At 7:30 a.m. last Tuesday I was waiting my turn behind a strip of tape on the sidewalk outside the North Coast Co-op in Arcata. I hope you are following the rules, like me — in my case, shopping senior-only hours. I spotted store clerk Larry Crabb clicking a plastic hand counter at the door, letting in one customer at a time only after another had exited, keeping the number of shoppers inside at a steady 35. I tried not to overbuy that day (read: hoard). I felt some guilt as I threw an extra box of dried pasta into my cart.
We’re four months into this horrific, still-unfolding health and economic crisis, the likes of which our country has never experienced. Some say it’s the Spanish flu, which wasn’t Spanish at all, rolled into 9/11 with a major 2008-like recession staring right at us. Hard to wrap your mind around.
It’s been not yet a month since the full force of reality hit here on the North Coast. Those who were able began working from home. We downloaded lesson plans and started home-schooling our younger children and fetched the older ones home from college. High school proms and graduations, canceled. All sports, live music and neighborhood potlucks came to a halt. Life forever changed. Yet I wake up every day grateful and amazed. The food supply chain is working. We have clean air and water, and most of us are sleeping inside, keeping warm on these chilly spring days and nights. We have a small enough population that we can get outside and walk while avoiding close contact with others.
I am grateful for Larry Crabb showing up for work. It turns out grocery and hardware store clerks have become frontline, essential workers, taking risks to keep supplies moving, being out and around so many people not-their-family, while the rest of us hunker down at home. Restaurant workers who show up to prepare food to-go, thank you. (Meatloaf at the Fieldbrook Market Friday was awesome.) The feed store guy who loaded my car with chicken feed. I’m grateful for him. The pharmacy clerk.
And every person remotely related to the medical community — from EMTs on ambulances to nurses and physicians to the janitors who clean. I am in awe of you. How dependent we are upon them. Watching reports from New York hospitals and emergency rooms is more frightening than a horror movie, and we can only hope we see nothing like that here. The Journal was planning a big 30th anniversary blow-out party this July but that, too, is on hold. So I’d like to take this space and opportunity now to thank each and every one of our readers, many of whom have been with us since day 1 in 1990.
Readers are why we have the privilege of being able to help so many individuals and businesses with their advertising and marketing. Because of our loyal readers, we sell those eyeballs, and the revenue from advertisers pays our reporters, graphic artists and the commercial printer and his crew out on the Samoa peninsula. Last time we checked, half of Humboldt County reads this weekly newspaper in print and we have made great strides building our online readership, as well. We are forever grateful to our advertisers. They have allowed us for three decades to serve this community, employing creative people who produce quality, award-winning journalism.
Make no mistake: We will all be hurt by this crisis. There will be smaller losses, like not seeing your senior walk at high school graduation, not being able to visit extended family or have friends for dinner for who knows how long. Unfortunately there will larger, almost unthinkable losses, like having a loved one die without you at their bedside.
There will be profound economic losses as well, including all those workers joining the unemployment line. Amazingly, some of our advertisers are in fact doing OK. In almost every store selling essentials, sales are up and some are even hiring. But so many other Journal advertisers — restaurants, hotels and the all-important tourism industry, car dealers, small shop owners, the local dance studios — all have suffered an immediate and devastating drop in business in March. Many are closed. So me will not be able to make it through the recession — to reopen, recover and rebuild. (This is a good place to shout out to the Small Businesses Development Center, www.northcoastsbdc.com, 445-9720. If your business hasn’t contacted them yet for guidance, don’t delay.)
The Journal, so critically dependent on local independent businesses, is far from immune. We are trying to quickly assess our own drop-off in business. Like so many others, we had to immediately lay off a number of employees. Everyone else left on our staff of 18 is working greatly reduced hours. We immediately cut in half the number of pages in our print newspaper, always a big expense item, and we reduced the number of newsstands to only essential service locations that you visit already to be safe. (Our drivers wear gloves to handle the papers.) We also reached out to some of our competitors to explore opportunities of cooperation and collaboration to keep the news flowing. (If you have ideas, please contact me.)
Finally, we are launching a voluntary member/subscription program so you, our readers, can help support local print journalism in a direct way. It starts at a grassroots level of $5 a month, but if you can afford $15 a month or more, you will receive mail delivery of the Journal every Thursday and our eternal thanks. (If you prefer to pick up the paper on Wednesdays at your local grocery store, donate your subscription back and we’ll send it to a homebound senior.) To sign up, go to our website at www.ncjshop.com.
Will this be enough? We don’t know, but we have hope. We’re working on the next print edition now. We want to be around when those restaurants, bars and dance studios reopen to celebrate with you.
In the meantime, take good care of yourself and your immediate family. Read books you’ve been meaning to read, do puzzles, take long walks or just sit quietly on the porch. Baking bread is therapy for me. Teach your children to look for peace and joy in every day. It’s how our grandparents lived their lives and survived. If you’re young enough, symptom-free and work in an essential job, show up but stay safe. We thank you. Volunteer if you can. If you are a senior who has been ordered to stay home, please do and take the time to reach out and visit with others via Facetime, Skype or by phone. Let them know they are not alone. We are all in this together.
— Judy Hodgson is the Journal’s co-owner and publisher, and prefers she/her pronouns.