The Coast has never experienced anything like this. COVID-19 has turned things upside down for our readers, our staff, our city, our world.
The base of local businesses whose advertising helps support The Coast—a base that tilts towards bars, restaurants and events—has been shut down. That shut-down extends to our ticketing service and the events like Halifax Burger Week that we produce, as another way to raise money that helps support the newspaper. Each week's edition of the newspaper has a variety of news and arts and food stories, beautiful photographs, clever comics and other touches that make a publication complete; underlying it all is the idea that every issue is a handbook for being an engaged citizen, making the most of this city we all love and share. Now the best thing to do for you and your neighbour is to stay at home, suspend activity, and disengage while we wait out this virus.
Given all these factors, we have to pause newspaper publishing. This is a difficult step, without precedent in The Coast's 27 years. We have laid off the nearly 20 people who produce the weekly paper, leaving only a bare-bones editorial staff to keep reporting for The Coast online.
We know a pandemic can be made worse by panic, so we are committed to providing reliable information at thecoast.ca. But this issue of the print newspaper is the last one for the foreseeable future. Save it as a collector's edition, your time capsule of Halifax from before.
This coronavirus has turned us all into amateur virologists, learning about fun new things such as transmissibility, incubation, R0 and asymptomatic shedding. Due to some combination of these and other factors, previous viral pandemics of recent history—SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1—just didn't have a major impact on Nova Scotia. The province has been walloped by natural disasters like Hurricane Juan, Winter Juan and Hurricane Dorian. Unlike COVID-19, these storms hit Halifax hard then disappeared, the evidence of their destruction serving as a kind of to-do list for recovery. Thankfully lacking in major fatalities, that group of weather events actually gave Nova Scotian society a reason to live its best life. Getting through the power outages as a community meant getting together and sharing: Gathering at that one house with a generator, lugging food from thawing freezers to the potluck your friend with the propane stove hosted.
For The Coast, there were difficulties producing an issue for each Thursday after a storm, but we relished the challenge. Because that's our role in the community. And we never missed an issue. The show must go on, we must get back to normal.
September 11 is probably the only other episode in Coast memory that could compare to the COVID-19 situation, and it's not a very good comparison. Back then our office didn't have a television (the dominant medium for broadcasting in 2001) so when the news first broke our staff decamped to the bar downstairs from our then-office and witnessed the second plane hit the tower live on the bar's giant screen.
Watching events unfold that Tuesday was devastating, but it didn't immediately sink in that a group of 19 terrorists could change the world. Wednesday we discussed changing the issue in response to the attacks, but decided to stick with our original plans. The film festival was featured on the cover of that Thursday's issue. September 11 was on the cover the next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. It touched Nova Scotia. It reached everywhere. Yet getting back to some semblance of regular life was an important part of moving forward. As the slogan at the time warned, if you didn't shop, drive, consume as normal to keep the economy going, "then the terrorists win."
COVID-19 may be terrifying, but it is not terrorism. And the only tools we have to beat it are the opposite of normal. In the new normal, movies from January look old-timey because characters shake hands and stand near each other. (This issue based on the latest information as of March 18 might seem old-timey when it comes out March 19, things are so changing fast.) There's no school. No Burger Week. No going out for drinks after work. No going out. In many cases, no work. Don't touch your face. Don't hoard toilet paper. To this improbable list of right, responsible realities, we must add don't look for a paper copy of The Coast next Thursday.
Do, however, join us at thecoast.ca as we bear human, Haligonian witness to the now and look toward the future. Until we arrive there, please stay well and keep washing those hands.
—Publisher Christine Oreskovich and editor Kyle Shaw, Coast co-founders