I live in a rural area. I wear masks. I thought I was being careful. I still got COVID.

By Kathryn Jones

It began week before last with a sneeze. Post-nasal drip irritating the back of my throat. Allergies, I told myself. The mountain cedar is blooming. A cold front blew in. A lot of pollen is swirling in the air.

The next day my sinuses hurt. I had a dull headache. I felt a bit warm and took my temperature – 99.2. Mild sinus infection, I told myself.

Then I lost my senses of smell and taste. It wasn’t gradual. They were just gone.

That concerned me because I’d read several articles where COVID patients talked about not being able to smell or taste anything. Still, that wasn’t unusual. Sometimes when I get a seasonal sinus infection, I get so congested that I can’t taste. But not for two days, which turned to three, then four.

A friend and I had lunch in mid-October and ate outside at a restaurant on Lake Granbury. A week later, she was sick with COVID. Could we have gotten it there? We’ll never really know for sure.

Still, I rationalized that it was unlikely I had it. My husband, Dan, and I live on a remote piece of property in Bosque County. We’re a mile-and-a-half off the highway, down a twisting, hilly gravel road. His parents, who are in their late 80s, live just down the road. The number of cases in our area is relatively low – a little over 200 Bosque County residents tested positive as of Oct. 30.

Last Thursday, I decided to get tested. I didn’t want to put my husband or my in-laws at risk. I went to the closest town with a medical center, Glen Rose, in adjacent Somervell County. As of Oct. 30, the county has reported 250 total coronavirus cases. Glen Rose Medical Center has set up a “sick clinic” where the testing takes place.

After making an appointment, I arrived, parked in the lot, and called to alert a nurse I was there. She opened the door and motioned me inside. All the medical workers were clothed in head-to-toe protective gear.

She asked questions about my symptoms and took my vitals. I didn’t have any fever. The nurse suggested I stand against the wall for the swab test. “Whatever you do, don’t grab my arm,” she said.

She was quick, inserting the rigid swab far up each nostril into what felt like my brain. My toes curled inside my boots. It was very uncomfortable, but fast.

Afterward, she gave me a tissue in case my nose bled, which it did. “If you’re positive, we’ll call you today,” she said.

Later that afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was the nurse.

“You tested positive,” she said.

I don’t know why, but I was shocked.

Because I had mild symptoms, the clinic didn’t prescribe any medications and suggested I keep taking the over-the-counter sinus and headache meds I’d been using.

“Call us if you have any breathing problems,” the nurse said.

It’s Day Six. I’m still congested and have a weird metallic taste in my mouth and tingling around my lips. I still cannot smell or taste anything, not even Texas barbecue. I have no desire to eat, although I’ve been making myself for strength and nourishment. I’ve lost six pounds in one week. So far, though, I can breathe just fine.

What concerns me, however, is when I drive to nearby towns and see many residents behaving as if COVID doesn’t exist. People were standing in groups close together in front of a church getting ready for its annual fall festival. No one was wearing masks. Some businesses that post signs on their doors stating that masks are required don’t enforce the rule; even employees often don’t wear masks.

Meanwhile, COVID cases in the United States are approaching 100,000 a day as I write this. New coronavirus infections hit a record high in rural counties from Oct. 18 through 24, the fifth week in a row, reported The Daily Yonder, which has been tracking rural coronavirus outbreaks week by week.

In releasing the latest statistics about cases, Glen Rose Medical Center encouraged residents to take precautions.

“Isolated cases of COVID appeared to be the result of incidental contact amongst people in our community,” the medical center reported on Oct. 30. “This type of spread will be exceedingly difficult to control if we cannot get people to be compliant with wearing masks when they are in contact with other people.”

The center repeated its previous advice that wearing a mask can prevent people from spreading the virus unknowingly.

“It is very common that people are contagious for anywhere from one to three days prior to becoming “sick,” the post read. “It is during that time that mask wearing can help protect other people in our community.”

