The Brainerd Dispatch has faced a few threats of interruption of its newspaper publishing over the past 139 years — including an early morning shooting by a former employee that damaged the Dispatch building in 1993 and a tornado that caused a lengthy power outage around Brainerd in 2001. But we still printed the Dispatch newspaper on both of those tragic days.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest test we have all faced around the world. But the Dispatch, with support from our Forum Communications Co., is committed to continue producing print and digital news coverage during the challenging times to keep our members (subscribers) and communities well-informed. We will continue fulfilling our important role, while at the same time taking necessary steps to protect our employees’ health and safety. That is why our Brainerd and Pequot Lakes offices are now closed to the public.

We do plan to continue delivering the Dispatch, the weekly PineandLakes Echo Journal and the Echoland Shopper to our subscribers during this unprecedented period in our nation’s history. We are, however, taking prudent steps to develop business plans to address any possible scenarios we could face.

The Brainerd Dispatch will be closed to the public starting 8 a.m. Sunday.
The Brainerd Dispatch will be closed to the public starting 8 a.m. Sunday.

Keeping the Dispatch’s long string of consecutive publishing dates going will depend on many factors, like the health and safety of our staff and route drivers; no interruption to the U.S. Postal Service; and our ability to receive supplies like newsprint and ink. If our service is interrupted, we will communicate with our members (subscribers) through our websites and mobile applications.

Local updates and news coverage is critical, and the Minnesota Newspaper Association recently sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz requesting newspapers be classified as an essential service during a potential shelter-in-place order.

These are challenging times, but it's impressive to see how people work together in communities like the Brainerd lakes area. I was part of two meetings last week, organized by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, that included local business and community leaders. There was discussion about the potential economic impact for area businesses, especially with the tourism season quickly approaching. Area organizations also provided updates for hospitals, schools, chambers and governments. Those in attendance emphasized the importance of following safety guidelines to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. There was also an emphasis on supporting local businesses, especially small businesses.

Everyone is making adjustments to face this challenging period of time. No one knows how long this pandemic will last, but we’re committed to keeping our community updated and informed through it all.

Following are updates from our departments:

Newsroom

In the past 10 days, the Dispatch staff has produced more than 40 local stories with key updates on COVID-19 while the recent issue of the Echo Journal was also filled with local coverage of the pandemic. We’ve also produced print and online updates for hundreds of organizations and businesses.

We provide information that is critical to our area communities. All of our reporters will continue working during this time, producing stories that are important. If anyone needs to reach the newsroom they can do so by calling 218-829-4705 or 1-800-432-3703. A drop box is located on the west side of the Dispatch for people to drop off news releases, payments and other items.

Circulation

Our drivers will still be delivering the newspapers, however due to COVID-19 there are some locations, such as assisted living centers and apartment buildings, they can no longer enter. They will leave the papers at the entrance with customers' apartment numbers written on them. We do attempt to notify customers of changes. We will still be answering phones 7 a.m-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7-10 a.m. Saturday at 218-855-5897.

For our print subscribers, now is the time to activate your digital membership that comes with your print subscription. Access 24/7 to brainerddispatch.com is part of your subscription and offers you the opportunity to receive up-to-date local information. You can activate your membership either online or by calling us at 218-855-5897.

Advertising

We will continue to support our local businesses in every way. Effective Monday, March 23, through April 30, we will reduce open advertising rates by 50% for all print advertising in both the Dispatch, Echo Journal and the Echoland Shopper. Please reach out to us with any questions or let us know how we can help you during this time. We can be reached at advertising@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5895.

Businesses can post, share and follow business community changes, updates, closures and cancellations at https://bit.ly/2UpaxqK.

As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

PETE MOHS may be reached at 218-855-5855 or pete.mohs@brainerddispatch.com.