M. Roberts Media announces new executive roles

Stephen McHaney

I wish I was writing this from the perspective of a person who had just lived through a traumatic event. That way I would have more peace of mind. Unfortunately, I am writing at the beginning of such an event. It gives me peace, though, to look back at the history of our country, our community and our company.

We have gone through hard times before. It does not take long to conjure memories of the physical devastation from hurricanes and tornadoes and how we rebuilt from those losses. We have experienced economic disasters with stock market crashes in 1987 and 2008, as well as oil busts, and we have made it through those tough days as well. Yes, those were difficult and we have some scars to show, but those are just proof of our resolve. This will be hard too, but I know — without question — we will get through it.

I’ll admit this one is a little different for me and for nearly every one of us. I’ve never lived through a global pandemic, but I have complete confidence we’ll emerge stronger.

One of the problems this time around is that our response has to be different. This virus is different than a hurricane, a tornado or an oil bust. It does not care if we board our windows or take cover in a storm shelter, it does not care if we work in the oil field or the cotton field. So how do we respond and rebuild this time around?

The first thing we must do is protect ourselves and our loved ones. To do that, we need trusted sources of information. Knowing the difference between an effective response and a wild rumor can impact our daily lives, and may save lives. It can seem odd that the best response to this threat is simply doing what our mothers taught us: Wash your hands and stay away from sick people. But that’s the truth and we will keep repeating it and other truths East Texans need to get through this time of pandemic.

That is why I am glad to be in the news business. We have one of the largest teams of people in the community dedicated to sorting fact from fiction. Too often this past week I have had people ask me if something they heard is true. While the questions are well intentioned, they are often asked in response to a rumor. I usually reply that the newspaper does not keep secret any information about this pandemic or any other subject. It is our job to share information after we have validated it. We do that in many ways, and have been doing it for decades. I promise you we are not holding anything back now.

In fact, hoarding information, just like hoarding supplies, is not an appropriate response right now. We find it to be inappropriate from public officials at any time, and that’s certainly so today, when Texans must have the latest and best information to protect themselves and their families.

Given that you’re reading this, I know you appreciate reliable news. But one of the other things you can do that is particularly important is to tell your friends about the importance of reliable news and where it comes from. This does not happen by accident, and it does not happen without cost. Our company expends considerable resources to gather and disseminate reliable information.

That means we need subscribers to support what we do, and we appreciate every single one we have. That’s true whether they’ve read the hundreds of local stories about the pandemic we’ve published via our news app and website or they read in the the daily print edition, where we curate the day’s news and present it in an organized format.

It is one thing to learn about COVID-19 and how it is impacting China or Seattle, and you can find that information anywhere. Knowing how the pandemic impacts East Texas is where we come in. So please tell your friends that one way they can help ensure reliable local information is a shared responsibility and their part is to buy a subscription to the newspaper. We will deliver it however they want it: in print, online or through our app.

Another way to help here at home is to support other local businesses that have gone through drastic steps to ensure they can continue to provide services we need and continue to pay their employees. These businesses need help and we need to reward their efforts by buying from them. Part of our local coverage has been providing comprehensive lists of businesses that are open and providing safe ways to serve East Texans.

These are some of the things you can do for yourself and your neighbor. If we all keep calm for the coming weeks, we will one day be able to look back and talk about our new scars.

Stephen N. McHaney is president of M. Roberts Media, the family owned company that owns and operates the News Messenger.