This line in the release should have been boldfaced: “There is significant evidence that mask wearing in our community is near, or at, the lowest level that it is been since the beginning of this pandemic.” Wow.

Whether it’s COVID fatigue or denial, many people are letting their guard down. I let mine down by having lunch with a friend because I thought it was “safe” to eat outside.

With cold weather on the way and more people confined to the indoors, COVID cases likely will continue increasing, experts warn. But I hear so many people dismissing those warnings. Conspiracy theories abound on the Internet.

They may not listen to me, either. But I’m also the face of COVID. I thought I was at low risk because of where I lived. I wore masks. I sanitized my hands and even wore gloves sometimes. I washed my hands for 20 seconds after taking off my gloves. I avoided crowds. I shopped online and got curbside grocery service. I still got COVID.

Thankfully, right now it looks like a mild case, but I don’t know what the future will hold. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.

Assume others, even friends and family members, have the virus. Don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings and not hug. Explain you want to protect them. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Don’t let down your guard, even if you think you live in a relatively “safe” area.

I’m posting a daily coronavirus journal on my Facebook page. I hope sharing my daily experiences will keep people informed and, hopefully, prevent someone else from contracting the disease. If I can get it, anyone can.

Kathryn Jones is a longtime journalist, former editor of the Glen Rose Reporter and co-director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism.

 

TCCJ Online Revenue Workshop Program

TCCJ Revenue Workshop: Making Money in the “New Normal”

9 a.m.

Welcome and introductions

Kathryn Jones and Dan Malone

TCCJ Co-directors, live from the Texan News broadcast studio at

Tarleton State University in Stephenville

 

“Re-Igniting the Post-Covid Sales Conversation With Advertisers” 

Ryan Dohrn

Media sales consultant/ad coach and host of “Ad Sales Nation” podcast

COVID-19 was devastating for most local and regional business owners.  So, how do we as sales pros sympathize, but get back to that much-needed marketing conversation?  Media sales coach Ryan Dohrn will share 7 ways to re-ignite the conversation with style, ideas, and realistic expectations.  From handling objections like COVID has killed our business to the objection of I am too busy now to explaining the “marketing bump” to email templates to perfect post-COVID prospecting times to revised pricing options.  Come prepared to laugh and learn from a media sales pro that still sells today and has touched over half a billion dollars in ad sales over his 30-year career.

10 a.m.

“New Strategies for a New Time”

Kevin James

Director of Special Projects Sales

Moser Community Media, LLC (Brenham)

Kevin will share “out of the box” success stories during this “new normal.” He describes himself as a “positive, upbeat, ‘make lemons out of lemonade’ kind of salesperson and leader,” so Kevin’s presentation will focus on creative ways to engage customers and make deals at a time when so many traditional advertisers face economic challenges themselves.

11 a.m.

“The New Normal of Selling”

Mike Obert

Managing Partner – Sales

Open-Look.com, Richardson, Texas

When so many people are working remotely, traditional workdays are upside down. For sales people, that means having a fluid schedule throughout the day to work in your hours of prospecting and maintaining existing clients. It also means looking for new means to reach readers on behalf of advertisers. Mike will discuss how to use video and leverage social media in the new normal of selling.

Noon

“A Year for the Record Books – What’s Working? What’s Not?”

Moderated by Dan Malone and Kathryn Jones

TCCJ Co-directors

The pandemic and statewide lockdown of businesses crashed local economies and put intense new pressures on community journalism outlets and their bottom lines. Newspapers saw website traffic increase, but traditional ad sales plummet. Some were able to secure federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, but that money ran out fast. Some were able to get new grants offered by Facebook and other sources. Some had to cut frequency of print publication. Many had to scramble and find creative ways to survive. Attendees are invited to share their stories about what worked, what did not, and how their business models are changing.

