I would like to reiterate that our job is to be the community's news source for the new coronavirus as well as all other matters that concern us. The virus has not changed our job; rather, it has reinforced its importance to us.
However, we must continue to thrive as a business so we can fulfill our mission. The virus has placed some formidable obstacles in our path, but we have been acting quickly and decisively to avoid as many of them as possible.
Reporting on how the pandemic is affecting thousands of people spread across our county while our reporters and photographers are being urged to remain in their homes has created challenges for our news team. I am proud, but not surprised, that they have responded to this temporary, but new, normal with renewed enthusiasm and commitment as journalists.
Since March 1, new subscription starts and website traffic are running more than 50 percent ahead of their pre-virus levels, so, it is clear that you are relying on our reporting more than ever, which is very heartening.
The sudden, precipitous drop in advertising revenue spooked us, and we may have overreacted by announcing page reductions. In truth, there is less sports and entertainment news to report, but there are a ton of interesting and important stories about how the various segments of our community are being affected by COVID-19 and coping with it. Our reporters, photographers and editors are eager and able to bring these stories to you, and we will continue to bring the news that we are gathering to you on our websites and in our print editions without regard to specific page limitations.
The loss of advertising business is impactful to us, but the virus has impacted everyone in our lives. It makes our mission to be the finest group of community newspapers in America more critical than ever. Our duty to the readers and the larger community includes being here in the tough times with the news and information you want and need. We are delighted to have the opportunity to do our duty, and we are not about to shirk it.
We are also not too proud to ask for your help: Please support our advertisers who are also facing large obstacles and let them know that you are doing so, in part, to support The Eagle; if you're digital-only subscribers, buy a print paper now and then, or, better yet, add print to your subscription; or, give a gift subscription to someone who could use some company every day or someone who needs to know what is happening in the Berkshires.
Thanks again for supporting quality local journalism. It matters, now more than ever.
P.S.: Several weeks ago, I wrote asking for donations to support the Report for America reporter who will be coming to The Eagle in June. Today, I am writing to let you know that our campaign was a huge success and to thank you for the outpouring of support.
We were required to raise a minimum of $10,000 to meet the local public portion of this project. To date, we have received about $35,000!
I want to assure everyone who has made a donation that all of the money will be used solely to pay the salary and expenses of our RFA reporter. As the program is intended to extend for two years, a portion of the money we raised will be used to cover our 2021 needs. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will receive a second RFA reporter sometime before June 2021; if so, these donations can be used to cover the local public portion of the grant for that reporter.
Fredric D. Rutberg is president and publisher of The Berkshire Eagle.