Impressed by newsroom efforts during COVID-19

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In some very trying times, the Daily Mountain Eagle newsroom is doing a fantastic job keeping its readers informed. 

While the coronavirus is going to continue dominating our local news for a while, I communicated with our team this week on looking for ways to transition our coverage of the pandemic and its effects on our area.

The DME will no doubt continue to inform the public about government response and business issues related to COVID-19, but we also want to do our part to bring some normalcy back to the lives of our readers. I think one of the best ways that we can do that is to get more local names and faces into the newspaper by telling the stories of the people in our community. That is what we enjoy doing, and that is what we do best. That is also what our readers seem to like best most days as well.

While many aspects of “normal” life have grinded to a halt, the DME news crew wants to report on what might be becoming the “new normal” for now. Even if events stop, work slows down and schools close, the people of Walker County are still living their lives. We want to tell those stories, and to do that, we might need a little help. Please let us know what you guys are doing to pass the time.

What are families doing to keep children occupied? How are mom and dad navigating through working at home? How are younger workers handling being laid off or furloughed? How are our essential workers handling a sudden uptick in hours?

Those are all stories that we want to tell. And there are so many more stories out there that our community can tell us about so we can share them with others.

Good news is those stories will be seen by more people than ever. In recent weeks, our print edition’s single copy sales have boomed and subscription renewals have been very strong, despite the fact that we are having to do those mostly over the phone and online right now. Print is definitely not dying in Jasper, Alabama.

Our numbers at mountaineagle.com have been great for several years, seeing more than 5 million total page views in 2019. The website has seen its active users in 2020 grow from an average of 91,700 per month on March 1 to 141,100 per month on March 31, which will lead to a big increase in total page views in 2020. In the last month, we have had 175 website sessions from Canada, 119 from India, 77 from Australia and eight from Russia. 

Our social media efforts have also continued to grow in the last 30 days with our Facebook page post reach at 222,300 (up 152 percent), our post engagements at 288,700 (up 110 percent) and our page likes up to just under 30,000 with 567 new page likes in the last month. We have also seen growth on Twitter and Instagram.

When you add all those numbers up, more people are looking at the Daily Mountain Eagle’s content now than at any other time in our nearly 150-year history. A lot of people are at home right now, and they need information. We are the source in Jasper and Walker County.

We appreciate all our readers, and even the folks that don’t really read the content but love to comment on social media. Despite the overwhelming number of people viewing our content, it is still a tough time for advertisers because of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Be sure to tell the advertisers that you see in the newspaper how you get your information and how you appreciate them continuing to advertise during this time. Another way to help us out is to subscribe. We are currently running two subscription specials. A new subscriber can purchase a 1-year subscription (print and digital combined) for $75 throughout the month of April. We also have a digital-only rate for $5 per month as long as you sign up for at least six months. Buy a subscription or if you already have one, purchase one for a friend or family member.

Newspapers across the country are having a tough time financially right now, and your Daily Mountain Eagle is not immune to that. I consider us to be the best small daily in Alabama, and I would put us up against anybody in America. Keep our newspaper in your thoughts and prayers as we go through this crisis just like everyone else, and we will promise to continue to serve this community and try to serve it better everyday.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.