Working from home for three weeks now, I’ve found myself wondering how we would have coped with a pandemic shutdown 20 or 30 years ago.
It’s hard to imagine our team could have published the newspaper completely from home, other than printing and delivering, of course. Teachers surely would not have been able to instruct students via video conferencing with live smiling faces on their screens.
The technology we’ve been worried about keeping people apart is now bringing us together, whether it’s our Akron Beacon Journal morning news meetings, my son watching college lectures or a streaming birthday party. There’s something reassuring about seeing people instead of just hearing them on the phone.
Nearly all of our journalists continue to cover the pandemic from their homes instead of our newsroom except when they need to venture out to capture photos and witness events. The same is true for advertising representatives, circulation managers and customer service, the latter of which is being done from homes.
It’s been especially challenging for our photographers who must venture out with longer-range lenses to visually document what’s happening and the eerie empty streets. Our press crews and carriers also must leave their homes to ensure papers are available each day.
Our goal is to keep our team as safe as possible and do our part to prevent further spread of this horrible virus.
We’re incredibly grateful for the many readers who have reached out to thank us for our coverage on this unprecedented story. Your words mean a lot, and I often forward them to the entire newsroom.
We know many people are depending on our efforts to fully comprehend what’s happening. We’re still providing coronavirus content for free as a public service and asking online readers to subscribe at least digitally.
That interest was evident in our March online readership at BeaconJournal.com as we nearly set a record for page views despite losing significant sports content due to cancellations. Overall, page views were up nearly 25% from last year.
More importantly, we saw incredible levels of engaged readership, which is more important to me. It’s one thing for a reader to click on an article, but it’s more meaningful to see people actually spending time comprehending our reporting.
In March, the number of online users reading content doubled from February and nearly tripled earlier months. Our total engaged minutes grew by 141% from February.
Here’s which stories attracted the most attention in terms of engaged minutes during March.
Hudson coronavirus patient: ‘Like nothing I had ever quite experienced’: 344,676 minutes.
National expert from Akron answers coronavirus questions: 87,518 minutes.
What are essential businesses under Ohio’s stay-at-home order? Here’s the list: 67,938 minutes.
Summit County has 5 cases, state up to 67; primary election delayed; more closures: 59,672 minutes.
Summit County has 86 cases and five deaths; state up to 1,406 cases, 25 deaths: 57,927 minutes.
Watch Gov. DeWine, White House updates; U.S. closes borders; OHSAA not canceling sports yet, 53,401 minutes.
Daughter charged with killing her mother in Akron, 40,635 minutes.
Wadsworth wrestling with race after student newspaper story, superintendent apology, 40,030 minutes.
Summit County Public Health closes businesses deemed non-essential during coronavirus pandemic, 37,396 minutes.
Column: An emergency room physician writes from the COVID-19 front lines, 32,814 minutes.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of downsides to this situation, including a loss of advertising revenue from businesses facing their own unexpected challenges and unknown futures. As a result, most of our employees are being asked to take three unpaid furlough weeks between Monday and June.
Rest assured, we will do our best to continue providing as much coverage as possible.
In addition, American Profile, a magazine published monthly by Parade, is ceasing publication in late April by its choice, not ours. This is not the same as Parade magazine, which is in today’s inserts but will not appear next week due to Easter.
Michael Shearer is editor of the Akron Beacon Journal and BeaconJournal.com and northern Ohio regional editor for Gannett’s USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at 330-996-3750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.