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Help us continue doing award-winning work

Northeast Michigan residents need to be informed like never before — that is why I am so proud of The Alpena News staffers who make up our editorial department.

Whether working remotely from home these days or in the office six feet apart from each other, the crew has been working diligently, tracking down leads, following up tips, and covering meetings by video conferencing. They have been relentless in their pursuit of a story and, though they have faced some very difficult and emotionally trying times these past few weeks, they have soldiered through it well.

On Thursday, staffers learned all of them were recognized for their work this past year in the Michigan Associated Press Managing Editors contest. Collectively, the group took first and third places in the Best Enterprise Reporting category. Several others took individual awards, as well.

The staff took first place for the enterprise series “Caring for Northeast Michigan.” A judge wrote: “It’s clear that many hours went into this massive report, which found ways to quantify and examine an issue facing many rural residents.”

The series “This Is Us” took third place.

Both enterprise series were also recognized last month in the Michigan Press Association’s 2019 Better Newspaper Contest. There, the “Caring for Northeast Michigan” also took first place, while the “This is Us” series took second.

Talking about the work the staff does in Alpena, the Associated Press judge in the Enterprise category wrote “The Alpena News knows how to do enterprise and clearly has made it a priority.”

That statement is like gold to me.

The government meetings, the features, the day-to-day reporting in each Alpena News edition is the “bread and butter” of a community newspaper. Enterprise reporting, because it goes much more in depth with a story, is the “steak, baked potato and the dessert” of a newspaper, all wrapped and packaged together. Enterprise reporting takes solid organization and planning, time management, and deep investigation by a staff. A good enterprise package takes weeks of work and, in some instances, months.

And yes, our staff is committed to enterprise reporting, because we want Northeast Michigan readers to be well-informed on issues that impact their lives.

This week, we’ve also been blessed with many readers who have thanked us for our continuing stories day-after-day on the coronavirus. Trust me, your kindness has been very much appreciated. Our work even has been noticed nationally, as one of our staffers has been invited to join a special reporting team concentrating on coronavirus-related stories over the next six to eight weeks.

It has been a week of roller-coaster emotions for everyone who works at the newspaper. All the recognition for hard work was appreciated.

Yet the stark reality is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mandatory “shelter at home” order March 23 hit us hard. With many businesses closed now in adherence to the order, that has impacted our advertising revenue stream each day, forcing us to make some very tough decisions. This week, four of our coworkers were furloughed, two of whom worked in editorial.

So, while the staff enjoyed the AP recognition and the fact that one of us is on loan to a national reporting team, they, at the same time, yearned for the return of what life was like earlier this year.

The virus — and how it impacts businesses like ours — should be a reminder of the value of a newspaper subscription.

Local, community journalism needs to be financially supported. The days of giving away the news for free are fast coming to an end, as that business model will only result in more furloughs and less stories. Truthful, quality community news needs your financial support and backing.

Enjoy your newspaper. Know the reporters who are writing the stories you read are award winners who have been recognized for their work. And let your friends and neighbors know the newspaper, especially in times like these, is the voice of truth in our region.

At times like these, everyone needs an anchor they can grab hold of. When it comes to truth in reporting, The Alpena News is that anchor.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.

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