To paraphrase a sometime journalist who went by the byline Mark Twain, the reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Carroll County Times continues to publish local stories throughout the day, every day, on our website and distribute our newspaper seven days a week.
The Times will soon close its Westminster office, one of a handful that has housed this organization since the first newspaper rolled off its presses in 1911. What many may not realize is that our staff hasn’t been together in that office since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite some sincere condolences and numerous online reactions that ran the gamut, nothing has really changed for us. We’re still here, still committed to covering Carroll County, as we have done for more than a century.
In the months since we began working from home in an effort to protect the health of our employees, we continued to post relevant and meaningful local stories to our website and publish a daily newspaper. In the days since the announcement was made that we are one of several Tribune publications that will be closing our offices, we have continued our daily community coverage.
For example, the announcement about our office closure came out on the Wednesday of an important Board of Education meeting. We didn’t need an office to write four stories off of that meeting — important, timely, newsworthy stories to the more than 25,000 students and their families and the 2,000 or so educators and their families in Carroll.
No question, those who came well before us would’ve had a hard time fathoming how we could put out the news without a newsroom. Then again, they’d find it inconceivable that stories and photos could be delivered instantly and read by people on their phones. The process may change, the mission never does.
We understand some will assume this move is part of severing ties with the community. That’s not the case whatsoever, but we do realize that taking steps to stay connected will be more important than ever. We plan to engage with readers both virtually and, once it is safe to do so, in-person, perhaps holding forums about the issues that matter most to Carroll countians. And, of course, our reporters and photographers will continue to be out in the community, more visible than ever, tapping out stories and transmitting photos.
Now, this space isn’t for spinning. None of this is to say this is good news. Ideally, we would soon be returning to our office and desks and conference room and file cabinets and yellowed copies of old newspapers. But what exactly has been ideal about 2020?
Realistically, this is a move motivated by financial realities. Print advertising revenue was already on the decline long before the pandemic, which has so devastated local businesses and only accelerated that decline. We are far from alone in recognizing that reporters, photographers and editors are nimble, tech-savvy and perfectly capable of writing, editing and publishing content from anywhere. Another nationwide news company McClatchy announced the closure of seven newspaper offices in June and the New York Daily News and Orlando Sentinel were among the other Tribune publications affected. A number of industries are coming to similar realizations after being forced to make do from home. Google employees, for example, will be working remotely until at least next summer.
This move puts all our resources into covering Carroll County.
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We lost our office, but Carroll County hasn’t lost its news source. We care about and remain firmly committed to this community. We appreciate your continued support in print and online.