The speed of economic disruption from the novel coronavirus in Oregon has been astonishing.
The consequences came into riveting focus this week when two iconic Oregon businesses — Powell's Books and McMenamins — simply shut their doors and temporarily laid off thousands of workers. They are just two of the most prominent employers reeling from the effects of the virus's presence in our communities. For the foreseeable future, restaurants and bars are closed or reduced to take-out service. Schools are out until the end of April, libraries are shuttered and employees of all types of industries have been told to scatter and work from home.
Given the brutal swiftness of this economic and health care challenge, all businesses — including the Pamplin Media Group — are scrambling to find their way forward under circumstances they've never encountered before.
For this group of newspapers and websites, that means adapting to new ways of doing business and pushing ahead with our ever-evolving methods of delivering the news to you. This sudden, massive shift in the local economy also makes it more urgent than ever to have support from you — our readers — who depend on us for vital information about how the coronavirus is affecting your communities.
Our highest priority is to protect the health of our employees, and by extension, their families and communities. To that end, we have asked a large portion of our 200-person workforce to telecommute. At the same time, many businesses that advertise with us have abruptly pulled back, because they are either temporarily closed or because they don't know what products they will have on their shelves to advertise.
This unexpected decrease in advertising has required us temporarily to shorten the paid work week for our employees, so we can avoid layoffs and keep critical benefits such as health insurance intact during this crisis.
Our employees are an amazing group of people who are dedicated to their form of community service. They will tell the stories of how this pandemic affects each of the dozens of communities we cover, and they will help local businesses and institutions continue to market and communicate with the public during this crucial moment.
It is difficult to chart a course amidst so much uncertainty. We don't know how many people will be infected or how long the economy will be in a holding pattern. So, like everyone else, the Pamplin Media Group must look at possibilities and contingencies:
• At the worst end of the scale, there's always a chance — remote, we hope — that the virus becomes so prevalent in workplaces that we are temporarily unable to print, or the U.S. Postal Service is temporarily unable to deliver your physical newspaper. In that case, our digital delivery of news — through our websites, E-editions, email and social media pages — becomes imperative.
• A less severe scenario might require us to assist and protect our pressroom employees by temporarily printing fewer geographic editions of our newspapers. In other words, we might, on a short-term basis, need to combine all Washington County newspapers into one print edition, and likewise for Clackamas and Multnomah counties.
• Along the same lines, we might have to rely on our mutual-assistance agreements with other newspaper companies in Oregon, which would allow us to print at their facilities (or them to print at ours) for a few days or weeks. Again, we will need the understanding of our readers, who might see changes in delivery days or newspaper formats.
These are just a few of the potential challenges we might face. The unknowns right now are far greater than what we know for sure. The Pamplin Media Group, which is the only news organization that puts actual journalists on the ground in every one of the communities we serve, is committed to keeping our readers informed of the coronavirus news and how it affects them and their neighbors.
Before the arrival of the coronavirus in Oregon, the Pamplin Media Group was enjoying tremendous support from our readers, who have signed up by the thousands (17,000 digital subscribers to date) in response to our call to save local journalism.
If you are reading this column, you may already have helped us in some manner, and we sincerely thank you even as we ask that you spread the word to others.
In a period in which false information can endanger lives, there's a critical need for trusted local news from professional journalists, and we ask that you continue to support us and other Oregon media outlets.
The coronavirus will pass. This is a temporary, if severe disruption. Nonetheless, our communities need to understand the fragile nature of beloved institutions like Powell's Books and McMenamins. Businesses will bounce back to their former, lively selves with the help of customers who show their support, and healthy news organizations to tell their stories.
Help save community journalism
With many businesses paring back their advertising budget, we are even more reliant on readers to support quality, local journalism. If you're a Pamplin Media Group print reader who hasn't yet explored your local community news website, we encourage you to do so. Digital access to a publication's website/E-edition is free with a print subscription. We would be happy to help you get your free access, give us a call today at 503-620-9797. If you aren't a print subscriber and haven't signed up for digital delivery, now is the time to do so at www.savinglocalnews.com.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.