Schools aren’t open, but ample school news remains

Kate Decker

May 1, 2020

Rollie Atkinson, co-publisher

Due to the growing frequency of wildfires in California, community newspapers in the Sonoma Valley winemaking region have, unfortunately, gained ample experience covering disaster.

With a shelter-in-place in order for Californians until further notice (as of April 30), Sonoma County Local News Initiative’s staff of eight reporters (read more here) has shifted to working remotely to cover virtual meetings and chase leads on social media.

“(Going online) makes it a little challenging in that you're not in the room, so you can't see if eyeballs roll or if there's emotions in the room,” co-publisher Rollie Atkinson said. “There's a real lack and loss of true public interaction with their local government.

“In the long term, that will be a big, big challenge for journalists everywhere.”

In addition to coverage of local government meetings, Atkinson says they are moving up their salute to senior athletes, which had originally been planned for June.

“Sports is a big part of local community news that we do,” he said.

Schools in the area have also adapted, as many across the nation have been required to, launching their teachers’ lessons online.

“This week we reported on some of the lessons plans they were doing and if there were hiccups involved, and where there were some technical issues. One of the school districts needed to go acquire some more Chromebooks.

“The school boards continued to meet over the long-term budgeting and planning, which is all unknown. Schools aren't open, but there's still a lot of school news.”