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Categorized | News

Making a newspaper during Covid-19

By Lois Allen, Publisher

Life as we know it will be life as we knew it with a completely different normal. It is like living in a Sci-Fi movie. Our new normal is like nothing any of us has experienced in our lifetimes. The streets are nearly deserted, restaurants and businesses are dark and empty. Bars once filled with cheer and laughter are now silent and vacant. And people are hurting.

The Cedar Springs Post has a staff of six employees. Over half are over 50 and at least one has underlying health conditions. My mother is 89 and has congestive heart failure.

Last Thursday, at our weekly staff meeting, we had a come to Jesus moment. There was a lengthy discussion about what to do if we had to close to the public and work from home. I’d be lying if I said everyone was expecting it. It seemed like a worst case scenario that might happen in the future. I told my staff that it probably wouldn’t happen, but we had to have a plan of action—just in case.  And then, on Friday, the schools shut down. It was time for plan B, or C for Corona, or COVID-19.

The Post has been here in Cedar Springs for over 30 years. Beginning operation in 1988, at a time when papers were turning into shoppers, laying off their journalists and printing almost all advertising. Not having to pay reporters and editors, their money went into larger circulation at a cheaper cost taking many advertisers away from newspapers. Not a great time to start a newspaper. But it became clear that people in Cedar Springs loved their local hometown newspaper and enough advertisers stuck by us as we danced between the red and the black.

When the internet happened, it was another blow to newspapers as advertisers flocked to this new form of advertising. But we were fortunate, we cut corners, buckled down and amazingly still had enough local businesses that saw an advantage to advertising and supporting the local weekly newspaper. So we hung in there, thanks to them.

And then, there was something new. Something called Facebook. What can I say about Facebook? It was a great way to connect with friends and family. Businesses used it to connect with their customers too. But it had no filter and launched us into the disinformation era. What to believe?

And now, life has come to a virtual and screeching halt from sea to shining sea. Will the demise of our local news be from some unseen foe sweeping through our cities and towns? Will it be something so small it cannot be seen with the naked eye that dooms us?

If businesses can’t do business, why advertise?  How can they afford it? And without advertisers, we will lose our local newspaper. Not just here, but everywhere. It will be a domino effect that will change the lives of many. The local newspaper is like a magnifying glass highlighting the community it serves—its people, its growth, its history. But like any other small business, it must pay the bills.

Currently, our staff is working from home and our office is closed to the public. In this era of emails and internet, we can do it. Stories, news releases, photos, ad copy, obituaries can all be sent via the web. But without our advertisers, we are history.

If you call, we have one employee here to answer the phone, but our office is closed to the public.

Also, if you are refraining from public places where the Post will still be found, you have the option of paying a minimal amount to have it mailed directly to your home. We’re offering a three month subscription for just $15 or a 6 month subscription for $25. And, don’t forget, we always take donations through paypal on our web pages at www.cedarspringspost.com!

We’re prepared for the worst, but hope for the best. God bless our readers and our advertisers and stay well!

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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union


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