March 2, 2021

Bonita Gooch is editor-in-chief and publisher of The Community Voice, which she bought in 1996. Although based in Wichita, the Black newspaper also serves Kansas City and broader Kansas.

Before COVID-19, the 17,000 free circulation newspaper came out every two weeks. But with the rapid developments of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter, the paper turned into a 24/7 news cycle as online readership doubled.

To help cover the decline in advertising, Gooch cobbled together a Report for America reporter and grants while working on a membership campaign and sponsorship of solutions-based journalism projects. Gooch has seen the benefit of public officials using Zoom, which makes news events more accessible to small papers that don’t have time to travel. However, her paper is still primarily focused on enterprise and features.

“At one point, we just had to make a decision. We can’t hang with the big boys,” she said. “I don’t have the staffing to try to be out there breaking news all the time. We’re just gonna have to find our way, in a way that works for us, to deliver this news and remember who we are and who our readers are.”

Listen to the oral history interview:

Read the transcript.

See a story from The Community Voice from May 7, 2020.

See a story from The Community Voice from June 25, 2020.

See the front page of The Community Voice from Oct. 7, 2020.

See more from The Essential Workers, an oral history project tracking the experiences of locally owned newspapers in Mid-America during the pandemic.

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Teri Finneman is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas. She previously worked as a print journalist and multimedia correspondent covering state…
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