This reporter took a buyout, but he’s still helping his former paper with coronavirus coverage ideas

Your daily look at how local news is covering and coping with life during the coronavirus pandemic

April 1, 2020

Pat Furgurson texted his former colleague.

“Hey there, you still on the corona beat?”

He shared a project supporting local businesses through gift cards with Capital Gazette reporter Selene San Felice.

“Miss y’all. Stay safe. #PressOn,” wrote Furgurson, who was one of the reporters who covered the shooting in his newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, recognized along with them with a Pulitzer citation, appeared with them on the cover of Time Magazine as 2018’s Person of the Year, and who, in February, took a buyout.

“…We’re all on the corona beat now,” San Felice responded. “Miss you more!!!!”

“Also, I saw another local effort,” Furgurson wrote. “Someone has set up a table on the circle on Arundel Beach Rd. just of Ritchie giving away bag lunches ‘for those in need.’”

San Felice went to check it out, and a few days later, her story was up: ‘For anyone who needs it’: Neighborhood mom leaves free lunches, message on table in Severna Park.

That story is just 169 words, but since it published last week, it’s gotten thousands of shares.

Her former colleague has a great eye, San Felice said.

While most journalists aren’t in their newsrooms right now, they can be in their communities to spot stories like this, both physically and virtually.

“If people feel safe, I would encourage them to just drive around the neighborhoods and look for things like that. And also scour the neighborhood Facebook groups,” she said. “People really want to share good news right now, so they’ll be extra willing to help.”

In Annapolis, that help comes through an ongoing act of kindness. Here’s the lead of San Felice’s story:

In Severna Park, kindness comes in the form of a folding table and brown bags.

Someone has been leaving bagged lunches outside the Arundel Beach Road traffic circle every day from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

A sign on the table reads, “For anyone who needs it…I will be leaving some healthy sack lunches on this table for you if you are hungry and need to eat. Made with love by a neighborhood mom in a clean and sanitized kitchen.”

Here are a few other ways local newsrooms are covering the story of the coronavirus:

  • The Indianapolis Star harnessed our love for our furry new full-time coworkers in this piece featuring submitted photos of people working from home with their pets. Thank you, Chewy, Moira, Kitty, Charlie Brown and the rest of you. You’re good boys and girls.
  • WRAL in North Carolina created “Here to Help: Support Local Businesses.” The virtual fundraiser raised $275,000 for the NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund. The TV station also created a directory of local businesses offering take-out, pick-up, curbside and other options.
  • Good news is in short supply right now, unless you know where to look. There are two things I like about this piece from the Tampa Bay Times, which Poynter owns. One: It’s a collection of 10 uplifting stories. And two: These are all stories the Times reported out recently, and this is a great way to remind people of that work in a different way.

Related: People are dying alone because of the coronavirus. This journalist told the story of a nurse trying to help families stay connected.

Newsroom watch:

I’m collecting news of layoffs/furloughs and shut-downs here. And like Monday, Tuesday was another rough day. Send me tips here.

One question: How can we help our colleagues experiencing furloughs and layoffs right now? I’m collecting tips, ideas and suggestions.

Related: How can local newsrooms cover the coronavirus and offer a break from it? Like this.

Help wanted:

One way Poynter wants to help right now is by sharing and amplifying all the resources we can. Please send me more.

Related: Poynter announces free News University courses to help journalism educators and students

Today’s front:

This front page from Newsday in Long Island feels like something we’ll be seeing in the history books. It’s via Newseum.

Related: We’re all in this together, and the work of local news shows it

Bright spots:

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org. She can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare

This daily roundup of coverage by local news and resources for them is made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation