It feels like 2020 has been a husk of a year — hollowed out, dried up, drained of hope-sustaining nutrients, ready for the compost pile.
And yet — human nature abhors a vacuum, which can work for us or against us. What we do to fill up the empty spaces reflects how we view our lives and value our fellow citizens of the planet.
What we have taken for granted is no more, and might never be again. Adaptation, innovation, flexibility, acceptance, patience, tolerance, cooperation — these are priceless virtues for dealing with a world that sometimes seems on the verge of unraveling. We have no choice but to come up with better choices for the future.
Conversely, we have seen the destructive effects of shriveling down into the dry husk — retreating from reality, raging against science, surrendering sanity to embrace conspiracy theories, consigning morality to a dark corner. Where there is no humane behavior, there is little hope for humanity.
Heavy stuff for a time of the year when we would all like to lighten up a bit. But 2021 is here and won’t wait for laggards to keep pace. Twelve months from now, what will we be saying about how we dealt with the coronavirus pandemic? Climate change? Human equality? Economic injustice? The great political schism that rives the country? Solutions will be hard to come by, the way ahead clogged with obstacles, progress slow.
We live out at the end of the nation’s extension cord, distanced from some of the major issues, living with others every day. We may wonder what impact any of us can have individually, or even collectively as a community. But if we join a larger body of action, add our voices to a mighty chorus and lend our energy to a common purpose, we can be part of something. That’s our hope for 2021.
All COVID, all the time
Looking through a year’s worth of Methow Valley News issues is like following the arc of COVID-19’s assault on all things normal. Starting in February, our coverage quickly ratcheted up to inform readers about the coronavirus and how to avoid it, how local events and activities were being affected, and what economic impacts to anticipate. Much of it early on was speculation based on limited and evolving knowledge. There was some hopefulness that we wouldn’t have to cancel nearly everything.
It turns out that much of the coverage was in fact about the things that didn’t or couldn’t happen because of the pandemic. We devoted a lot of space to letting people know what they could no longer do, or ought not to.
Over the months, our coverage evolved from tracking everyday details to exploring larger implications of the coronavirus, such as the “zoom town” surge of home-buying, the glut of outdoor-adventure-seeking visitors, and long-term expectations for health care and education. Our coverage of sports and arts dropped to almost zero, as there was nothing much to write about. The “COVID update” story became a permanent fixture of our weekly planning meeting. That story doesn’t always end up on Page A1, as it did in the early days, but it remains a telling indicator of what we have endured.
As reporters, we have learned how to cover public meetings remotely — hardly ideal, but at least we can keep tabs on local government activities. Interestingly, our photography began trending toward scenic shots of the valley and fewer pictures of people doing things — because there were fewer people doing things. We’re working on that.
We’ve had to adapt as a business. For most of the year, only a couple of staffers were in our offices at any one time. The others worked from home. We are essentially closed to the public, which has limited our interaction with folks who came in to pay bills, renew subscriptions or pore through our bound volumes of past issues.
Looking ahead, we will be exploring the various aspects of recovery (under the assumption that recovery eventually will happen) for the valley, region and state. Again, there will be a lot of speculation, but it will be more firmly based on proven information. In addition to the economy, we’ll be especially interested in how sports, dining, arts and entertainment and traditional community events will fare in the coming year.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, a year from now, we are again writing that COVID-19 and its impact was the top local news story of the year. It’s going to be around for a while.