Newspapers in the time of COVID-19

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What steps are you taking to meet the challenges at your newspaper — both in terms of keeping your staff safe and providing the needed information your community needs? Share your news with America's Newspapers for this developing story: cdurham@newspapers.org 

In the first days of March, when southern Louisiana had yet to see its first case of COVID-19, the leadership of the parent company of The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, began meeting to prepare its properties for possible infection.

By Tuesday, March 10, they had hired a bio-hazard company to do a hospital-grade deep cleaning and disinfecting of its facilities in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. By Wednesday, the company had banned not just business travel, but visits by employees between its properties.

At the same time in the far suburbs of Chicago, the top executives of Shaw Media met to brainstorm COVID-19 preparations, with some arguing the company was overreacting to the threat. Then came a steady increase in cases, and President and CEO John Rung was telling all employees who could work from home to work from home.

Meanwhile, two big national newspapers,  The Washington Post and The New York Times, were telling their employees the same thing.

At its Galveston, Texas, headquarters, Southern Newspapers are preparing for COVID-19 as if it were an approaching hurricane.

At the flagship The Daily News, everything is business as usual, Publisher and Southern Newspapers President Leonard Woolsey told America’s Newspapers.

“Business as usual is a nice way of saying we are running at a high rate of reinvention,” Woolsey said.  “Everything from editorial coverage to advertising strategies are being evaluated in real time and at a pace similar to when we are facing a hurricane coming off the Gulf of Mexico.”

Across the nation, newspapers big and small have reacted quickly — and with a modicum of advance planning not seen at the federal government level — to the threat to their employees and their businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are ready,” Judi Terzotis, president and publisher of The Times-Picayune | Advocate, said in an interview. “We’ve tested everything from layout to production and such so we know we could work remotely if we had to. We have proactively stepped up.”

Here’s a look at what some representative newspapers are doing to prepare for a COVID-19 workplace crisis:

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