With the hopes of better opportunities, Kaitlin accepted a promotion to editor at the Athens Messenger and she and her husband, John, relocated to Ohio in February. The new position came with a pay raise and a team that included a reporter, a photographer and a sports editor. As newlyweds, the two thought that moving from small town Michigan would provide John a greater chance to find a job. He had studied psychology but was out of work in Michigan. They knew Ohio was a bigger market for him and hoped he’d be able to find work at a therapy office. Then the pandemic hit and what had seemed like a step forward for the couple became a struggle.
Kaitlin and her husband were just getting settled; they were learning about their community. Her husband was job hunting and she was figuring out her new role. She was only at the job for a month and a half before things changed. Kaitlin noted, “I oversee that team and I was just starting to get to know each of them as individuals. When I started, we had another reporter and we also had access to freelancers. About a month into the pandemic, we were told that each newspaper in our company was going to be letting go of one person and we had to make that decision. So I had the task of having to let someone go for the first time and then also trying to figure out how to redistribute the talent and time of our staff without any extra freelancers or access to outside help. But it’s a global pandemic. It’s one of the biggest stories that we’ll ever tell. We [have] to make sure that we get that coverage, even if we are only the two of us doing the writing. I’m the editor, but I’m still doing writing on a daily basis just because we have to. I can’t let my one reporter take the full brunt of coverage.”
With her two person team, Kaitlin had to figure out how to cover a global pandemic from a local perspective. She explained how they approached the subject, “We have to focus on the community and how what’s going on globally affects us, because we are in Appalachian Ohio. It’s a looked-over region of the country. There’s a lot of job insecurity, a lot of food insecurity, a lot of healthcare insecurity and all of these things are compounded during a pandemic. So we’ve been looking at all of those aspects, as well as what the schools are doing, how students are getting fed, what the cities are doing, if there’s a mass order in place, if you can patronize [the local businesses], if you can do different things out in the community. So just covering how everything trickles down to where we’re at in the community.”
Being in a less affluent area of the country, Kaitlin noted that, “Locally the pandemic has hit us pretty hard and the pandemic put a lot of people out of work. For instance, the local health department, they were hiring for contact tracers. My husband hadn’t been able to find a job before the pandemic so he reached out to the health department about one of those positions. They told him that they had too many applications because so many people were out of work. Everyone was looking for something. On the different Facebook pages for the different communities all around, on a daily basis, you see posts of someone saying, has anyone heard of anyone hiring? The only thing that you ever see is someone’s hiring at a fast food restaurant or something like that but those aren’t the jobs that can put a full meal on a table for a family or pay rent.”
The financial struggle of the pandemic in her area was not limited to the greater community, Kaitlin and her husband found themselves living paycheck to paycheck. She told us, “That’s been difficult because we moved down here thinking that we would have this extra income and we’re in the same situation that we were back in my hometown, which is much smaller. Things are a little bit more expensive here than they were back home and to top it all off, my company actually did reduce our pay and our number of hours worked. So I had a pay increase when I took this job but then my hours were capped and I was transitioned back from salaried to hourly. I have only 30 hours available to me a week. I have [about a] twenty five percent reduction in my paycheck. So we are prioritizing what we spend our money on right now and living on a budget.”
Healthcare is also an issue that the couple is facing. Kaitlin explained, “Healthcare is expensive in this country. With my husband not having a job, he doesn’t have insurance right now. It’s not really financially feasible to have him under my work’s coverage. So if he needs health care, then that’s something that is going to be a big hit for us.” So between the reduction in pay, the concerns over healthcare and the increased cost of living, Kaitlin thinks about their finances frequently. She expanded on this concern to us, “You do have those tough conversations about what to do if one of you gets ill with Covid. Everything is a financial burden. Just the other day I was thinking about going to the store because I needed to get hair conditioner. I want to go and look and see what they have at the store. It’s cheaper to get it where I know that it’s on sale. You do have to think about those things. How much is it going to cost to get treated if one of us gets seriously ill from Covid? I’m a lifelong asthmatic. So I’m one of those prime people that it could be really bad for. If I end up in the hospital, if I end up on a ventilator, how much will that hurt us? We don’t have the money for that. So what would we do at that point?”
Read more on jobs being affected by the pandemic with how Hollywood is full of specialized niches but some don’t translate well. Or watch more stories on fuconomy’s youtube channel.