Local journalism shows its value during COVID-19 pandemic

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The value of local journalism during the COVID-19 pandemic is its ability to pursue stories of human kindness. 
 
Large publications, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Globe and Mail are necessary for reporting on topics like government and institutional response to COVID-19 and how the virus is spreading.
 
However, local and student newspapers will play a critical role in creating a record of how the pandemic brought out the best and worst in people. Over the next year, The Journal will undoubtedly be reporting the effects the pandemic has had on students. 
 
When the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) was announced and implemented as an overarching provincial policy, student newspapers covered the local impacts—how food banks, LGBTQ+ groups, student governments, and sexual assault centres would take the financial hits. Even though the SCI was unanimously quashed last November, there’s now an extensive record of the damage it did. It will be the same with COVID-19.
 
On the evening of March 12, Queen’s students were told classes would continue as normal unless there was community spread of COVID-19 in Kingston. The next morning, classes were suspended. The onslaught of COVID-19 information is constant and unpredictable, and even as a student journalist, I’ve felt the anxiety-inducing effects of reporting on the virus. 
 
However, there’s more than one side to this pandemic.
 
This week, the Kingston Whig-Standard reported that a local woman had started a Facebook group for people in Kingston to support each other during the pandemic. When the article was published on Wednesday, the group had 2,100 members. On Friday, there were more than 3,200. The Whig also published an article about a group of Queen’s medical and dental students who are volunteering their time to help ease the high demand for health care in Kingston.
 
Larger publications simply can’t reach the community stories that will collectively define how this pandemic shaped us. Newspapers have an obligation to report the scary stuff, but we can be grateful they’re also reporting the stories of people helping one another during a frightening time.
 
Many larger publications, like The Globe and Mail, are removing their paywalls on COVID-19 coverage, but not all newspapers can afford to do that. If you can, consider supporting your local and student newspapers. If you know a reporter, send them some words of encouragement. There are different kinds of frontlines in this pandemic, and journalists on one of them. 
 
And if you have a story about human kindness during all this craziness, consider sharing it with your local newspaper.
 
Raechel is The Journal’s News Editor. She’s a fourth-year English major.
 

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