Kelsey Ryan was supposed to start her job at The Joplin (Missouri) Globe in July of 2011. On the May day after a tornado tore through town and killed more than 150 people, she got a call from the newsroom.
Could she start early?
She was told not to drive at night. The power lines were all down.
So Ryan loaded up her car, left home in Emporia, Kansas, and was there by dawn the next day.
“It’s kind of like my whole career is like that,” said Ryan, founder of The Beacon.
She launched the nonprofit site in Kansas City after being laid off from The Kansas City Star. Ryan’s been building a board, a business plan and members (The Beacon’s fiscal sponsor is the Kansas Newspaper Foundation), and planned to start publishing this summer.
After the coronavirus became the singular story of our times, she moved that launch up to March 12 using the newsletter she started building to update supporters. It has more than 1,200 subscribers.
The Beacon is focused on in-depth coverage, not breaking news, though any journalist who makes that shift will tell you that’s a tough muscle to ignore. Ryan and the reporters she’s working with now are focusing on solutions journalism and telling stories through the newsletter, which comes out several times a week.
She’s also working with other local newsrooms in a weekly call meant to foster resource sharing and pooling.
“This is a really hard time for advertiser-based businesses,” Ryan said. “If there’s something that we can do to help others, we want to do that.”
Ryan, a former health care reporter who also covered the 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, said that in some ways, covering the coronavirus is like covering a natural disaster.
“The difference to me is with Joplin, while it is a horrible event, it is a one-time thing,” she said. “It happened, it’s a day that changes your life, and you know that outside of this city, the world is normal.”
And in places where it’s normal, people send in help
“What’s different with this is it’s so drawn out. No one’s coming to help you. Because everyone is going through it.”
But there is help for journalists who want to start their own news sites.
Ryan, who’s also the membership and community manager for Local Independent Online News Publishers, said if you’ve been laid off or you want to start your own newsroom, there are a lot of resources out there to help, including from LION and the Institute for Nonprofit News.
Not everyone wants to start their own thing, she said.
“But if someone has this nagging feeling inside that they could do this, they should.”
Here are a few other examples of how local newsrooms are covering the story of the coronavirus:
- In Minneapolis, Southwest Journal is collecting Voices from the Pandemic.
- Journalists and newsrooms in Charlotte, North Carolina, are working together for their community.
- And in Texas, KERA changed its weekday lineup to help kids stuck at home (and the parents who love them but have to work, darn it) keep learning.
Monday was rough. Again. You can keep up with the full list here.
- On Monday, TEGNA announced furloughs and pay cuts at stations company-wide, making it the first of the big TV owners to do so.
- The Dallas Morning News told staff of pay cuts.
- Last week, layoffs and furloughs hit newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital, including The Denver Post and The Boston Herald.
One way Poynter wants to help right now is by sharing and amplifying all the resources we can. Please send me more, and check out this growing list of resources, which I’m updating daily. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.
- The National Press Club and the American Medical Association will deliver a live national address “about the essential need for relying on science and data to protect public health” at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7.
- Power Shift Project is hosting a webinar on “Taking Care of Journalists and Journalism” at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 8.
- Solutions Journalism Network is hosting a webinar on how to do solutions journalism from home at 2 p.m. April 9.
- ICFJ will present the webinar Press freedom threats and COVID-19: An essential part of the story at 10:30 a.m. on April 9.
- The Institute for Nonprofit News will present a “Leadership in Difficult Times” roundtable at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 9.
- IRE and SPJ are hosting a “Fact-checking coronavirus” webinar at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 9.
- Check out NPPA’s resource guide.
- Poynter has collected details on a number of funds raising money for furloughed and laid off journalists.
- You can rewatch this IRE webinar on fighting for open records during the COVID-19 crisis.
- And here’s a tip sheet from IRE on fighting for public records.
Not going to stop looking for these, even when they’re small.
- Congrats to all the IRE award winners!
- The Miami Herald’s Carlos Frías said it better than anyone else has in this tweet: “A newspaper is not a place; it’s a contract that says when the world is going sideways, reporters are out doing their best work …”
- WZTV reported on a 6-year-old who beat the coronavirus.
- “Within hours of launching custom COVID-19 Local News Fund donation pages, hundreds of readers had donated more than $17,000 to half a dozen local publishers.”
- This made me cry, but happy tears. Skip to around the nine-minute mark if you’re a Hamilton fan.
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 email@example.com 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
Correction: Two webinars were credited to the wrong institutions, they have been updated. We apologize for the error.