Some 1300 feet above sea level, it’s 63 degrees outside. I’m sitting in the sunshine on my front porch in Mount Tremper. A light breeze is rustling the leaves of the bud-filled rhododendron inches away from where I’m sitting, and the wind chimes on the porch are providing welcoming sounds in tune with the breezes. A few feet away, the first snowdrops are showing their little flowers in front of me. To my south, the mountain range remains an unbroken line of snow cover beneath an unbroken blue sky.
All seems right in the world today.
How different it felt in the first few days of the pandemic exactly a year ago, when nothing was right, and there was a pervasive sense of paralysis both individual and institutional in the air. At our weekly community papers, already precariously treading an unsustainable economic path, almost all economic activity abruptly stopped. There was little solace in the national journalism press, which told how a quarter of all the country’s print publications had already either gone out of business or, almost worse yet, become ghost publications delivering only a tiny fraction of the news on which their readers depended.
I called the printer. There’d be no papers for him to print that week – a first after 47 years of continuous publication. I felt terrible. We had to lay off considerably more than half the staff, most of whom I had worked with for years, sometimes decades.
What to do? There was still the on-line edition of our work. HV1. We asked our readers to tolerate the disruption and support us financially if they could. The response was both heartwarming and overwhelming. Hundreds of people sent us gifts of money or signed up for subscriptions.
Some readers said they preferred the expanded on-line publication. A sizeable number of others were inconsolable, asking only when they were going to get their own local papers back. We told them we didn’t know, but would tell them when we did.
Twelve weeks later, we called the printer again. We were going to do a print edition called Hudson Valley One. He printed it, we distributed it, and many of our audience could enjoy the experience of ink in (and on) their hands once again.
As the year progressed, subscriptions to our on-line and newsstand versions of our publication both slowly but steadily increased. At the one-year mark since the beginning of the pandemic, business survival is for the moment no longer in question.
Our purpose as a community-supported service business is to provide a service that our local audience finds indispensable. There’s always room for improvement, and improve we now must. We are discussing our options, and on this sunny anniversary of the arrival of Covid-19 in our region we welcome your feedback.
You are our sunshine. Let us evolve together. Evolve as One.