Dear Beloved Community,
I want to avoid the pitfalls that may come with writing a letter to the community about COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
I don’t want to contribute to a panic, nor do I want to downplay the seriousness of this either.
I aim to speak from the heart and to be candid with you. I write this as a fellow member of the community, as a local business owner, and as the publisher of the leading source of hyper-local news in this town. I also write this as a father, husband, son, employer and friend.
I’m confused about this crisis. Over the last couple of weeks, I've read conflicting articles and analyses, with the worst case being that our country will be completely shut down in a few weeks, just like Italy. Indeed, since I began drafting this letter about a week ago, we’ve come close to this.
A Christian pastor and friend of mine reposted a column on Facebook by the late, brilliant C.S. Lewis, who wrote an essay in 1948 called “On Living in an Atomic Age.” The point of the Facebook post was to replace the phrase “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus,” and Lewis’ argument remains the same.
“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together,” Lewis wrote. “If we are all going to be destroyed by [coronavirus], let that [virus] when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about [coronavirus]…”
This is not a perfect analogy, because sadly, in the case of coronavirus, our own bodies may unknowingly be carrying the deadly weapon that could cause harm to someone else. But our overriding concern, especially for those of us relatively young and healthy, should not be focused on our own personal safety, but how our actions may impact the elderly and other vulnerable people.
But to Lewis’ point, as we are challenged as individuals, families and communities, and also as a country, our focus should not be entirely on how we prevent sickness and death, but how we live our lives, how we treat our neighbors, and how we act as leaders.
My own response has been far from perfect. Throughout this crisis, I’ve been incredibly concerned about the state of the local economy and how it will impact our clients, and frankly, how it will impact us. I’ve probably caused undue alarm for my children, my wife, and my employees.
But over the last week, I’ve been incredibly inspired by the leadership I’ve seen by my colleagues in each department of our business. One colleague who received a rare piece of good news last Thursday sent an email to the entire sales team as an inspirational note, and as an attempt to boost my mood and the mood of others.
Meanwhile, my editorial colleagues have become leaders in communicating breaking news through our TAPinto.net community websites and through our pages on Facebook. Because of their leadership, we’ve become an important pipeline of information to the community.
And the rest of our team has stepped up by simply being present, working hard, and trying to ignore all the pessimism surrounding us.
I want the community to know that we are here for you. Each week, either on Page 2 or Page 4, we provide a directory of phone numbers and email addresses that you can contact at this newspaper, and we encourage you to do so.
A newspaper is no ordinary business. We have the ability to make a positive, and in fact, life-saving impact on our community. An example of this was a story we published on the front page on March 5 in our sister publication, The Somers Record, about a local woman in need of a kidney and liver donation.
After publishing the article, three residents in Somers contacted the woman to say that they would donate a kidney to her, should they be a match. What a blessing that we could share this vital information, and what an amazing testament that we had readers respond with such an amazing offer of selflessness.
That is the spirit that is alive and well in our communities. This is the life that C.S. Lewis was calling us to live.
I know these health and economic scares are frightening. We will pull through this stronger than before. Throughout this temporary crisis, it is our pledge to you that we will be a calm, unifying force for good in the community.
CEO & Publisher of Halston Media Group