The PineandLakes Echo Journal has not missed a publishing date for many decades, but that streak could be threatened by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Echo Journal, with support from 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 Pequot Lakes and Brainerd Dispatch offices are now closed to the public.

Our goal is to continue delivering the Echo Journal, Brainerd Dispatch and the Echoland Piper 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.

Continuing to publish our products 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 two weeks, the Echo Journal and Dispatch newsrooms have written more than 50 local stories with key updates on COVID-19. 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 building in Brainerd 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 newspapers 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 pineandlakes.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. Now through April 30, we will reduce open advertising rates by 50% for all print advertising in the Dispatch, Echo Journal and the Echoland Piper 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://trib.al/iJJtC9Y.