I never imagined I’d be writing this letter a month into the semester, but here we are.
Last week, El Camino College President and Superintendent Dena Maloney announced that in-person lectures will transition to online classes in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. Just a few days ago, The Union reported on how the rest of the spring semester will remain virtual, leaving my staff with a difficult decision to make.
For the remainder of the spring semester, The Union will not publish print issues.
This is not easy for me to write. I entered this semester with considerable goals that spanned everything from increasing our audience engagement via town hall events to reporting more of those dogged investigative pieces we have recently become more known for.
However, in recent weeks, it has become very apparent that COVID-19 is a much bigger public health issue than many first thought. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote about a projection in a letter to the President of the United States: over half of California’s population will be infected with the coronavirus over an eight-week period.
With coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County comprising more than a quarter of the total in California, it has become increasingly clear to, not only journalists and officials who are closely monitoring this situation, but also to the general public, that social distancing is a step everyone needs to take in order to mitigate the chance of spreading this virus.
Social distancing is also something that makes producing a newspaper challenging.
Putting together a print issue is a very collaborative process. It requires editors and reporters getting together, filling up a few extra inches on a page or borrowing each other’s laptops to make edits. It also requires the group work and close proximity that public health officials are currently warning against.
While journalists are commonly known for being gutsy when it comes to reporting the story, regardless of risk, nothing is more important to me than the safety and wellbeing of the stellar journalists on my staff. Granted, many of them I just met a month ago and a few others I’ve known for a little longer, there is a yearning for telling important stories in my newsroom and I see it in the people around me.
But, you can’t report a story if you get sick. That’s why we won’t be printing anymore this semester. In an effort to keep everyone safe, we have increased our use of virtual platforms to socially distance ourselves during this ongoing pandemic. My staff’s health comes first, both physically and mentally, and I want each of them to find themselves in a safe place when producing their best work.
In the same breath, it’s important to note that just because we won’t be printing for the rest of the semester, it does not mean we are gone. Everything will be the same as before, the only difference is we’ll be primarily focused on our online product at eccunion.com.
We will also be expanding our news coverage to write about Torrance, Gardena, other neighboring cities and even Los Angeles County. In doing so, we hope to reach people beyond El Camino and tap into a range of issues that not only impact those within our community but those in neighboring ones going through similar experiences.
So this is really just a welcome to current and new readers who will be met with our dogged, niche and public service journalism — except this time, we’ve got a wider scope.
While I have you here, I would like to direct your attention to a landing page we published recently, tracking the most important stories that impact the El Camino community.
Also, to keep up with all our coverage on coronavirus, our news editor, Fernando Haro, made a tab on our site so you can read the different ways we are covering the countless impacts COVID-19 has on our small but bold community.
We might be more than six feet away from whoever or whatever we’re reporting on but The Union will continue publishing news and stories that speak to the El Camino community. Please join us as we continue to push through what has proven to be challenging times.
Editor-in-Chief, The Union