To catch the changes in life, Salem Reporter puts new photography team to work

Pastor Jerry Miranda hugs Teresa, his wife of 38 years, as she’s released from Salem Hospital on April 2, 2020 after recovering from a serious case of COVID-19 (Amanda Loman/Special to Salem Reporter)

As the global pandemic took its hold on Salem, the city changed.

“Closed” became the sign of the day.

Face masks suddenly were a hot commodity.

Solitude – at home, on a trail, in park – is now standard.

At Salem Reporter, we understand we are living history.

As with journalists from coast to coast, we’re scrambling keep our community up to date, darting from story to story to story.

Yet it struck us that just telling the news – the latest change in life – wasn’t good enough. We had to find a way to record the images of life around Salem as it changes day by day.

You are seeing the result today of our decision to expand our resources and add in expert photographers. This is an essential addition, possible in part because of reader support through subscriptions and donations.

When I put out the call for freelance photographers, my inbox alert dinged moment by moment. Photographers got it. They understand this is an unprecedented time. They wanted to help us document Salem’s evolution for the moment – and for history. Amazing talent emerged as many raised their hands to help.

For now, we’re building our photography around three supremely talented people.

One name may be familiar to many of you – Ron Cooper.

Ron spent his professional career as a daily newspaper photographer in Salem, retiring from the Statesman Journal after four decades of work. He has kept up his passion for photography – and Salem. Ron, being a veteran warhorse of news like me, yearned to have a role in what we both now consider the story of our lifetimes.

Ron is meticulous, curious, and knowledgeable. He’s going to be our photo guru, helping guide photo assignments, taking on the task of editing the photos, and roaming around a bit himself. I’m humbled that Ron is bringing his tremendous skills to our tiny shop – and back to Salem.

The two photographers who will do the heavy lifting are Amanda Loman and Diane Beals. Amanda is an experienced photojournalist and Diane is well-known in Salem arts for her empathetic work, especially recently on the homeless.

Amanda jumped right on the task on Thursday, showing up at a Chromebook handout, watching a separated couple reunite at Salem Hospital, and otherwise letting her curiosity take her around town. Her work has appeared in stories already.

Amanda and Diane are largely going to be left free to go where their professional instincts take them. We want to capture life in Salem, big and small. We’ll strictly follow social distancing, but this is a rare chance for you to help capture history. If you know of an event, a unique circumstance, something that reflects in any way how we’re living differently now, shoot me a note ([email protected]). We can’t get everywhere and to everything but think about how life shifts daily. We humans are mighty adaptable and suddenly getting takeout dinner seems routine rather than the result of a hurried day.

This is all part of the determination of Salem Reporter to not just catch the latest news development, but to carefully record a way of life none of us has experienced.

We do so as the news resources across Oregon are shrinking. These are tough times in the media. As you hunger for more information, the financial stilts are getting sawed off.

Pamplin Media Group, a Portland outfit with the Portland Tribune and papers such as the Woodburn Independent, on Thursday laid off nearly two dozen employees. This followed an earlier decision to dial back its staff to 30-hour work weeks. Here in town, our colleagues at the Statesman Journal are following orders from corporate, requiring most of them to take off an unpaid week each month. And another big Oregon news company, EO Media, was among the first to make the tough call to reduce staff at its newspapers from Astoria to Bend to Pendleton.

At Salem Reporter, we’ve never relied on advertising to make it, though we dearly love any business that does want to reach our audience. Instead, we count on subscribers to cover our costs.

We have seen a continuing surge in readers signing up or donating even as we provide free access to our reporting on the local impacts of the pandemic. We thank each of you.

If you haven’t signed on, you can be part of our team, to see that Ron, Amanda and Diane have the resources to do terrific work. They join our reporting squad of Rachel Alexander, Saphara Harrell and Jake Thomas in our focus on Salem news.

How can you help us now?

SUBSCRIBE – This is automatic and easy to set up. The cost is $5 a month for the first three months and then goes to $10. Virtually every dollar goes to gathering news. Subscribe HERE.

CONTRIBUTE – If you already subscribe and you have the means, donate to our operation. We’re not a charity, so there likely is no tax benefit to you. The benefit is ensuring Salem doesn’t go dark when it comes to local news. Donate HERE. (We’ll soon have a way to get a tax deduction for a contribution.)

SHARE – None of this makes any difference unless more and more people are aware they can come to our website for free information on Salem. Spread the word. Share our website by email, by Facebook, by Twitter, by chalk drawings on the sidewalk. Get. The. Word. Out.

Help us today and we’ll help you in the challenging weeks and months to come. Thank you for your time.

Les Zaitz, editor

Salem Reporter

Questions? Suggestions? Email: [email protected].