These are strange times for newspaper reporters and editors.
We’re holding meetings on Zoom, communicating regularly through Google Hangouts, practicing social distancing with our sources and perhaps the biggest change of all – working entirely from home.
I’m now into my second week of writing stories, gathering news and editing from my makeshift office in the spare bedroom. Next week, I realized, will be the longest streak I’ve been away from the newspaper office in my 35 years with the paper. (I’m not one to take long vacations.)
It has some advantages, such as wearing more comfortable clothes. I’ve ditched my shirt and tie and dress shoes for tennis shoes, jeans and a quarter-zip sweatshirt. But I really miss that camaraderie of the office, the laughter, the energy, the banter.
But I’m not complaining. I still have a job. My wife and I are still healthy. And we, like everyone else out there, are very much looking forward to the day when we get on the other side of this.
In the meantime, when I’ve made an essential trip to the grocery store, or am out on a walk, the reporter in me comes out and I’ve noticed a few things – good, bad and other.
People in the grocery stores are much more focused. There’s not a lot of dilly-dallying or chit-chat with other shoppers and most are standing six feet apart. Some, however, are in such a hurry to get done and out, they break the six-foot social distancing advice to almost elbow people out of the way to grab what they need.
Store clerks that I’ve encountered are doing an excellent job. They’re friendly and helpful despite the risks they face. At the checkout, I thank them for doing a good job and I can tell they appreciate it. Maybe more people should be doing that.
The Central Lakes Trail is busier than ever – runners, walkers, bikers, skateboarders, and a lot more dog walkers. (And please, dog owners, remember to clean up after your pet.)
I love all the encouraging messages people are putting on storefront windows and marquees. There’s chalk art on sidewalks and on the trail, many containing words of encouragement. The positivity is a much needed beam of hope these days.
People’s creativity in dealing with the isolation is cool to see, whether it’s birthday drive-by parades, having virtual happy hours, window visits with someone in a nursing home, or “getting together” with friends and relatives through video conferencing.
For the most part, local residents are abiding by the governor’s stay-at-home orders, which, remember, does contain some exceptions, such as enjoying outdoor activities and getting groceries, gas, take-out food and emergency supplies. Traffic is down. The streets are much emptier.
Liquor stores seem busier. A popular Facebook meme sums it up: “For the third time this week, I’m buying booze for the next two weeks.”
No one knows for sure how long this isolation will last, but I think it’s important to remain at least cautiously optimistic that better days are coming soon. Instead of giving into fear and dwelling on worst-case scenarios, we need to keep following health directives, stay upbeat, lean on one another and soldier on.
We also need to keep supporting the local businesses that drive our economy, which, by the way, also includes your local newspaper. So I’ll end this column with a shameless plea to readers: Please keep reading the Echo Press. A digital subscription costs less than $2.31/week – less than a cup of coffee a week. You can view all our subscription offers at www.echopress.com/subscribe.