We are all watching life and commerce and activity as we know it slow down, and in many cases screech to a halt, as part of a worldwide effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Events large and small have been cancelled, concerts are off, some restaurants have closed entirely while others that are staying open are permitted to do to-go orders only. (That's per a shelter-in-place order that took effect at midnight this morning, March 18, issued by Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno. It's currently set to remain in effect through April 8.)
Under that shelter-in-place order, some "essential" government, business and personal functions are allowed to go on. "Essential" includes newspapers, radio, television and other media.
That means the Weekly team is still here and still working, but our team is smaller today.
On March 17, Weekly Founder & CEO Bradley Zeve and Publisher Erik Cushman called an all-staff meeting to deliver some hard news: To get through this radical economic downturn, the company would lay of one-third of the staff. They had to immediately control expenses in hopes of the paper's long-term survival, they announced.
“The Weekly absolutely relies on local, independent businesses, and while our advertisers are shut down, we made the difficult decision to reduce staff across all departments in order to weather the storm," Zeve says. "Our whole business model is about bringing people together. And right now, people are physically isolated.
"The Weekly is committed to serving the community in this difficult time. While we are a strong company, with the tourism industry hemorrhaging and all public concerts and events shuttered, we made a heart-wrenching decision to let go of seven of our staff until conditions improve."
Another three staff members' hours have been reduced. Zeve cut his salary to zero, and Cushman also took a significant pay cut.
The economic future remains to be seen, but the hope is that business and events return to normal and the team can return to full capacity.
It was a tearful meeting on Tuesday. The seven people we've lost are part of the Weekly family. From the editorial department, we say goodbye to Managing Editor Dave Faries and staff writer/calendar mastermind Marielle Argueza; in the production department, two graphic designers Raul Magallanes and Alexis Estrada; and from the sales team, Tracy Vasquez, Marvin Green IV and Arno Featherstone.
These are people who gave it their all and are truly invested in the Weekly's mission: to inspire independent thinking and conscious action, etc.
The group that's left remains committed to that mission, even if we're doing it heartbroken for our colleagues and without key people who helped us to fulfill the mission.
“People in the community rely on us," Cushman says. "The Weekly will persevere in its journalistic and business mission because the alternative is that people get their information from Facebook and NextDoor, and that is not the remedy from what ails us all.”
The Weekly is not the only newspaper to face staff reductions amid the economic drop-off due to coronavirus.
The Stranger in Seattle announced 18 layoffs on March 13, and suspended production of their print newspaper, moving to online-only.
The next day, the Portland Mercury announced 10 staff members had been laid off and they were also suspending the print newspaper.
The Sacramento News & Review and the Chico News & Review have both suspended publication for now, with a notification online that reads, "We have lost over 50 percent of our advertising revenue in less than one week."