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Looking for the helpers? Look at local news.

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This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can subscribe here.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, last week, Enrique Limón was the only person left working in the building of the Salt Lake City Weekly. Between furloughs and staff working remotely, “I’m the lone editorial staffer in the building, and I’d been without a staff writer for a few months before the pandemic kicked into high gear, so it’s been quite the load to bear,” he told me.

As the coronavirus changed everything about how she worked and furloughs hit the company she works for, Megan Finnerty told me about pivoting to live storytelling online. “It is a blessing to be useful,” she said.

Pat Furgurson took a buyout from the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, and still sent in story tips to his colleague, Selene San Felice. “Miss y’all. Stay safe,” he texted her. “#PressOn.”

In New Jersey, Lindy Washburn used a career as a beat reporter and vivid storytelling to bring people inside the hospital next to a crisis care nurse treating people with COVID-19. After learning of furloughs at her company, she worried about her work. “How can we stop reporting this? I just don’t know.”

In San Antonio, photojournalist Lola Gomez made a video from inside her hospital room as she recovered from COVID-19. “If you don’t believe in news, please believe in people that are sharing their stories out there.”

Kelsey Ryan launched a new site early in Kansas City and is helping newsrooms there work together. “If there’s something that we can do to help others, we want to do that.”

And from makeshift home bureaus, student journalists Sydney Hoover, Lucie Krisman and Cami Koons are still covering Eudora, Kansas, for that town’s only dedicated newsroom. “I am constantly sending them stories and pushing them to cover this community, and they are stepping up,” said their editor, Teri Finneman. “It’s just really been amazing to see.”

There’s more. Look at all these free resources, tools and trainings our industry is collecting. Look at the funds journalists are starting to help the huge number of people losing their jobs and going through furloughs. Look at the money people are giving to newsrooms that need it.

In 2010, I covered the Census for the St. Louis Beacon and got to work with public policy analysts to help make sense of the numbers. One of them taught me this: There are facts, and there are truths. The facts are the data. The truths are what’s happening on the ground.

We need them both.

Right now, every day, I’m tracking the layoffs, closures and furloughs in our industry. The list is devastating.

But I’m also tracking the good stuff. It’s out there, and we’re gonna need even more of it when all of this is over.

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org and writes a weekly newsletter on the transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can subscribe here. Kristen can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare.

Poynter’s coverage of local news and resources for them is made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation



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