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It’s a hard thing, asking for help. Sometimes helping others is easier than accepting it for yourself. But at some point or another, we all can use a helping hand.
The coronavirus pandemic has laid that truth bare. Businesses and individuals are scrambling — and understandably so — to access financial assistance passed recently in the unprecedented $2.2 trillion federal relief package passed in late March.
The uncertainty can be overwhelming, and though this editorial board may be slightly biased, there should be little doubt that local news organizations have an invaluable role in responding to this crisis. Across America, local journalists are working tirelessly to keep people updated and informed about their communities, at a time when facts and clarity can make a big difference.
But local news faces its own crisis, forcing organizations like the BDN to adapt, and yes, to ask for help. Though a recent Gallup survey found that Americans’ consumption of local news has doubled since December, advertising revenue has suffered during the pandemic as businesses cut back and pause operations or decide to focus resources elsewhere.
The results nationally have been grim: newsrooms have laid off and furloughed workers, staff hours and pay have been reduced, and print editions have been cut back. Here in Bangor, for example, our print edition is now 16 pages.
Sen. Angus King has joined a group of federal lawmakers pushing to include money for local news organizations in future federal relief.
“This is a time of particular importance for local news. You guys do a great job, but you can’t tell us here in Brunswick where to go for testing, what the situation is at our local hospital, or when the grocery store is going to be open,” King told CNN over the weekend. “Local news has a critical information function in this particular situation. The problem is, they’re also being hammered because they rely on advertising — automobiles, local restaurants, those kinds of things — all of which are also down.”
We believe our mission to keep people informed is as important as ever — that’s why we’ve made our coronavirus coverage available for free online to the public and why we’ve created a free advertising program for businesses. We’ve also asked people who value the work done in our newsroom to support that work by subscribing to the paper — and if they are able, to consider donating as well. The support page on our website allows people to do either.
The response thus far has been overwhelming. We all need some positivity right now, and the messages the BDN has been receiving along with subscriptions and donations have been overflowing with warmth and encouragement. We think they are worth sharing.
“We look forward to the paper every day and hope that you and all businesses can make it through this difficult time,” said one donor.
“Thank you so much for all you are doing to keep us informed and engaged and enlightened,” wrote another. “You, too, are absolutely essential workers!”
As governments determine which businesses are essential and non-essential, togetherness and generosity remain essential foundations of our society. It’s very encouraging, and much appreciated, to see both from our readers.
“Thanks for keeping the paper going even in its condensed state. It makes getting through these long days of staying at home much easier to deal with,” wrote one donor. “I always look forward to bringing in the paper every morning!”
One donor said they are “sharing my stimulus funds with a well-written newspaper.” Another said that “we need local, unbiased news now, more than ever.” Several people expressed a desire to give more, if they could.
“I really value your work. I wish I could give more, but things are a little uncertain financially,” wrote one donor. “Best wishes to you all.”
All donations, no matter the size and no matter the cause, have significant power right now. Consciously supporting the businesses, institutions and causes that you value during the crisis of confidence caused by coronavirus can make a big difference for organizations’ bottom line and for their morale.
“Local papers are a vital part of our cities and towns,” said another recent BDN donor. “Being raised in Bangor, the paper is part of what makes Bangor the great city that it is and getting local news is even more important today than it was when I was growing up.”
“Good luck,” said another. “I know it’s an oft repeated cliche but, we truly are all in this together.”
This message echoes something we’ve told our subscribers, and that they have returned in kind with their continued support and generosity: We have your back, and we know you have ours.
Watch: Maine CDC press conference, April 13