Speaker Biographies

Ryan Dohrn

Ryan is the founder of media sales strategy firm Brain Swell Media and the creator of the 360 Ad Sales System taught to over 20,000 media sales professionals in 7 countries. Ryan works with over 200 newspapers per year and has a deep passion for the community newspaper business. Ryan’s 30-year media sales and marketing career includes leadership roles at PennWell Publishing, Morris Publishing, Disney/ABC TV and The NY Times Company. He is an Emmy Award winner, business book author and has been featured in USA Today and on Forbes.com.

 

Kevin James

Hailing from Greenville, Texas, the son of a newspaper pressman and a mother who faithfully read her hometown newspaper daily, Kevin has printer’s ink flowing in his veins. He joined MCM in January 2014 as Director of Special Projects, Digital, and Sales Training, and heads up a groupwide VIP initiative.

Although Kevin was heavily involved in his elementary, junior high and high school newspapers, he began his “official” newspaper career as a retail sales rep with the Rockwall Texas Journal-Success in 1993.

In 1997, Kevin was recruited to an advertising account executive opportunity with The Dallas Morning News, working print and digital advertising and focusing on the travel and tourism, real estate, faith-based accounts and automotive segments. After marrying an “Okie,” in 2003 he accepted a position with The Daily Oklahoman/NewsOK.com in Oklahoma City as a digital advertising specialist, developing their first-ever million-dollar digital sales territory.

Moving to Austin 2010 for personal/family reasons, Kevin accepted a multi-media executive position with Cox Media Group/ The Austin American-Statesman where he earned several awards and honors. In 2012 he was recruited to rebuild a major and key accounts territory with Hearst Media/San Antonio Express-News.

In 2013, Kevin was recruited by Stephens Media Corporate Division in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a digital sales consultant/catalyst for their training and sales efforts for their papers nationwide. Kevin worked with such papers as The Las Vegas Review Journal; The Daily World in Aberdeen, Washington; The Sherman Herald-Democrat in Sherman, Texas; The Examiner-Enterprise in Bartlesville, OK; and the Ashboro Courier-Tribune in Ashboro, North Carolina.

Kevin also has served as advertising directors for two local Texas papers – his hometown newspaper, The Greenville Herald Banner (2001), and The Williamson County Sun in Georgetown (2011-2012).

 Mike Obert

Mike began his publishing career in 1992 and has specialized in monetizing magazines through ad sales, distribution and other creative revenue streams. In 2009, Mike began developing offshore publishing solutions for a US-based niche media company out of the Philippines. In three short years, Mike noticed a void in the industry and lack of reliable outsourced options for all publishers, which ignited the vision to create Open Look.

In 2012, Mike and partners formed Open Look, turning void into opportunity. Two years later, Mike created a neighborhood network of community publications that is directly mailed and driven by ad sales. Currently, Mike drives the direction and innovation of Open Look, ensuring the services remain valuable and relevant for the ever-evolving niche media industry.

 

Virtual Summer Revenue Workshop, Aug. 14

The annual Summer Revenue Workshop conducted by the Texas Center for Community Journalism has been moved to a virtual format for Friday, Aug. 14. It will no longer be held in person at the Hangar Hotel Conference Center in Fredericksburg due to the spread of COVID-19 throughout Texas. However, we’re planning an excellent workshop that you can tune into online. It also will be recorded and archived on the TCCJ website.

This year’s timely theme is “Making Money in the ‘New Normal.’”

As businesses reopen, it’s time to get back to sales conversations. But when so many people are working remotely, their days are upside down. The pandemic and statewide lockdown of businesses crashed local economies and put intense new pressures on community journalism outlets and their bottom lines. Newspapers saw website traffic increase, but traditional ad sales plummet. Some were able to secure federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, that money ran out fast. Some were able to get new grants offered by Facebook and other sources. Some had to cut frequency of print publication. Many had to scramble and find creative ways to survive.

To address these concerns, the line-up of speakers will include Kevin James, director of Special Projects Sales, Moser Community Media, LLC (Brenham); Mike Obert of Open-Look.com in Richardson; and via Skype, Ryan Dohrn, media sales consultant/coach and host of “Ad Sales Nation” podcast. They and TCCJ Co-directors Dan Malone and Kathryn Jones Malone will share insights and advice on new strategies for selling in the “new normal,” latest trends in digital traffic and online ad sales;  social media vs. digital revenues, and alternative sources of revenue.

