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Pandemic or not, we promise to deliver

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The coronavirus pandemic will not stop The Royal Gazette bringing the public the latest news on the crisis.

However, the pandemic has pushed the newspaper closer to an “online first” future.

We will follow the advice of the Government and medical professionals, and stick to rules on social-distancing and live up to our responsibility to keep readers informed.

Dexter Smith, the Editor, said: “We were already moving headlong into a digital-first era and this unprecedented crisis has expedited that dry run.”

The newspaper will continue to publish six days a week and regular updates will be posted online, but the majority of staff will work from home.

Reporters will attend press conferences and other breaking news events, but every precaution will be taken for their safety and that of the public — including restrictions on contact with customers at our offices to outside the entrance.

Covid-19 has also meant there has been no sport to report on, domestic or international, and so the four full-time sports staff have joined the news team for the duration.

Mr Smith, a former Sports Editor of the Gazette, said: “Despite my background, this was a simple and sensible decision to make.

“The Monday sports section was first reduced to four pages because of Covid-19 — and that was largely owing to the recklessly irresponsible decision by football authorities to carry on regardless with the island's most popular social activity — then to two, then to one, and now has been suspended indefinitely starting Monday so that we can make best use of resources throughout the rest of this crisis.”

The Royal Gazette editorial team, and others in the organisation, will communicate the same way most people will — electronically, through e-mail, chat groups, videoconferencing and conference calls.

Tim Smith, the News Editor, started to work from home on Friday.

He said: “It's gone well so far, apart from my remote access breaking and my one-year-old daughter ‘carefully' dropping my phone into a glass of water to render my communication with the office a farce, and two of my kids adapting to quarantine by charging relentlessly round my computer like caged animals who've been fed too much tartrazine.

“Luckily, we have a very reliable news team, some of whom don't have kids, who have the ability and selflessness to fill in the gaps to make sure we can carry on reporting the news as quickly and comprehensively as Bermuda needs in a time like this, and an IT team that deals with our many requests for help 24/7. So far, so good.”

Two of our editorial staff got a head start because of the first closures of schools.

Heather Wood, the Lifestyle Editor, began working from home early last week.

She said the experience of balancing work and children had presented a unique set of challenges.

Ms Wood added: “I did get a bit of practice for what's going on now, as our six-year-old was out of school for most of last week with the flu, so since March 10 I've been looking after her and working when I can — much of it at night.

“On Tuesday, by which time she was better, her school officially closed and I realised how easy I'd had it the week before.”

She said her daughter's school had given her classwork and a variety of apps to assist.

Ms Wood said: “We both did very well that first day. She did laps around our house with my husband before he went to work, did tons of maths and reading purely because she was interested — all while I worked and then we started building a cardboard house.

“The next day was a nightmare. I absolutely had to write and do an interview during the day. There were lots of interruptions and our work plan went to pot.”

“We did have a long talk and I explained I didn't really know what I was doing, that I was winging it — and she promised to do her part to help.”

Sam Strangeways, the Investigations Editor, said she had mostly remained at home with her children since March 14.

She said: “Trying to homeschool and focus on work is extremely tough, especially with small children.

“They need your attention, they need help with online schooling, reading and other work, and they need to have fun and lots of exercise.

She added: “I was impressed with the teacher for finding a way to still have a class and even that limited social contact was good.”

Ms Strangeways said: “Social-distancing is so necessary for everyone right now because of the risk of community spread. So it is about keeping everyone safe, especially the elderly and those with ill health.”

Suitably prepared: Royal Gazette videographer Kyle McNeil taking necessary precautions for doing his job in the present climate (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Messaging to the public that business will have to be conducted outside the Gazette offices (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Messaging to the public that business will have to be conducted outside the Gazette offices (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Messaging to the public that business will have to be conducted outside the Gazette offices (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 23, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 23, 2020 at 10:38 am)

Pandemic or not, we promise to deliver

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