The coronavirus has changed our lives in ways both large and small, personally and professionally. And while we all have experienced loss on some level, we also have seen gain.

Necessity has been the mother of invention and rediscovery. There are countless stories out there of how, unable to live the lives to which we’d grown accustomed, we all adjusted and adapted, building new skills, new relationships and new habits worth keeping even as life began “reopening” into a new normal.

Here at your community newspaper, The Pilot has also adapted. The coronavirus went from simply being a front-page story about empty shelves of toilet paper and hand sanitizer to a full-blown shutdown of schools, businesses and a local economy just about to partake in the seasonal riches of the golf tourism industry. The story became one of a public health crisis and a local health department and community struggling to understand and stay on top of events.

In a matter of a week, our business, though not shuttered like those around us, underwent a drastic transformation as our key revenue source, advertising, began a nosedive. Faced with an unprecedented demand for news — but an unprecedented drop in revenue — we looked for creative ways to fulfill our mission of serving the community.

Turns out, two of our most important — and well-received — actions were right at our fingertips.

For more than two years, we had been producing the twice-weekly Pilot’s Briefing email newsletter for free to more than 20,000 people. The newsletter, produced by me and staff writer Jaymie Baxley, came out Tuesday evenings and Friday mornings and offered capsules of top news stories in the community.

On March 16, I sent out a special edition of the newsletter that would, ultimately, shape a new strategy for us. Realizing that we were about to be swamped with news related to the coronavirus, The Pilot ratcheted up the Briefing newsletter to every weeknight. Sure enough, the next day, Gov. Roy Cooper closed all bars and restaurants. The night after, Moore County reported its first coronavirus case.

We captured all that — and much more — in our Pilot’s Briefing newsletters and we haven’t looked back since. Without even really thinking it through, we’ve ramped up this newsletter’s frequency to Monday through Friday, delivered to more than 21,000 email inboxes each night around 7:30 p.m.

If you’re not getting this newsletter, it’s easy to get on the list. Go to thepilotbriefing.com and enter your email address. We’ll add you. That’s it.

The second “innovation” also was at our fingertips — literally. Although The Pilot has had a Facebook page for years, we’d never taken advantage of the video features built in, especially the live broadcasting component.

After a short conversation with Publisher David Woronoff, I decided on March 17 to “go live” on Facebook and give a brief update to folks about the latest on the coronavirus.

And so began The Pilot’s latest outreach strategy of bringing news to Moore County. Every weekday, at 5 p.m., you can go to The Pilot’s Facebook page and spend a few minutes with yours truly — David occasionally fills in as what he terms “the B team” — updating you not only on local coronavirus updates but also other news in Moore County.

We’re regularly reaching more than 1,500 people each evening — and sometimes more — and meeting all kinds of people otherwise unfamiliar with The Pilot. David had a young woman come up to him recently and say, “You’re the guy who talks on Facebook.” That’s what we’re calling him around the office now.

“It is more important than ever that you understand what’s going on in your community,” I wrote back in mid-March. “Here at The Pilot, we have made a number of commitments to keep you abreast of the latest information.”

And so we have, and we will keep on with them. What the coronavirus has taken from us, it has also given, sometimes in ways we least expected.

Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or john@thepilot.com.

(1) comment

Kent Misegades

You have indeed done a good job of reporting on the Wuhan flu, but in the process you scared the daylights out of many people by focusing on the worst of predictions. There is a much different side to this whole affair that is not being adequately reported. Nevertheless it is your business and no one could accuse you of not working hard to survive in an era when much of the MSM is failing financially.

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