I’m writing this column from my basement, where I’ve staked out a corner for my temporary office. With its bugs, cobwebs and cracked concrete, it’s not a perfect environment. But it gets the job done, and I prefer it to my wife’s workspace in the dining room on the floor above me. She’s got sunlight and easy kitchen access, but she also has to listen to our kids play “Animal Crossing” on the Nintendo Switch all day long. Down here, I have nothing but peace and quiet, as well as a few eight-legged friends to keep me company.
This issue, as you can gather from the above paragraph, wasn’t put together under the most ideal circumstances. In early March, the Columbus Monthly staff and I began to realize that the COVID-19 outbreak might force us to reconsider our planned May cover story, a package of travel pieces. At first, we kicked around a few light-hearted replacement ideas, but within a week, it became clear that none of those fit anymore. With schools closed, sports canceled, businesses shutting down and the city on a stay-at-home order, there was just one story for us to cover.
We’ve dedicated the May issue to documenting the local impact of the pandemic, including three features on the topic. From Arch City in the front of the book to the dining section in the back, you’ll find stories that describe how the new coronavirus is affecting Columbus.
In my nearly 25 years as a journalist, I’ve never encountered a story that has so dramatically altered life in this country. It’s also been unusually personal for us at Columbus Monthly. We’re not war correspondents. We’re not used to finding ourselves caught in the middle of a chaotic story that we’re also covering. Just like so many others, our offices are closed, we’re isolated in our homes, we’re scared for our families and friends, and we’re worried about our jobs. Because of lost revenue as a result of the crisis, our staff will need to take three weeks of unpaid furlough—one week each in April, May and June.
This is a “defining moment,” the Columbus Partnership’s Alex Fischer told me in a recent interview, and I agree with him. I’m immensely proud of the Columbus Monthly staff for rising to the occasion, pivoting to an ambitious cover topic at the last minute and adapting our intensely collaborative work processes into a work-from-home environment. I find myself thinking of the quote from Ohio’s health director, Dr. Amy Acton, on the cover of this magazine: “This is the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. And everything each of us does matters.”
With this issue, I think we’ve done our part.***
Columbus Monthly is a finalist for two national City and Regional Magazine Association Awards. For the fourth consecutive year, the magazine is up for a prestigious general excellence honor for its circulation size, while senior editor Suzanne Goldsmith is also a finalist for profile writing (circulation less than 60,000). The winners will be announced in May.