I’m writing this from our kitchen table. It’s mostly where I’ve been editing the ADN these past days, on a laptop and a phone. We’ve been publishing adn.com and the print newspaper remotely like this for the past two weeks. Reporters, editors, photographers and many others are working as much as possible from home as the coronavirus emergency deepens. Virtually everyone is on the story, and the coverage has been as energetic, thorough and useful as we can muster.
Across Alaska, everything is haywire. So many of our day-to-day lives and routines have changed suddenly and in huge ways. We’ve watched with growing alarm as the pandemic spread around the world, across the United States, to Alaska. We’ve seen health systems buckle. As of Sunday evening, more than 2,500 people in the U.S. had died, including three Alaskans. Public health authorities are pleading with us to stay home, wash our hands, keep our distance. A blizzard of alarming news alerts piles up constantly on our phones. We’re all wondering what’s next.
Alaska businesses have shut down overnight or severely cut back hours. Thousands of Alaskans are suddenly out of work. We all know people who are affected. Last weekend, I talked with two local business owners I’ve known for years, both worried over public health and the prospect of having to let employees go. They both ended up closing, at least for now.
We’re hardly immune here at the Daily News. Our company has been on solid financial ground, helped by steady, continued growth in paid online readership. But now, faced with a sudden plunge in advertising and event revenue over the past month, we’ve had to temporarily cut back hours and pay for all employees, along with some painful layoffs. This cost-cutting is aimed at the continuing viability and sustainability of the organization. A lot of Alaska businesses are in worse straits right now.
But here’s the thing: This is happening at a time when our coverage has rarely, if ever, reached as wide an audience or delivered as much impact. The ADN’s online reach has always been big — outsized for the size of our community and for the size of our organization — yet we’ve seen a significant surge in readers over the past couple weeks.
Our mission, and commitment, has never been more clear: To inform the people in our community about what’s happening. To produce timely, fact-based, clear-headed reporting that can be trusted. To hold officials and institutions accountable. To hold a mirror up to our world. To be a resource for information. To help connect people with each other. To help create and nurture community in the place we love.
None of that is changing. We are committed to being here for the long haul, being here for the community, being here for you. I’ve been inspired again and again by Alaskans doing their work in these tough days — not just my own co-workers doing extraordinary work under challenging conditions, but our friends and neighbors all over Alaska: health care professionals and delivery drivers, people stocking store shelves and caring for children and elders and those who need a hand. We’re seeing kindness, financial generosity, creativity and everyday grace at a time when we’re all stressed out.
We made a decision early on to make much of our coronavirus coverage free as a public service — and then we decided to make virtually all of it free. That continues. But it’s a risk. Doing this work and doing it well takes resources. It’s why we ask our heaviest users to pay for online access. We know people will pay for quality news online because thousands of adn.com readers do. But what happens when you suddenly make much of the content free?
A heartening thing happened: In recent days, we’ve seen among the biggest spikes in digital subscriptions at ADN ever. We’ve seen hundreds of new digital subscriptions even though the bulk of the content has been free. We’re touched and deeply grateful for the support. If you value what we do, haven’t subscribed yet and are able, please consider joining your neighbors in supporting local journalism.
We’ve also heard from a lot of readers: questions, words of encouragement, suggestions, feedback, ideas for things that need to be investigated, ideas for how to be useful. Stories have directly resulted from that input or been informed by it. Those emails, phone calls and texts are like rocket fuel to us.
We’re deeply grateful to our subscribers — print and digital — for making this work possible. The ADN has covered Alaska for decades: statehood and the 1964 earthquake, boom times and hard times, the oil spill and another earthquake. But it’s not just the big events — it’s thousands of stories about everyday life and everyday news, information people need, the building blocks of community. When the current crisis passes, we’re committed to still being here, doing all those things, listening, serving.
As always, thanks for reading and thanks from all of us for your continued support. Please stay safe and healthy.