The workshop will end with an open discussion about some of the creative products and strategies Texas newspapers and their websites have used in this extraordinary time of change. Please share what you’ve tried that worked, what didn’t, and how business models are changing. We can all learn from each other. Email Kathryn front or inside pages, advertising, promotions or links to pages: kathrynjones1956@gmail.com.

Details:

WHERE: We’re looking at video conferencing options.

WHEN:  Friday, Aug. 14; times TBA

COST:  FREE. Just fill out the registration form below so we can send you information about the workshop and how to sign on.

REGISTER HERE: Please fill out the registration form. If more than one person from a news organization plans to attend, please register individually.

Virtual Summer Revenue Workshop, Friday, Aug. 14

Virtual Summer Revenue Workshop, Friday, Aug. 14

Sending

 

Newspaper mottoes and slogans: Helping to brand your editorial product

Does your newspaper have a motto? Or a slogan? Do you know the difference?

Mottoes, slogans and marketing pitches were common in the days when most big newspapers had competition, as they tried to give themselves a distinguishing character. As the big newspaper markets became monopolized, there was less need for them, but now, when every information source competes for audience with every other source, even in small towns, slogans and mottoes are worth reviving, and some papers are doing it.

The Washington Post’s nameplate got an underline on Feb.: the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” That’s the most prominent example of newspapers adding a promotional explanation of what they do or what they stand for. Two papers from Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group have similar slogans: The Bristol Herald Courier says it offers “Truth. Accuracy. Fairness” and the Omaha World-Herald says it is “Real. Fair. Accurate.”

Such slogans or mottoes are needed at a time when the very idea of independent, professional journalism is under attack from the highest levels of government and partisan media. Print circulation is down, but newspapers still have broad audiences and provide most of the accountability journalism that the writers of the First Amendment had in mind. Slogans and mottoes can not only remind the public of newspapers’ importance, but remind newspaper staff of ideals and principles they should follow.

Executive Editor Marty Baron’s “first principle” for the Post staff is “Tell the truth as nearly as it may be ascertained.” He said the paper started working on a slogan before the last election, “trying to come up with some words that would capture the essence of our mission in a way that you might even put it on a T-shirt. We had a lot of ideas and it was all over the place.” The choice was made by new owner Jeff Bezos; Baron told me he thought the line was “a little dark.” Yes, but it displays nicely in the reverse type the Post uses on its mobile site. The line had been used by Bob Woodward, the Post associate editor who as a reporter with Carl Bernstein broke open the Watergate scandal.

What’s the difference?  The Post’s slogan brought to mind other newspaper mottoes or slogans, many at rural or community newspapers, and I wrote about it on The Rural Blog recently. The blog post is at http://bit.ly/2f1cWqs. It linked to an explanation of the difference between a motto and a slogan; here’s a capsule version:

A motto contains a belief or an ideal that can serve as a guiding principle and the identity of a newspaper. The Amarillo Globe-News still uses a saying coined by publisher Gene Howe, who died in 1952: “A newspaper may be forgiven for lack of wisdom, but never for lack of courage.”

Slogans can serve the same purpose, but tend to be simpler and catchier, and used more as marketing tools. The best are those that serve not only as a slogan for the public, but a motto, perhaps implicit, for the staff. One of my favorites is used by The Blackshear Times, a Georgia weekly: “Liked by many, cussed by some, read by them all.”

Some slogans or mottoes are implicit, as in the simple warning of hard-nosed editorial policy at the Aspen (Colo.) Daily News: “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.”

Whether you call it a motto or a slogan matters less than having a line that accurately describes your newspaper. The most common slogans for rural papers are like the one used by the Mason Valley News in Nevada: “The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about Yerington.” It’s a natural; most newspapers’ reason for existence is to publish news of their locality, and in most cases they own that franchise. The Greene County Democrat in Alabama, which competes with the Greene County Independent, puts it more subtly: “Serving Greene County Like No Other Newspaper.”

