We’ve been deemed “essential” here at the Crookston Times and, therefore, allowed to stay open and report all of the latest, most breaking news relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, but other topics as well.

    But, as is usually the case when it comes to the way the masses view the media, even if the “media” is simply their local press outlets trying to do their best to keep people informed, being included near the bottom of an “essential business” list is not much to hang our hats on.

    Certainly, no one wants to hear a sob story, much less the whinings and woe-is-us slog from the local newspaper. It’s no fun writing it, that’s for sure.

    But we’re hurting, too, no doubt. Starting last week and continuing until the end of June, members of the Times staff will be on staggered furloughs. For one week in each of those months, staff will be forced to not work and not get paid. Could it be worse for us? Absolutely. And it could easily get worse for us, there’s no denying that, either.

    The furloughs are not a local decision because we’re not locally owned. Our previous owner, Gatehouse Media, merged with Gannett last year, and the resulting company is the largest journalism outfit in the United States. But being big is no protection from the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the public turns to its local news more than ever during times of crises, people still want the content free. You’d never dream of walking into the hardware store and refusing to pay for the new hammer you want or strolling through the checkout aisle at the grocery store refusing to pay for the gallon of milk you grabbed, but when it comes to reading your local news written by professional journalists, it’s somehow supposed to be free.

    The need to know the latest COVID-19 news impacting our community and region was so great, however, that we eliminated the paywall at crookstontimes.com for all pandemic-related content.

    It was a public service, a community service, a desire to do our part. We’ve also provided and continue to provide a tremendous amount of free advertising and publicity to our restaurants, bars and other businesses forced to close or modify their hours and services during the pandemic. Not deeply discounted ad rates, no buy-one-get-one-free promotions, no we’ll give it to you free now and you can pay us later offers...just straightforward free advertising and publicity across our print and digital and social media platforms.

    We’re happy to do it. After all, our business community is enduring something that has never before, at least in contemporary times, been unleashed on them, through no fault of their own.

    Just know that we’re part of that business community, too. You can think of the Times, in existence since 1885, as just some sort of bedrock Crookston institution that will always be here, but there are no guarantees. You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone.

    You can say cry me a river and go to your apps and websites that tout the latest Crookston news, but where do you think they get their latest Crookston news? They take it directly from your local newspaper and radio station...copy and paste.

    A few U.S. senators have drafted a letter requesting that financial relief for journalism outlets large, medium and small be included in any future federal stimulus bills.

    While the effort is appreciated, we’re the “enemy of the people.” We’re “fake news.” Think we’re going to get any financial assistance? Don’t bet the farm.

    In the meantime, to our fellow business-people in the community, good luck in your pursuit of getting the help you need.