What a time this COVID-19 pandemic has been.
When this all began there seemed to be very few choices for Canadians. Businesses were locked down, staff were sent home and the lucky few – depending on how you look at that – were declared essential. Such was the case for the newspaper business.
Leaving stage two and entering the third stage of re-opening on Friday (July 17), seemed an opportune time to look back over the 18 weeks of effort here. Our people did well, for our organization and the community itself.
In mid-March the future was unknown, really. The extent of transmission, the absence of clear pandemic plans here and elsewhere, the almost-hourly changes in outlook – our people were there, reporting and updating the website on a 24/7 cycle. The Advertiser did not miss a single print edition either.
Thanks for that is owed to a solid core of good people, willing to put their shoulder to the wheel. Every end of the business rallied to ensure they kept up their end of the bargain.
In the first days of this there was every reason to believe the pandemic was an existential threat to this newspaper. If the press went down, if there were illnesses amongst our staff or if carriers were denied access to homes, the whole enterprise could have disappeared.
But, we soldiered on.
Thanks to key advertisers stepping up, the initial 70% drop in weekly revenue was quickly stabilized. Other communities across the province of Ontario were less fortunate and watched as their community newspaper went online only or folded up completely.
As the weeks progress we hope to get back to seasonal page counts and to begin publishing extra projects that we do, in aid of cultural and tourism pursuits. It has been a trying time and while we are not out of the woods yet, it appears businesses are re-grouping and the economy is rebounding. Patience will be critical.
For those who have kept the faith these past 18 weeks, a huge thanks is in order.
Civil servants and local politicians have been an inspiration in recent months. Few know the stress and strain that comes with being responsible for citizens and community assets. It was not a time for self-adulation nor flippant responses, nor weakness in character. Instead, a steady hand was needed and Wellington is now entering stage three, while neighbouring regions still struggle in phase two.
Citizens have also done their part, choosing to embrace safety guidelines and working with authorities to ensure every possible way to thwart the virus was supported – masks, physical distancing, avoiding large groups, helping neighbours and caring for others.
The unfulfilled had something unproductive to say here and there, as they always do, but the vast majority of residents met the largest challenge of all during this ordeal head-on, which was to remain positive and decent to others.
Everyone has a contribution to make and that was very true each step this county took together in recent weeks.
References have been made to the fight so far as resembling a war. That was certainly the perspective adopted here when the shutdown began. Since then the financial repercussions and fallout for every level of government has harkened back to World War II times.
In conversation with a good friend a few weeks back I asked if he had PTSD, which drew a laugh and then an admission that the concept of shock had been on his mind a few minutes earlier. This has been one heck of a time for people with responsibilities for others. Hopefully some time off will help with coming to terms with an event and circumstances not seen in generations.
A great hope of mine as this event unfolded was to declare victory in a headline at some point. Initially my thought was eight weeks might look after the closure period and resumption of business. That misplaced optimism now waits on an antidote, which is still months away from approval for use.
So, as we wait, each of us doing our level best to contribute to the well-being of others, let us focus on the common good.
Together we will win this. Victory will be ours in due time.