The coronavirus that’s affected lives and upended operations across the globe has become the kind of transformational business story that only comes around once every generation.
At MiBiz, we first covered the issue in early February, when it started disrupting supply chains for West Michigan-based auto suppliers. At the time, coronavirus seemed contained to an outbreak in Hubei province in China.
Little did we know the virus would be practically the only story on everyone’s minds back in West Michigan within a few short weeks.
In response, we ramped up our editorial coverage in early March as the coronavirus outbreak spread throughout the United States, eventually landing in Michigan. Including the articles in this edition, MiBiz has reported more than 100 stories related to the pandemic, its effect on West Michigan and the response from the acute economic fallout it caused.
On our website, we opened our journalism to everyone, lifting our paywall to allow anyone who wanted access to our coverage, which normally is available only to subscribers. It’s absolutely the right call in times of crisis when people are hungry for information, worried about their loved ones and their livelihoods, and trying to find ways to help.
After all, as so many people have said in recent days, “We’re all in this together.”
Based on our web stats, readers clearly took notice of our reporting. Our website traffic has nearly quadrupled in the past two weeks compared to the prior two weeks, and March has been our busiest month of web traffic ever, by far.
I say all that, yet our reporters are not paid by the click; they have no story quota they need to reach in a given time period, no social media engagement requirements.
Their directive: Do good journalism, and work with editors to hone story angles, write timely articles and provide value for our readers.
It’s as simple as that.
And they’ve stepped up in a major way, even without actually being together in the newsroom. All of us have been working from home for more than two weeks, keeping in contact via Google Hangout, text and email. We maintain a standing early afternoon conference call to discuss story ideas, help with sourcing and share tips, as well as check in on one another’s mental health, share memes or enjoy a quarantine-mandated virtual happy hour — at 2:45 p.m.
As an editor, it’s been remarkable to see our small but scrappy reporting team grind day in and day out to help readers make sense of this unprecedented crisis, from both a humanitarian and business perspective. Despite all the disruption, concern and remarkable volume of information flowing at them all day every day, they have risen to the challenge and delivered.
Their commitment to delivering old-school journalism has been inspiring to me, and judging by the emails and texts I’ve received this week, it’s been important for others, too.
Thank you for your readership. We will be here for you.
In other news, one of our MiBiz team members is moving on starting Monday. After more than a year on the team, reporter Sydney Smith is departing for a new opportunity in a new industry, although she’s staying in Grand Rapids.
Sydney — or Scoops Smith™ as I’ve dubbed her on Facebook — has left her mark on the real estate coverage in MiBiz, particularly as it relates to affordable housing and new developments, as well as on women’s and equality issues.
While I’m bummed she’s decided to leave journalism — she’s what we call a “true believer” in the fourth estate — I’m excited to watch her grow into a new challenge. (And maybe now I’ll finally be able to catch one of her standup shows or comedy productions with the Funny Girls troupe without being her boss creeping in the corner.)
Because of the pandemic and bar closure, we didn’t even get to give her a proper send-off. Once all this blows over, perhaps it will need to be a roast instead.
Stay safe, stay healthy and wash your damn hands!