Within weeks of the nation-wide COVID-19 shutdown, more than 200 regional and community newspapers across Australia announced they could no longer keep their presses running due to the unprecedented crisis. A drain in advertising spend, a broken business model and the refusal of digital behemoths to pay for content were blamed for their collapse, ironically as audiences’ demand for credible news and information soared across the globe. There is no doubt the COVID-19 crisis has widened existing, deep cracks in the news media industry. In response this article sets out to explore possible solutions and strategies for local newspapers in the post-pandemic media landscape. We take an analogical approach to argue some of the issues that emerged during COVID-19 and strategies used to fight the global health pandemic also present valuable lessons for the preservation of public interest journalism and news at the local level. We conceptualise five coronavirus-related themes that resonate with a much-needed innovations agenda for local newspapers in Australia: (1) support for essential services, (2) warnings of complacency against an evolving biological threat, (3) appreciating the power of the social (4) coordinated government/policy responses and (5) ‘we are all in this together’.