The disappearance over the past decade of daily and weekly newspapers has turned many areas of the United States into news deserts. The reasons are many, but the end result is that many communities larger than Martha’s Vineyard have no reliable source of local news. Yet, our small Island and its year round population of less than 20,000 has two. It is a luxury that many who live here take for granted.

In these days of the once unimaginable, imagine for a moment that social media and press releases posted to websites were the only sources of local news and information that is vital to everyday Island life lived under self-quarantine.

Even as the full impact of this pestilence is still unknown and may be weeks, months or years away, imagine that amid uncertainty about the ability of the institutions that underpin life in our small community — Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Steamship Authority, town government — to meet the challenge of coronavirus, we were forced to sift through Facebook to separate fact from impassioned rant and pure malarky.

In print and online since the advent of the coronavirus, the Vineyard Gazette and the Martha’s Vineyard Times give readers information and news stories that bind us even in a time of forced separation. Hospital, school and boatline news, meeting cancellations, births, deaths — it’s all there.

At their best, reader comments in each newspaper propose different views in a respectable forum for debate. Or at the least they offer an unvarnished picture of Island life — yes, even this special place is home to the petty, the stubborn, and the incomprehensible.

In the best of times, publishing a good community newspaper is not easy. These were not the best of times for newspapers even before the corona virus began its deadly global migration. Still, we may turn to the Island newspapers with a degree of confidence that the reporting is accurate, that the information has been vetted and not simply wrenched from thin air.

Whether publishing in print or online there is no magic involved. Good reporting takes hard work. Over 26 years I learned that putting out a newspaper is a team effort, from the publisher on down to the people who stock newspapers on the shelves.

A news story is the product of many small judgments that begin with the reporter. He or she is most visible because his or her name appears as the byline under a story, but the editor, proofreader, and production staff all play a role in the finished product.

Mistakes, a result of sloppiness or poor judgment, occur. Not every reader will be happy. And the reporter who stirs up a hornet’s nest doesn’t benefit from the anonymity that large city scribes enjoy. Newspapering is a tough job.

I was a reporter and I was an editor. More often than not I wore both hats at the same time because that’s how it works at a small newspaper. I know what it is like to have to direct scarce resources to cover a big story, and I covered my share.

There were countless hours spent on the phone, chasing down people, working to get the information I needed to stitch together a story. Reporting is emotionally and physically draining. I lived here too. I had a stake in the community that was the focus of my reporting. All of this took time from my family.

But no story was ever as far reaching as the coronavirus. Each day, each hour brings something new. The pressure on both newspaper staffs is unrelenting.

And each day readers click on the respective websites of both newspapers, habitually and as casually as though they were turning on the water faucet in their kitchens. Out flows news and information, free for the taking.

This is not a wholesale endorsement of either newspaper. I have my criticisms. But as we navigate these uncertain times, I think it is important to be thankful for all of those serving on the frontlines.

Nelson Sigelman is the author of Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors and Martha’s Fish Tales and a contributor to Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. He lives in Vineyard Haven.