FROM THE EDITOR: Providing news, info to help you cope

Some of the AJC’s work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the AJC’s work during the coronavirus pandemic.

I’m writing this column in the quiet of my home office. I can hear a bird chirping outside. My phone hasn’t rung. No one has interrupted me, even though I’ve been working for hours now.

In other words, it’s nothing like the AJC newsroom.

But I really miss that place, and the people. All of us have been working outside the newsroom, mostly based at home, for more than a couple of weeks now.

I did stop by the other day. We had an online video meeting for the staff, and I had to be in the building.

(And a confession to AJC Security: I wheeled my desk chair out of my office to the elevator, and then out to my car. I’m sure it was captured on video. The chair at home was killing my back. I promise I’ll bring it back when things return to normal.)

ATLANTA -- The newsroom is empty, but it is busier than ever. The coronavirus has inspired some important changes at the AJC. Our work environment may be different, but our mission to tell you what's going in your community is the same. (Kevin Riley and AJC visuals staff / edited by Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com)

I’ll bet there are plenty of you longing for your office chair, and for a chance to see colleagues. I hope you can go get your chair, because I think many of us are going to be working at home for a while. And so many people are dealing with much more difficult things.

This is a time that has reminded us of our journalistic mission:

We will provide news and information with urgency, insight and depth so citizens are informed, justice can be served, wise decisions can be made, and problems can be solved. We will demand integrity and accountability in community institutions, businesses, and government. In times of crisis, we will provide essential information to keep our readers safe.

This situation has inspired some important changes at the AJC. I hope you’ve noticed those in the newspaper and at our website. And we, like so many of you, have had to change the way we work.

At AJC.com, I'm sure you've noticed our efforts to constantly update the site with the latest news, and to provide twice-daily updates to the status of the coronavirus in Georgia.

Explore» Complete coverage of coronavirus in metro Atlanta and Georgia

We also launched an email that tracks coronavirus news. You can sign up HERE.

We have also offered free access to our ePaper, the interactive PDF version of your daily newspaper. During this time, we are committed to making our reporting available to all who can benefit from it. And we hope that it will inspire support of local journalism. If you've never tried the ePaper, I encourage you to. Many people tell us they prefer this digital replica of the printed version of the newspaper.

In the printed newspaper, we’ve emphasized the news and useful information, breaking down complex issues so that they’re easier to understand.

For instance, in Friday’s newspaper, we presented 10 things to know about direct payments related to the stimulus plan and produced another explainer looking at key components of the $2.2 trillion relief package.

We’ve also remained mindful of providing readers with some diversions.

Our "Do" Guide (it used to be the "Go" Guide) introduced a new weekly excerpt from a children's book, Danny Dollar, Millionaire Extraordinaire. It's one of many features in this week's reimagined section, which now serves as a guide to helping readers make the most of their time at home.

We’re also publishing an extra page of puzzles and a coloring page.

As one reader wrote: “I want to express my appreciation for the efforts of all involved in the production of your AJC. Thank you all for keeping us informed on a very timely basis. Knowing what is happening certainly reduces the uncertainties of the situation with which we are confronted. I noticed with great pleasure the change to DO GUIDE in response to the quarantines. Great idea and appreciated. My best wishes to you and all at the AJC for a safe, healthy passage through this troubled time.”

In Sunday's edition, you'll see "The Atlanta Spirit," a series of stories that highlights how Atlantans have stepped up to help during tough times.

Thursday would have been the season opener for the Braves. Even though the start of baseball season has been postponed, we gave readers 10 memorable season-opening moments – from Hank Aaron tying Babe Ruth's record on his first swing of the 1974 season; to Andres Galarraga's return from cancer on opening day in 2000; to the Braves collecting their World Series rings when the season began in 1996. "Thanks for the great piece on opening days," one reader wrote. "Thanks for the memories."

We continue to provide readers with uplifting stories. If you missed it, Thursday's Living cover contained a beautifully written column on the hip-hop artist and the founder of a nonprofit who worked together to set up washing stations so that the homeless could wash their hands during the outbreak.

The pandemic has also changed the way we cover the news, with reporters working out of their homes. Our visual journalists, though, have to be at the scene to capture photographs and video.

John Spink, one of our veteran journalists describes things this way:

“Walking through the airport on several occasions certainly has its odds with being in close proximity of folks that are infected, compared to other environments,” he said. “But, you can’t think about that, and just keep your distance and make smart decisions about where you shoot from.

"My favorite shot so far was the cruise ship passengers offloading at the North Cargo building at the airport. We got there just in the nick of time to catch the last batch of masked passengers getting off the plane."

At a time like this, we know you need credible and reliable information. Our journalists, like John, seek to provide that each day.

We also know that we all need some distraction from the stress of news and life.

As one reader put it:

“You helped put some positive focus in the community. Some of us are feeling significant inconvenience, while others are experiencing significant difficulties with loss of income and the myriad issues associated with that loss. Many others are experiencing health issues and uncertainty. We need to look out for one another, so I appreciate your efforts to highlight such examples.”

» RELATED: From AJC Publisher Donna B. Hall: Our commitment to you

» RELATED: Watch a message from AJC Editor Kevin Riley

» CONNECT: Check out the AJCePaper

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