For a smaller daily like the 16,000-circulation Daily Journal in Kankakee, Illinois, covering the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic has been a “little crazy, as I’m sure it’s been everywhere,” Managing Editor Misty Knisely said over the phone, sleep-deprived a day after overseeing not just coronavirus coverage, but late-breaking results from Illinois’ St. Patrick’s Day primary election.
“First you have all the cancellations to report,” she said, “and then there’s the second level of coverage on how it’s affecting the community and then there’s the level of health coverage — letting people know what they need to stay safe.”
The demands of the coverage shift as swiftly as the virus itself insinuates through the population. Daily Journal reporters have pursued stories through the day, only to have the story change radically just as it was being posted on the paper’s website, daily-journal.com.
“Every time you turn around there’s a new cancellation,” Knisely said, “and the community really wants to know where the virus is in the community, so you’ve got to constantly keep tabs on where the virus is.”
“There are so many different angles,” she said. “It’s really multi-leveled coverage.”
Another simile that suggests itself is that COVID-19 coverage is like a layer cake.
Did someone mention cake? With all Illinois schools and many businesses sending their employees home, there’s been a sudden opening for the return of a mostly long-gone content offering: recipes.
“We didn’t publish recipes that often because, well, people don’t cook, but now they are at home and have time to cook so we are starting to publish recipes again,” Knisely said.
That wave of self-isolation has changed the Daily Journal lifestyle sections dramatically. While much of the coverage until literally two or three weeks ago centered around events in Kankakee and its surrounding, those events have gone away — for the moment at least.
“We’re approaching lifestyle from a new direction,” she said. “Now it’s about helping people find ways to stay sane when they are home. What they can do with their kids? What kind of activities can they provide?”
And what would they like to cook up for dinner?