Health & Wellness

‘Do you trust me?’: Putting faith in community, each other in a crisis

Erin Tierney, executive editor

This past year I’ve logged a considerable amount of hours actively listening to Noel as he sits to the right of me – be it from across the newsroom or on the move to meetings, interviews and news coverage in the Willamette Valley.

And does he have a lot to say. I mean a lot. 

Always talking about his former colleagues from ESPN. On and on about his newspaper friends in Miami and Dallas and late nights in newsrooms. Actively evolving his philosophies based on what he learned yesterday and folding it into his business plan for tomorrow. Recalling endless stories about the people who have helped him through life. 

The guy can go on and on. 

The Chronicle is always on his mind. We’re always talking about The Chronicle being a vehicle to spread goodwill. He sees each interaction with a person as a way to build and strengthen relationships, and emphasizes the importance of always giving people the benefit of good intent. 

In my four years at The Chronicle, this past one has been the most invigorating. We are building a strong team at The Chronicle and our products have evolved to reflect those ideals. 

One of my favorite spots is in the far back of the newsroom. Hang a right at the filing cabinets and around the corner you’ll see a prodigious whiteboard with a great and inviting presence. Soft lighting, brightly colored dry-erase markers and eager eyes, many a time staff has stood in front of that whiteboard brainstorming, templatizing and bringing ideas to life.

The back corner is much quieter these days. All the plates we had spinning in the air before the Coronavirus have lost their whirl, suspended in time as though someone pressed the pause button. 

The Coronavirus has left many people and their businesses vulnerable, The Chronicle being one of them. A little newspaper with big ambitions, we’ve taken a lot of chances and made enormous strides to get the ball to land in our court. Just as the ball was landing on our side, seemingly overnight it was thrown into oblivion. 

Staff has been reduced, the office has been closed and those of us still here are learning how to effectively readjust and react to the financial impacts as well as its toll on our news coverage. 

We are all shaken.

With an unprecedented and steep drop-off in revenue from advertising, promotional events and school functions, a dark cloud hangs over The Chronicle. Like a brewing storm and an arthritic wrist, we feel the fear in our bones. Next week isn’t guaranteed and we needed to confront the reality of the situation. 

A few weeks ago, after an emotional conversation about the newspaper’s future, Noel wheeled himself over to my desk, pulled by his green Converse across the carpet. He straightened out his elbows and rested his hands on his knees. He hung his head low and sighed before making eye contact with me.

He looked up with welled eyes and tenderly asked, “Do you trust me?” as he extended his hand out, as though inviting me to jump off a cliff with him. It was a raw moment filled equally with distress and optimism. My eyes welled, too, and with a leader like Noel, I didn’t hesitate to jump.

The Chronicle has been suspended in mid-air — not yet splattered, not yet planted safely back on the ground. In an already vulnerable situation, it’s uncomfortable to have to seek donations to help keep us afloat; none of us feel good about it. However, it’s overwhelmingly humbling for all of us to see the support pour in as it has in recent weeks. 

We’ve managed to cobble together a parachute mid-drop, stitched together by the generosity of people in our communities who have faith in us. People from Noel’s many stories from ESPN, Dallas, Miami and elsewhere have come to life to me as they, too, reach out and offer support. 

Turns out all those buzzwords Noel’s been dropping – good intent, goodwill, relationship strengthening – are the very ideals the community is using to help keep us alive and our staff inspired right now.

The Chronicle is beyond touched by the generosity we are experiencing, the sweet and encouraging words we receive and the overall faith you have in us. 

When you drive down Oregon Avenue, you know The Chronicle is well-loved. We’ve plastered our window with big red hearts, listing the names of those who have donated, and recognizing anonymous envelopes shoved under the newsroom door, donations that arrived in the mail without a sender, and those who donate on our “Give Butter” page. Our hearts swell.

The support we are feeling is the most beautiful thing in the midst of this chaos, and will help us unpause sooner and ensure our plates can continue to spin and our whiteboard continues to fill up with ideas to super-serve our readers. 

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for giving us the benefit of good intent, spreading goodwill and taking this leap of faith with us.

Erin Tierney is executive editor of The Chronicle.



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