Nodding through my morning cable news update on the apocalypse, I perked up at the sight of a familiar face — the front page of today’s Times-Tribune. It was the centerpiece of a montage of daily newspapers used to illustrate the impact of a global pandemic on Main Street America.
“Hey! That’s Us!” I chirped. That “Us,” means more than just this newspaper or the people who produce and deliver it. It includes subscribers, advertisers and the wider community we serve every day. We are all in this mess together. That was true before “coronavirus” became a household name and will be after this crisis is behind us.
With most of us working from home, Times-Tribune reporters and editors get organized in a morning conference call. I joined the “meeting” for the first time today, and it was music to my ears. Journalism is a collaborative craft. Social distancing leaves no room for newsroom banter and the free exchange of ideas and opinions. You can say things in a newsroom that anywhere else gets you a trip to HR. Conference calls are all business, but it was good to hear my work family again.
Times were tough for local newspapers before the pandemic. Coronavirus is writing obituaries for papers and careers across the nation. This week, Gannett, one of the countries largest newspaper companies, announced furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts due to lost advertising revenue. The USA Today publisher owns 21 local newspapers, all struggling to survive. We are luckily owned by a local family dedicated to community journalism. We survived the 2008 Wall Street meltdown by the grace of our subscribers and advertisers. We’ll get through this, too.
So will Aimee Dilger, who until this week was the lone photojournalist at the Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre. I don’t know Aimee well, but I know the images she captured — dynamic windows into the lives of thousands of people that would have been lost in time if she hadn’t been there with a camera, an artful eye and a burning desire to serve. Our community will be a lesser place without her work.
Critics and cranks badmouth “The Media” as if the tens of thousands of individuals in local newsrooms across America are part of some monolithic “Other.” No. We are people, just like you. We have families and kids and pets and people who depend on us. We pay mortgages, student loan bills, insurance premiums and all the same bills and taxes you pay, and most of us live paycheck to paycheck. The Millionaire Talking Heads you see on cable news are not us. Most of them never were.
They don’t do what we do. When we’re gone, no one will. I’m betting my livelihood that you won’t let that happen.
I’ll close today’s sermon with an update to my column. Frank the Mailman just dropped by. From a social distance, he said, “I’m glad I’m in your column and not the obituaries.”
Me too, Frank. What else in today’s newspaper? Get complete COVID-19 coverage here. Scranton is getting $2.5 million in federal aid to combat the coronavirus. Staff Writer Jim Lockwood has the story here. Staff Writer Jon O’Connell has the latest on an uproar over a Greyhound bus that brings riders from New York to Scranton every day. Read it here. Staff Writer Frank Wilkes Lesnefsky looks back on the inspiring life of Father Sica, who died Tuesday. Read it here.
That’s it for now. Let’s “meet” back here tomorrow. I have a conference call at 10 a.m. After that, my day is wide open.
How are you spending this strange day? Email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share your stories in my daily diary. The Times-Tribune is still here, and so are you. We will get through whatever comes next together, one day at a time.
Hang in there, hunker down and wash your hands. Subscribe to The Times-Tribune here. You’ll be glad you did.