When Kentucky’s first cluster of COVID-19 cases emerged in rural Harrison County, The Cynthiana Democrat newspaper took immediate action to help keep its community informed. The weekly paper, which has two reporters, published a special section with essential information on the novel coronavirus and sent it out to every household in the county.

“Don’t Panic,” said the banner headline. “But instead be prepared.”

These are unprecedented days in communities throughout Kentucky, the United States and the world as the novel coronavirus spreads, wreaking medical and economic damage in its wake.

Kentucky’s community newspapers, large and small, in digital and in print, are taking action to keep our communities informed on everything from the latest news about the virus itself to the importance of social distancing. We’re providing resources and connecting citizens in our communities who are affected by the unprecedented steps being taken to stop the spread of the virus. And newspapers are stepping up for their communities even as we’re directly affected, too – with our staffs working from home and many of our advertisers shutting their doors, at least for now.

Newspaper sites throughout the commonwealth have removed their digital paywalls on stories about COVID-19 and its effects, making this essential information free so it can reach as many citizens in our communities as possible.

Kentucky’s community newspapers are providing essential information to our towns and cities in other ways, big and small.

The Crittenden Press in Crittenden County is hosting a local video news conference each Friday with community leaders, spreading it widely on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat and YouTube.

“We, too, are in a survival mode on the business side, but there’s little time to count nickels right now because as the town crier of community, we are pledged to keep crucial, reliably consistent and verified information on the streets,” said Chris Evans, editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press.

Newsrooms from Bardstown to Lexington to Pikeville to Adair County are helping restaurants spread the word with guides listing curbside and takeout services and compiling free lists of resources for community members who may be dealing with sudden unemployment, health crises or child care needs.

Jobe Publishing increased the font size of its newspapers in southcentral Kentucky given the increased demand among seniors who can’t leave their homes under social-distancing guidelines.

The Kentucky News Group’s sites are helping funeral homes live-stream funerals at the request of families, so services can be experienced by loved ones even amid restrictions on social gatherings.

Our staffs are working around the clock to knock down rumors and to report, check and distribute verified information to help our communities in a time of need like none we’ve seen before. As we do this essential work for you, we ask that you consider subscribing, support advertisers in our issues and if your business is strong and stable perhaps help by placing an advertisement. In essence helping your local newspaper is “paying it forward” for the communities we serve.

Now more than ever, Kentucky’s newspapers will be here to help our communities when they need us most.

– Peter Baniak is editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader and past president of the Kentucky Press Association.

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