Michael Smith, a reporter at The Daily Ardmoreite in Ardmore, Oklahoma, has had to train himself to become a health reporter, a fill-in editor and still somehow cover the school districts at his newspaper in the southern part of the state.
Starting out as a part-time education reporter at the paper in 2019 (after a stint working in radio journalism) Smith was hired full-time in that role at the 3,000-circulation paper. With a newsroom of five, including three reporters, of which Smith is one, the paper has had to make some tough adjustments on the fly, sending its staff home to work while they took care of their families.
While he’s grateful to work from home, Smith says he misses the newsroom.
“(One) of the hardest things to get used to is having to rely almost exclusively on phone calls or FaceTime, and just not really having that camaraderie with my colleagues,” he said.
Despite this and other challenges, he’s proud of his work covering the prolonged medical crisis in his city. Part of that means “just making people understand how stretched thin local health care resources have been in recent weeks,” he said, reflecting on his stories from the late fall of 2020.
Ultimately, he says he still sees “hyper-local journalism as probably one of the most important pieces of journalism, because it’s those local stories that affect the readers or the listeners every single day.”
Listen to the oral history interview:
See the front page of The Daily Ardmoreite from April 10, 2020.
See the front page of The Daily Ardmoreite from Dec. 2, 2020.
See more from The Essential Workers, an oral history project tracking the experiences of locally owned newspapers in Mid-America during the pandemic.