A letter from the editors
By Aubrey Ann Parker and Jordan B. Bates
This is an unprecedented time in our history. As a world, as a nation, and most definitely in our own little northwest corner of the Mitten State. According to The Ticker, the last time that a pandemic hit our area hard was the Spanish flu in January 1919, when Leelanau County “quarantined itself, with police putting up a blockade at the county line.”
Though things have not gotten to those proportions, it is not hard to find all sorts of divisiveness today, almost exactly a century later. One need only log onto any social media platform to see people placing blame at the feet of others: politicians (local, state, and federal, on both sides of the aisle), multinational corporations, other countries, even everyday citizens with whom we disagree.
Part of the problem is also the solution: the isolation that we have been asked to do—sharing physical space only when it is absolutely essential—means less face-to-face contact and more time on screens. (This is certainly one of the ways that most differentiates the 2020 coronavirus pandemic from the 1918 Spanish flu.)
When communicating through a screen, it is easy to forget that there is a living, breathing human being on the other end, also behind a screen. A real person with a job, a family, personal problems, and fears that we very likely know nothing about.
Moreover, what we are all currently being asked to do—sacrifice the personal for “the greater good”—looks so different from what our grandparents and great-grandparents were asked to do in the 1940s during World War II. Instead of enlisting to take up arms overseas or leaving the home for the factory, we are being asked to stay in our homes, to not go anywhere. There is a fear of not knowing when this isolation period will end, when will life return to “normal?” Will life return to “normal?”
Fortunately, we are all in this together, and we can make the active choice to help each other through the fears, as Mr. Fred Rogers is often quoted as saying:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
That is what we have been doing at The Betsie Current: looking for the helpers, and trying to find our own ways to help.
That is what this issue is about: as always, we are a small-town newspaper that is focused on telling the “good news” of our area, and that is just as true now as ever—we believe strongly that, in this uncertain time, it is important for us all to keep perspective and to spread as much hope and positivity as possible.
In more ordinary times, the length of our newspaper depends on the number of advertisers—12-page papers are typically reserved for the middle of summer, when our local economy is in full swing. But here it is, the middle of April, when most of our economy is effectively shut down, and we are putting out a 12-pager. How? Because of the good people, businesses, and organizations who believe in the work that we are doing and want to help out in whatever way they can.
This 12-pager is a special issue, full of “good news” stories about local people stepping up in various ways—delivering food, making masks, volunteering their time, donating some dollars—but it also contains a resource document to help people through the pandemic: whether you are a year-round resident presently looking for a job, a seasonal resident who needs to self-quarantine for 14 days, or a now-stay-at-home parent who has exhausted your repertoire of recipes and needs to know who is still serving take-out.
Just like you, we are having to adapt our own model a bit—we would normally be delivering 3,500 copies to about 250 businesses; now we are planning to deliver 2,500 copies to about 25 grocery stores and gas stations (effectively the only places still open).
Additionally, we have had to think about what it means to call ourselves a “community newspaper.” What are the types of projects that deserve to be promoted? What are the stories that not only deserve telling, but the stories we can tell in a way that nobody else can?
- Not only are we putting out this print issue, but we have been putting in long hours to create, promote, and update the online resource document, along with some great pals: Charla Burgess, Sharron May, Meredith McNabb, and Josh Stoltz. (Updated online daily, this document has had more than 2,700 hits so far online; it has been shared more than 300 times on Facebook; and more than 1,000 printed copies have been distributed through Benzie County food-pantry programs, but we are hoping to get this information to even more people through our pages 6-9 of this newspaper.)
- With that same crew, plus Andy Wynkoop, we have built Benzie County Tip Jar, a way for people to receive a “tip” during this time—people who are out of work, “essential” workers who are putting themselves on the front lines.
We hope that these resources are useful to you. We hope that you share them with others.
We also want you to know that we are working on making that “screen time” a more positive experience, via multimedia content for our website and social media platforms, to tell these stories in a more visual way, in addition to our typical text stories: go to BetsieCurrent.com or The Betsie Current on Facebook to watch videos and see a photo essay for our cover story on the meal-delivery efforts at both Benzie Central and Frankfort-Elberta schools.
And stay tuned, because we are working hard to create more COVID-19 content: the photos of Cynthia Lonero (making masks) and Iron Fish Distillery’s Richard Anderson (making hand sanitizer), along with the infographic from Carol Navarro and Karl Gude are a preview of our next feature-length story and multimedia pieces on the subject of “Medical Adjacent.”
We hope that you and your loved ones are happy and healthy. It is a challenging time, but we can get through this together.
Sending you love and light,
–Aubrey Ann Parker and Jordan B. Bates
Like what you see? Want to see more content like this? Our plan is to continue working on these types of stories for the duration of the pandemic. We need you to submit “good news” when you see it by emailing us at email@example.com or commenting on our Facebook page. Want to contribute to our reporting and/or to our continued efforts at creative local solutions, like the Resource Guide or Benzie County Tip Jar? Send a check to The Betsie Current, PO Box 90, Frankfort, MI, 49635.
Feature Photo: Wexford County’s Gary Leucchetti receives a bottle of hand sanitizer from Richard Anderson, co-owner of Iron Fish Distillery, which has switched its production model since the COVID-19 pandemic came to Michigan. The distillery has produced and distributed thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to local healthcare facilities, first responders, and essential businesses, as well as to individuals. “I couldn’t find any in my local grocery store,” Leucchetti says. “It’s nice to know that they are doing this.” Photo by Mackenna Kelly.