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Our newsroom commitment to you: Facts, not fear, information, not speculation

By Staff | Apr 15, 2020

The past few weeks have been tough ones for Southwest Floridians.

We’ve seen government operations pare down to the bare bones essentials, with offices closed and meetings and services moved online.

We’re seen many of our favorite businesses temporarily close or wholly revamp their operations to online sales and orders, to delivery, takeout and curbside pickup.

We’ve been told to stay home and to avoid even family gatherings.

The virtual has replaced the personal.

And the personal toll has been heavy.

“Essential workers” in health care and retail are working breakdown hours, literally double shifts with scant time off.

“Non-essential workers” are unemployed with bills to pay and families to support, trying to negotiate an overwhelmed and cumbersome re-employment system.

All of us want answers, need answers, as we deal with the health and financial concerns wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d like to say that we have the answers needed to assuage those fears but we don’t.

What our reporters and editors do have is access to reliable information sources and the experts who can keep you updated as the pandemic is contained — contained in our community, contained in our state, contained across our country.

This is our newsroom commitment to you: Facts, not fear, information, not speculation, through the COVID-19 health crisis.

To that end we have ratcheted up our virtual-access reporting with coronavirus updates posted to our website and Facebook pages as they come in, seven days per week. This is unique and “extra” content in addition to our print stories.

These posts include regular updates and communications from the Joint Information Center on COVID-19 for the State of Florida, the Office of the Governor, the Florida Department of Health and Lee Health.

These agencies are reliable sources for numbers updates as to confirmed cases, total tests performed and how many were negative, which, thankfully, is the vast majority. These stories include where COVID-19 cases are prevalent, down to each community in Lee County.

Let us pause here to give kudos to Lee Health, which is not only providing daily updates on cases but numbers the community is asking for — the number of those who have been released from its hospitals.

Lee Health also is providing a daily message from Dr. Lawrence Antonucci, CEO and president, which we are sharing among our multi-source/one-place-to-find-it-all online content. Thank you. And thank you to all of the healthcare workers on the front line.

As the mission of all Breeze Newspapers papers is local content, our reporting team also is bringing coverage home with community stories — the impact of state measures on businesses and residents; county, county agency and school district actions; initiatives taken by Lee County’s municipalities and stories about the businesses and individuals who have stepped up to make a difference.

All of these stories may be found at northfortmyersneighbor.com under regional news.

To make access to COVID-19 updates as easy as possible, we’ve also consolidated the major stories and releases under a new category, “COVID-19: Coronavirus updates.” The category may be found via an easy access button on our home pages.

There is no paywall. There is no limit on how many stories and updates you can read. Access is free.

All of this content also is posted to our Facebook page, where those who choose to “follow” can get instant notice of new news via their mobile device.

Meanwhile, our reporting goes in-depth and hyper-local in our print editions, where we have reported such stories as the number of students taking part in the first week of the School District of Lee County’s distance learning program.

Finally, we have added our business to those looking to make a difference until these challenging times pass — as they will.

Ogden Newspapers Inc., the parent company of Breeze Newspapers, has established a $1 million nationwide fund to help local businesses get back to full strength by subsidizing local marketing efforts through matching advertising dollars.

In Southwest Florida, four different types of ad grants are available and can be tailored to each business’s unique needs. Grants are available in the months of April, May and June on a first-come, first-served basis until the Breeze Newspaper’s $100,000 portion of the $1 million fund is all claimed.

Businesses operating in the communities of Cape Coral, Sanibel/Captiva, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island, North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres can apply for a grant today at www.ogdennews.com/community-grant. Applicants will receive a response to their application within one to two business days. Businesses can participate each month of the program but must re-apply monthly.

The fund is open to all locally owned and operated businesses impacted by the coronavirus, whether or not they are current Breeze Newspapers advertisers. Grant money can be used for local print advertising between April 1 and June 30, 2020, in all Breeze newspapers — the Cape Coral Breeze, Sanibel Captiva Islander/Island Reporter, Fort Myers Beach Observer, Pine Island Eagle, North Fort Myers Neighbor and Lehigh Acres Citizen — as well as our Community Lifestyles Magazine and upcoming Hurricane Guide.

In closing, we ask that you and your loved ones stay safe as we collectively go through this challenging time. We will continue to do our part to keep you as up-to-date as possible. Local news does matter, now more than ever, and we promise to work each day, in all that we do, to remain your trusted source of information.

Ray Eckenrode, publisher

Valarie Harring, executive editor