Navigating troubled waters

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

There’s not much I can add to all that’s been said and written about coronavirus over the past couple of weeks, other than it’s the worst disaster I have experienced in 49 years in newspapering, or 70 years of life, for that matter. Tornadoes, fires and floods — this is the worst natural disaster of all.

It used to be the only virus we worried about in the newspaper business was the kind that infected our computers.

It’s had a profound effect on The Storm Lake Times. Our small but dedicated staff has been working hard to keep our community informed during the crisis while trying to confront it in their personal lives as well. Social distancing requires us to try to cover the ever-changing news by telephone and social media rather than traditional face-to-face interviews. We appreciate the assistance of our public officials who have accommodated us when we have called for information to relay to the public.

In times like this, newspapers, along with TV and radio, fill an essential role in our nation. While you can read a lot about our national emergency on social media, a lot of that is bunk, infiltrated with bad information disseminated by people who have no idea what they are talking about, either because of ignorance or for sinister reasons. This is a time when you need good old-fashioned reliable media to give you accurate information, not some junk purveyed on Facebook. One of our local doctors has taken to Facebook to counteract some of the dangerous myths that are floating out there on the internet.

We’ll keep publishing The Times as long as circumstances allow — which we hope is forever. Staffing needs may require us to modify The Times. For example, since all local high school and college sports have been cancelled, sports editor Jamie Knapp is scrambling to fill his pages. School activities have traditionally been a focus of community newspaper coverage, leaving a big void for us since classes have been suspended across the state. Service clubs like Kiwanis have stopped meeting. It’s possible some of our issues will have fewer pages than normal. Please bear with us.

We also rely on the health and well-being of the press crew in Sheldon who print our newspaper, and the men and women of the Postal Service who deliver it to your homes. They are integral to our mission as well as our own staff. Thanks to them and we wish them good health.

Our office has been much quieter this week in the wake of the national emergency declaration — almost no foot traffic in our Times Square office and many fewer phones ringing in our newsroom. Art and I, who are both over the vulnerable age of 60, are mostly working from home while the younger healthier staffers fulfill duties in the office that can’t be handled from home.

We hope we can keep all of our loyal staff of 10 employed during this trying time. We greatly appreciate you, our faithful readers, whose patronage enables us to keep our business open and pay our employees. Several businesses in our community, particularly restaurants, bars and fitness centers, have been ordered closed, and we hope they are able to hold on long enough to reopen once the crisis has passed.

In the meantime, what will happen to the people who work in these businesses? We need to help them in any way we can. That’s where our government can help fill the gap with supplemental pay and benefits to keep these folks afloat. And now, more than ever, we need to support all local businesses so our community can weather this storm.

We appreciate your understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters together, and with your support, we shall overcome!

Articles Section: