April 2, 2020

People who can are working from home right now. But when your whole business is live storytelling events in cities across the country, well, you gotta pivot.

Tonight,  USA Today’s Storytellers Project is doing that with the first in a series of national virtual storytelling nights. (You can watch them on YouTube or Facebook at 8 p.m. Eastern. )

While the Storytellers Project hosts live events in 20 cities, “there’s no reason why we can’t tell stories online. Period,” said Megan Finnerty, the project’s founder and director.

The theme of the night is meant to uplift all of us who are stuck at home right now, worried about loved ones, our jobs, our communities, the planet, etc. Those stories will be told by five people from their own homes around the country.

“This is just uplifting,” Finnerty said. “There are no sad or difficult truths. We have very good stories all the time that are about the sad, hard things that can happen.”

But that’s not what you’ll see tonight.

“This is counterprogramming,” Finnerty said.

The Storytellers Project has had to pause 23 shows so far through the middle of May. Finnerty figures about $150,000 in business has evaporated from the Storytellers Brand Studio, the consulting side of the editorial project. Staff, which are part of Gannett, are also dealing with this week’s news of company-wide furloughs (something a lot of newsrooms are facing right now).

In 18 years in at Gannett, this is Finnerty’s third round of furloughs.

“I feel incredibly lucky to be as busy as I’ve ever been and to have all kinds of opportunities to continue serving our communities with really high-quality journalism,” she said.

Everyone’s struggling right now, she said. But there’s still work to be done, even if it’s all new.

“It is a blessing to be useful.”

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

  • In The Buffalo News, Sean Kirst tracked down the doctor whose firsthand account of working the “COVID floor” went viral. “While he has seen events that many of us would find unbearable, he has always managed to reach the kind of equilibrium that allows people in his profession to do their jobs. Yet what he saw Friday on the 12th floor involved an unsettling level of the unknown, a measure of fast-moving uncertainty and risk at such a point it made it difficult for him to sleep that night.”
  • Lisa Gartner wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer about doctors who have the coronavirus and are still seeing patients virtually. “She had contracted the coronavirus, and for nearly two weeks she has been quarantined alone inside her Philadelphia home. But rather than sitting out the greatest fight of her medical career, Joshi has been using telemedicine to continue treating patients with the same COVID-19 symptoms she’s feeling.”
  • And Block Club Chicago has created a list of resources for people who need them and it’s directing people how to help.

Related: Journalist with the coronavirus from hospital bed: “If you don’t believe in news, please believe in people that are sharing their stories”

Help wanted:

We’re collecting live trainings, sharing our own, looking for resources and funding opportunities for newsrooms

Today’s front is all of us:

The Tampa Bay Times’ TBT, via Newseum:

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Bright spots: 

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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