Wednesday was a very bad day.
I stepped out of a meeting with longtime Orlando Weekly film writer Steve Schneider to learn that several – most, really – of my co-workers would be laid off thanks to the coronavirus pandemic chewing up our revenue streams.
As bans against gatherings cause restaurants and bars and music vernues across the metro area to close up, those establishments are unable to purchase the ads that keep us afloat. In addition, those bans have hurt our other primary revenue stream: our kickass events, which obviously we can't treat Orlando to now either.
Taken together, COVID-19 is, as a fellow Euclid Media Group editor put it, a "nearly perfect weapon against alternative weeklies."
So 13 of us were told not to report to work for the foreseeable future. At Orlando Weekly, we're now down to a skeleton crew, and news is being brought to you by just two editorial staffers, myself and digital content editor Dave Plotkin. We and a small team of sales and operations staff will continue to put out a print edition each week as long as it is economically feasible to do so, and we'll keep the website stuffed full of stories about how this pandemic is affecting Central Florida. It won't be easy.
But I have to tell the truth: Pay cut, tiny staff, working from home and all, they'll have to pry the passwords out of my feverish, COVID-riddled hands. The work Orlando Weekly does is more important now than ever as we face down the double threat of the novel coronavirus and a government that seems bent on, if not actually killing us, certainly not doing much to help us stay alive. Local journalism is as necessary as it ever was – much, much more so at this moment, in fact.
If there's anything we can do to keep the public informed or entertained, we're doing it. And the fact that we can provide that service to Orlando for free, with no cover price or paywall, means we may be the only avenue to some of this news for the city's most vulnerable.
And anyway, let's face it: I've got nothing else to do right now. I've been at Orlando Weekly in one capacity or another since, gulp, 2003. It's all I know how to do at this point, and I refuse to go meekly.
I've worked as a waitress, a bartender, a club booker, an artist relations rep in the music business, a marketing events manager, an arts programmer in city government, a bookseller, and an editor at this here magazine. Orlando Weekly is by far my favorite; I can't let it go just yet.
My furloughed co-workers are all incredible, capable people, and you should hire them or donate to the GoFundMe to help them out or just send them a pizza because damn, am I gonna miss eating Monday lunch with all of them.
Matthew Moyer knows everything there is to know about darkwave and noise music, as well as the Dewey Decimal System; he has the ability to get any artist alive to open up in an interview and tell him (and, by extension, our readers) things they've told no one else. Solomon Gustavo has incredible news instincts and is poised at the beginning of a career in journalism that will take him around the country, I have no doubt; I only hope he comes back to us sooner than later. Tess Bonacci had started as our calendar editor the same week the virus began devastating the local event scene – she spent more time canceling and deleting events in her two weeks than she did writing about them. But her experience in public health and emergency medicine were incredibly helpful, not to mention comforting. Melissa McHenry is an extremely talented and swift designer with the greatest laugh you'll ever have the pleasure to hear.
If you have a dollar or two to spare to make sure one of Orlando's most vital and entertaining institutions is able to stay afloat in these extremely difficult times, please consider donating to support local journalism.
In the meantime, stay safe out there – stay cool, stay cozy and stay the fuck at home!