In this week’s member Q&A, we talked to Rick Gunter, the owner and publisher of The Crewe-Burkeville Journal in Crewe, Virginia, about how he and his staff are dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
Q: How have you had to adjust the way you cover your community during the coronavirus crisis?
A: Most community meetings obviously have been canceled. Those that are still held practice social distancing. We rely more on email and telephone calls than in the past. Not having town and county government meetings seems strange, but we have adjusted.
Q: What are some of the creative ways you have come up with to generate advertising revenue during a time when many businesses are not open?
A: Not having a slew of retailers even before the pandemic who advertised is now nearly a blessing. Our community 15 years ago lost its only full-service grocer. We overcame that and learned to deal with hard times long before the pandemic arrived. We are attempting to give even better service to the advertisers we retain. It is a tough situation, and I expect it to get even harder depending on the length of the shutdown.
Q: What has been your primary focus at the newspaper during these unprecedented times?
A: Our paper is full of news about the pandemic. Even in this social media age, we believe readers want to see this news. We feel an obligation to provide it as best we can.
Q: Is there anything you are doing now as a result of COVID-19 that you think you will continue after everything gets back to normal?
A: I am unsure if things ever will be normal again. Or we are headed for a new normal. I have owned The Journal for nearly 21 years. I have never taken readers, advertisers, and others for granted. They are even more important to us now. I just hope the public understands that daily and weekly newspaper are relevant in their lives. I hope they know that we, unlike Facebook, cannot report anything without responsibility behind it. Our craft remains the truth tellers, and this is a time, as no other in my long career, when the truth is crucial but often sadly controversial.
Q: What has been one of the most positive aspects during the crisis for your newspaper?
A: To love each other. To value family, friends and colleagues and embrace a sense of community that perhaps we as a society were losing before all this mess hit us and our country was so unprepared and still is unprepared at the highest levels to deal with it.
Q: When you look back on this time a few years down the road, what do you think will be most memorable for you?
A: If our paper survives this ultimate crisis, then I will be proud that we weathered perhaps the biggest storm we have faced here in two decades. We have had other crises, but this one is unlike the others and hardest because so many things are out of our control.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: I love being a lifer newspaperman. I hope I have some more years left to practice my craft, to serve people and show my love for them in the best and worst of times.