspaper faces moving into the future,” Peterson said.
Most of her newspaper’s ad revenue comes from mom-and-pop shops that have been owned by the same families for years.