Some mottoes are blunt and simple, like that of The Star in Johannesburg, South Africa: “Tell it like it is.” Another conveys the same principle, but in more friendly, flowery fashion. It was written by British poet and politician Lord Byron (1788-1824): “Without or with offense to friends or foes, we sketch your world exactly as it goes.” Andrew Jackson Norfleet adopted it when he founded The Times Journal in Russell Springs, Ky., in 1949. The weekly still posts it on its editorial page.

Another idea: Speaking of editorial pages, that’s where newspapers can best explain who they are, even if they don’t have regular editorials.

If I were a newspaper editor again, my paper’s home page would have a button called “How We Work,” taking readers to a policy statement on the editorial page, explaining our editorial philosophy, policies such as correcting errors and separating news from opinion, a call for readers to let us know when we fall short, and a link to The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, with a few examples, such as:

Our first obligation is to the truth, not in an absolute, philosophical or scientific sense, but “the truths by which we can operate on a day-to-day basis;” and the essence of journalism is a discipline of verification, using an objective method. The authors explain: “Being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. Because the journalist must make decisions, he or she is not and cannot be objective. But journalistic methods are objective.” I doubt most readers understand those important distinctions, so we need to explain them at every opportunity. They need to know we’re on their side, and how we work.

Polls, data can serve readers

Polls have long been common devices at metropolitan daily newspapers, but are rare at community weeklies – and I’m not counting those unscientific, self-selected surveys on papers’ websites, which ought to carry disclaimers saying they’re not good barometers of public opinion.

The weekly Rappahannock News in rural Northern Virginia got a marvelous opportunity to see what the people of Rappahannock County think about important issues this year, when a local nonprofit funded a professional survey and hired top-notch journalists to write it up, edit the stories and illustrate them.

The survey by the nonprofit Foothills Forum was mailed to every address in the county of 7,400 people, and got responses from 42 percent, more than double expectations and enough to make it as reliable as a random-sample poll.

“The Foothills survey offers a statistically accurate snapshot about the issues our community cares about most,” the News said in an editorial. “We feel this is valuable information — unbiased, non-agenda-driven data. . . . In the weeks and months ahead, we will explore some of the top issues highlighted in the survey by featuring in-depth stories, with the help of resources provided by Foothills Forum. This partnership allows us to deliver coverage that a small community newspaper could not afford to do otherwise.”

The Foothills Forum was created in response to comments at a coffee chat hosted by the News, “urging broader deeper coverage,” Larry “Bud” Meyer, chair of the group, wrote for the paper. “All manner of interests now have real numbers to back their causes. Not speculation. Not assumption.”

The nonprofit raised $43,000 for the survey and worked with the paper “because the Rappahannock News remains the best source of reported, vetted and edited news,” Meyer wrote. “More important, the survey finds folks are roughly twice as likely to rely on the weekly for their news as all local internet sources.”

The nonprofit gave the News $5,000 for enhanced design, news graphic/data reporting, and the paper made additional investments in design and printing multiple open pages for the series, which also increased its postage costs. “Everyone’s desire has been to deliver in-depth reporting that is beyond the capacity of a very small community news organization,” Publisher Dennis Brack told me. “The survey stories proved the value of this partnership.”

As we reported this project on the Rural Blog, we said the poll showed that Rappahannock County “may be a classic case of a rural place that wants to maintain its environmental qualities while having more urban conveniences,” then quoted from the stories of former Associated Press reporter and editor Chris Connell.

Polls are just one form of data, and we’re big on localized data as a way to help illustrate and explain local issues. A key part of using data is presenting it visually, and a recent Rural Blog item highlighted Data USA, which calls itself “the most comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data.” The same item drew from our friends at Journalist’s Resource to list several sources of help for using data.

