It was the type of text that rocks your world, triggering a thousand thoughts at once.
“My diagnostic test came back positive this afternoon,” my longtime colleague and friend Martin Wilbur, The Examiner’s Editor-in-Chief and founding journalistic voice, wrote me on Nov. 11, delivering the news that he contracted COVID-19.
Gratitude can be a complicated emotion, because it’s too often a byproduct of unpleasant developments in our lives.
In the wrenching weeks that have followed Martin’s diagnosis, as he continued to keep me posted about his family’s battle with this vicious, indiscriminating, apolitical but politicized beast of a virus in the lead up to Thanksgiving, I kept reminding myself of all I had to be thankful for during this admittedly vexing year.
Setting aside personal gratitude to family, friends and staff for the purpose of this thank you note, let me first say I’ve never been more acutely aware of just how much Examiner Media’s success is inextricably linked to your readership and support. Our readers and advertisers are our oxygen, and, improbably, we’re now breathing as comfortably as ever thanks to you.
In March, as the world was turned on its head by a global pandemic, our small local news publishing company was shook to its core, forcing layoffs and a fundamental restructuring of how we operate. In the days, weeks and months that followed, we turned to you for assistance. The result was hundreds of small donations totaling more than thirty-thousand critical dollars. And, just as fortifying, a seemingly endless stream of messages expressing your admiration and appreciation of the professionally reported local journalism we’ve been producing for the past 13 years.
As the founder and publisher, you might assume I always possessed a precise idea of the depth of appreciation the community holds for our publications. It’s not to say I was entirely unfamiliar. It’s to say I already knew the appreciation was deep and profound but, as I learned, the appreciation ran far deeper than I previously understood. In fact, the truth of the matter is, your insistence that we continue, recover and return strong was deeper than even my own initial response. As I wrote once before, there was a fleeting moment in March — and I promise it was literally just a moment — when I allowed myself to imagine a different professional future, one where I permitted the virus’ roaring waves to wash our newspapers away. You, on the other hand, didn’t flinch. You immediately demanded our continued long-term presence covering your town board meetings, your school board work sessions, your homecoming games, your local parades. You demanded it in deed and in words, and here we are, thanks to you.
Let me also say a word about this virus as we enter the holiday season. We have been covering the impact of COVID-19 since the beginning, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and this moment in time worries me as much as any. With something of a finish line finally within sight, with the development of several promising and seemingly miraculous vaccines on their way, let’s redouble efforts to remain safe, and not fall victim to the ill effects of an understandable but fatally dangerous COVID safety fatigue. While we can take some genuine comfort knowing how far we’ve come with treatments, the daily decisions we face are no ordinary exercise in risk assessment, like the patently absurd comparisons to our logical willingness to risk the flu in our pre-pandemic lives. There’s a reason the expression “avoid it like the plague” exists as the ultimate expression of caution.
As I can now personally conclude, based on Martin’s experience, you genuinely wouldn’t — or shouldn’t — wish a bad case of this virus on your worst enemy. That’s the best way to process how much it could flatten you and your loved ones. Wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands with the same appropriate level of zeal you exhibited in March for your safety and the safety of those you love — and even for those you don’t. These months ahead promise to be a challenge but there’s very real, shining light glimmering on the warmer end of this 2020-2021 tunnel. Let’s make it there safely and prudently, controlling what we can control.
As I write this thank you note on Nov. 25, on the eve of our great American holiday, Martin, for his part, returned to work for the first time today, having endured hell, prepared to return to serve you with his impeccable brand of high quality community coverage. All of us at Examiner Media are that much more sympathetic and personally attuned to the havoc wrought by this yet-to-be-tamed beast. And in a very real sense, we are here, ready and poised to cover this next chapter, due to your generosity of spirit and deep appreciation for community journalism.
From all of us to all of you, thank you again. Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season to you and yours. Please make it a safe one so we can avoid more texts that rock our worlds.
Adam Stone, Publisher of Examiner Media