Gannett Journalists Keep Their Local Communities Informed With Critical COVID-19 News Throughout Year of Pandemic

One year ago this month, as coronavirus took hold across the United States and in our local communities, Gannett journalists began reporting on new mask mandates, local restaurant closings and remote schooling for children. In the months since, our journalists have leveraged the local-to-national footprint of the USA TODAY NETWORK to keep their local communities informed with critical COVID-19 news, including recent updates about where to find the COVID-19 vaccine.

USA TODAY and USA TODAY Network newsrooms have used innovative storytelling, such as a USA TODAY graphical explainer tracking the spread and infographic piece on what coronavirus does to your body, to help audiences understand the virus; worked together across newsrooms on major projects, such as the series that highlighted essential food workers; and relied on local expertise to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities they serve.

Early in the pandemic, Gannett journalists shared first-person stories that amplified community voices. As panic surged, they checked in with experts on the front lines to tell their stories. They showcased voices of people who emerged on the other side of the virus, provided daily news updates, rolling blogs and constant news coverage. They worked to answer questions and tamp down rumors. They went beyond headlines to explain key issues and add context for readers.

“Our journalists have been on the front lines of the pandemic since it started, and in many of our communities, we are the only source of local news on issues of critical importance. COVID-19 has spotlighted to a greater degree the value of local journalism,” said Amalie Nash, senior vice president of local news for the USA TODAY Network. “We take that responsibility seriously and have been heartened and grateful for the support we’ve received from our readers.”

Here are some notable examples of how Gannett journalists have kept their communities informed with critical COVID-19 news:

Early on, USA TODAY NETWORK journalists shared first-person stories that amplified community voices.

  • The Detroit Free Press retold the story of a worker who was fired for following the state’s stay home order.
  • The Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, MO, shared the story, “COVID-19 hits four generations of one Republic family: Family shares terrible toll.”
  • William Ramsey, editor of the Staunton News Leader, wrote a deeply personal first-person piece on the condition that puts him at higher risk due to the coronavirus.
  • The Times Reporter in New Philadelphia, Ohio, had a first-person account of a local judge who contracted COVID-19 and recounted his symptoms by day during his emotional journey.

As panic surged, USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms checked in with experts on the front lines of the crisis to tell their stories.

  • The Columbus Dispatch published a first-person column from an emergency room physician.
  • Rochester Democrat and Chronicle staffers held Facebook live sessions from their homes on “heroes and helpers,” offering people a means of seeking and offering help.
  • Savannah Morning News had a first-person “journal-style” piece chronicling a physician’s fight against coronavirus.

To help calm communities, USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms showcased voices of people who emerged on the other side of the virus.

  • The Akron Beacon Journal engaged audiences with a piece on a reader’s fight with COVID-19 and day-by-day recovery.
  • The Detroit Free Press provided an in-depth profile of a local family dealing with the disease, “Metro Detroit family with coronavirus speaks out: ‘It’s unlike anything. Stay home.'”
  • The Burlington County Times found a couple who recounted their story of testing positive for coronavirus.

As uncertainty loomed early in the crisis, USA TODAY NETWORK journalists were there for their communities with daily news updates, rolling blogs and constant news coverage.

  • The Spectrum & Daily News created a rolling updated list of closures and stores with limited hours.
  • Lohud.com provided an interactive map of coronavirus cases by county in New York.
  • NorthJersey.com provided a map of all of the counties with cases of coronavirus in NJ.

USA TODAY NETWORK journalists worked to answer questions and tamp down rumors.

  • One of USA TODAY’s most read pieces described what sheltering in place means, blipping out the differences between states. USA TODAY also provided fact checks, such as, “No, you should not be wearing gloves in public.”
  • Connecting readers to resources, Houma Today told Louisiana parents that if they were working in essential services, they could apply for child care assistance.
  • The Des Moines Register tackled coronavirus claims in the fact-check piece, “Has Iowa really ‘flattened the curve’? Our ruling: The claim needs more support.”

USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms covered local businesses and restaurant plights as they learned to live under new rules.

  • The Asheville Citizen-Times listed 5 ways you can help keep Asheville restaurants, staff, going amid coronavirus controls.
  • The Austin American-Statesman provided tips on where to find supplies and local businesses offering up collections of groceries. The piece also included ways shoppers could help frazzled grocery store workers.
  • The Arizona Republic spoke directly to the service industry, listing 4 resources for metro Phoenix restaurant and bar workers unemployed due to coronavirus. The Republic also wrote, “Coronavirus is shutting down local stores. Here’s how to support Phoenix small businesses.”

USA TODAY NETWORK reporters answered reader questions directly with Q&As.

  • The Indianapolis Star engaged audiences with the piece, “Indiana unemployment: Your questions answered.”
  • Gannett’s New York bureau did a Q&A on what happens if New Yorkers disobey Cuomo’s mask order.
  • The Louisville Courier hosted a Facebook Live Q&A with Kentucky’s governor and asked readers to submit questions ahead of time.

USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms went beyond headlines to explain key issues and add context for readers.

  • The Columbus Dispatch had a creative piece told through illustrations and narrative that chronicled a couple and their symptoms, “How and why coronavirus makes you so ill.”
  • The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel continued a trend of deep enterprise with reporting pushing back on why officials aren’t sharing data on hospitals and coronavirus infection rates.
  • Lansing State Journal explained, “Stages of a pandemic: Breaking down Gov. Whitmer’s 6-phase response to re-open Michigan’s economy.”

USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms helped weigh the costs of reopening.

  • The news team at the Jackson Sun read their local government’s reopening plan and parsed it for readers, “We read Jackson, Madison County’s plan to reopen the economy post-coronavirus. Here’s what it says.”
  • IndyStar had a piece answering key questions, “When does Indiana’s stay-at-home order end? When is quarantine over? What you need to know.”
  • The Arizona Republic had a piece around public health expert summaries on when Arizona can reopen. The Republic also wrote, “‘Life has got to go on’: Here’s what happened when Arizona restaurants started reopening.”

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