Regular readers of this column know we’re also big on national maps that show county-level data, and we’ve had several examples in the blog recently. The Washington Post created a map that shows how home values changed, by ZIP code, from 2004 to 2015, in most counties (those that had enough data to be reliable).

Buried in a New York Times story about employers having trouble finding workers who could pass a drug test was a tragic set of maps, showing county by county the growth in drug-overdose deaths from 2003 to 2014 – a trend so fatal that it is now resembles the HIV-AIDS in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The crisis in Flint, Michigan, over lead in water supplies has caused concern in other places, but the risk of lead exposure “is surprisingly difficult to estimate, due to a variety of state-by-state differences in reporting standards,” Sarah Frostenson and Sarah Kliff reported for Vox. They worked with epidemiologists in the Washington state health department to add housing and poverty data to the mix to create a county-level map of the estimated risk.

Because some health-insurance companies are reducing their participation in health-insurance exchanges, more than 650 mostly rural counties will have only one Obamacare option in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported.

There have been doubts about the quality of care at some rural hospitals, and that has hurt them financially. But a recent study found that surgeries are safer and cheaper at critical-access hospitals, which by definition are rural.

The financial problems are rural hospitals are getting little attention from Congress and the Obama administration, Shannon Muchmore reported for Modern Healthcare.

The Rural Blog has started excerpting the “Thinking About Health” columns of Trudy Lieberman, distributed by the Rural Health News Service, which use specific examples to illustrate issues in health care from a consumer viewpoint. Her latest piece reported that consumers get little help resolving their complaints.

A pair of studies concluded that abstinence pledges don’t keep young people from having sex, contracting sexually transmitted diseases or avoiding pregnancy.

If you do or see good work that deserves national notice or could help other rural journalists, by appearing on The Rural Blog, email me at al.cross@uky.edu so we can publish it at irjci.blogspot.com.

 

Study says 2/3 of residents read local newspaper

Once again, both a National Newspaper Association study and a Newspaper Association of America study recently released reinforce the continued strength and vitality of newspapers and newspaper websites, whether community, weekly, or daily.

In the newly released NNA study (conducted in September and November 2013), two – thirds of community residents in small towns and cities read their local newspaper at least once and up to seven times a week!

Almost five out of ten (47 percent) residents indicated that their community’s newspaper and newspaper website were their preferred or primary source of information. About 78 percent of adults are quite attached to following local news and information, and local newspapers are by far the source they rely on for much of the local information they need, reinforcing the perceived value and strengths of local newspapers as a community asset.

Throughout their community, local newspapers are shared and passed along with an average pass along rate of 2.48 — up from previous years’ studies. Likewise, 54 percent of readers have clipped a newspaper story or shared a link with someone else in their community. And 49 percent of a community’s online users would choose their newspaper’s website as their favored source of information for local news — almost twice as many as the next identified local media source.

Complementing the NNA findings, the NAA found that 56 percent of Millennial, those young adults age 18 to 34, still want newspaper media content in a typical week, in print or online.

Newspapers and newspaper web sites are the “value collection” — a content combination of local news and advertising, interacting with the community in a timely manner, with a unique, trusted and well-established brand that delivers identifiable and measurable results day after day or week after week.

Why? Because newspapers, whether in print or online, have a distinct local audience that trusts them. 

Loyalty is print's strongest selling point. People choose to spend dedicated, uninterrupted time focused on your newspaper. 

It is all about the quality of the audience. Our newspaper web site visitors are loyal and interactive returning to their newspaper web site several times per day. Newspaper web site visitors continue spending more and more time on your newspaper web site rather than as eyeballs darting around the Internet!

Newspapers’ web sites, much like their print products, deliver original, high-quality content that continually attracts a highly educated audience, building a powerful and engaged audience.

Who typically has the largest Internet media footprint in a community and in the local marketplace? You do! 

Through a local environment of news and advertising, your newspaper and your newspaper web site create the marketplace for your community.

Newspapers are still the one! Does everyone at your newspaper know? Do your friends, community associates, advertisers and potential advertisers know? Let’s not be the best-kept secret in our community.