Keep journalism alive in our community amid crisis

Keep journalism alive in our community amid crisis

reporter photo

Everyone here at the Record-Journal is working with a profound sense of concern for our community as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths increases, while we worry like everyone else about the health and safety of our families, friends and neighbors.

We take our role in reporting critically important information during this public health emergency  — the availability of local testing, changes to health and safety guidelines, access to food and supplies, the latest orders from state and local government etc. — very seriously.

At the same time, our coverage reflects specific challenges individuals in our community face. We’ve shared stories beyond the statistics which (hopefully) increase readers’ understanding of an elusive enemy and its ripple effect across every aspect of our society.

Community impact

We’ve reported on stories of hope and resilience, unity and compassion, and inevitably heartbreak as the human toll of the pandemic continues.

The family of retired Wallingford teacher Audrey Carretta believes she may have become infected during a long flight delay on her return trip from Florida, her daughter told reporter Lauren Takores. Carretta died March 30. The 86-year-old said goodbye to each of her grandchildren through a video call from the hospital. 

"No words were really left unsaid," her daughter Stacy Stanton said. "But it's still hard, because we know that she was healthy … She said to me, ‘I can't believe I'm going to die of the virus.’”

Art Rich, the owner and founder of an iconic Southington photography studio, had lunch with friends in early March who showed no symptoms after coming in contact with someone who returned from Italy last month.

Less than two weeks later, the vibrant 73-year-old was in critical condition at MidState Medical Center, isolated from family, who in turn were forced to isolate from each other to avoid infection.

Art Rich (left) with his son Jason Rich after a recent skydiving excursion. Photo submitted by Angel Rich.

"We're devastated," his daughter Angel Rich told reporter Mary Ellen Godin recently as she monitored her father’s condition remotely.

Mark Brennan, the son of a Masonicare resident in Wallingford, began phoning his mother Annmarie, 76, every other day when the ban on visitors to the nursing home went into effect. He wants to keep himself fresh in her mind as she battles dementia. Then he came up with the idea of holding up signs outside the facility with messages like “Hi Mom” and “Love You” where she could see them. 

Masonicare has since reported three cases of COVID-19 and one death as nursing homes across the state brace for the worst, including a vacant facility in Meriden being prepping to become a designated COVID-19 isolation unit.

Economic blow

As a journalist in this community for more than two decades, I can tell you that the sense of purpose and responsibility my colleagues and I feel in covering this awful, eery, once-in-a-century crisis have never been greater.

A cruel irony of the coronavirus pandemic is that fighting the virus has meant shutting down so much of the economy — crippling otherwise viable businesses, quite possibly crushing them altogether. 

As a family-owned, independent newspaper since 1867, the Record-Journal has shifted strategies in recent years to build a more sustainable future for local journalism. We’ve attempted to increase our value to readers by developing a deeper understanding of how they engage with our product, listening more closely to their needs and delivering high quality content strategically to meet those needs — all in hopes of building loyalty and a more stable foundation of subscription revenue.

We sincerely thank our subscribers for their generous support, which was helping put the company on a path to success before the virus outbreak.

But the sudden, sharp blow to advertising revenue caused by the crisis threatens our ability to continue providing local news at a critical moment — when the need for fact-based journalism and accurate information has never been greater. The community has been engaging with our news content during the crisis to an unprecedented degree and we want to continue to serve that need.

We do believe our organization will survive as a source of local journalism, but WE NEED YOUR HELP to keep our news team working through the crisis.

Local News Fund

The Record-Journal this week joined the newly created COVID-19 Local News Fund, which supports coronavirus coverage by independent and family-owned publishers through community donations.The fundraising program developed by the Local Media Association enables private news organizations to accept tax-deductible donations to support coverage of the pandemic, using the LMA’s foundation as a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor. 

In just two weeks since the fund launched nationwide, nearly 1,700 supporters of their local newspapers contributed more than $121,000 with an average donation of around $75.

If you value our content and can afford to contribute during these difficult times please consider purchasing a subscription or making a donation. 

To subscribe click here.

To learn more or to donate click here.

As a service to the community, we’ve made all of our coronavirus coverage available without a subscription, but the coverage is still just as expensive to produce.

Personal risk, ‘News deserts’

Covering the outbreak also presents personal health risks to our news staff, who continue to report from the field and to a limited degree from our offices in Meriden, in order to provide the best coverage possible. Many of our journalists can report the news by working from home, but not exclusively. Others on our team — like our incredibly brave and dedicated photojournalists — cannot work from home due to the nature of their jobs.

The crisis forced the company this past week to make the painful decision to scale back hours through a handful of targeted furloughs and a smaller reduction in hours for other employees. We expect the reducations to be temporary and have thus far avoided the need for layoffs.

Your support through a subscription, gift subscription or donation will help us keep local journalists on the job reporting on the crisis while continuing to hold officials accountable at a time when public access to information and meetings is being curtailed.

Fact-based, independent news coverage is essential to a healthy democracy and local newspapers are still by far the main source of original reporting in their communities. But increasingly across the country and this state communities are underserved or simply have no source for local news. These growing “news deserts” have been linked to a decline in civic engagement and a rise in both local corruption and polarization, “as news consumers rely more on partisan-inflected national outlets for their information,” the Harvard Business Review reported last month in its series “Democracy Under Attack.”

So if you can, please consider helping keep the cause of local journalism alive in your community through this crisis. 

Thank you!


Twitter: @ecotton3

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