Back when newspaper advertising dropped in 2009 all over the country after the real-estate bubble burst, we put staff on furlough and slashed costs. I retired in November of that year. After working 23 1/2 years at the Town Crier, striving as publisher-editor to meet financial goals and then having all that work go down the tubes, the job wasn’t fun anymore.
Jack retired in 2010 and we did some memorable traveling, thinking we would just live like this the rest of our lives and enjoy our growing grand-family.
But since my retirement, the TC continued to lose advertising and continued to bleed red. So it was no wonder that we learned in early 2013 that it was for sale and the man to whom it may be sold would outsource much of the work to Beijing.
Now, I worked for LB and Dorothy Hunsaker back in the 1980s. They were the last mom-and-pop to own the TC. And I worked for two corporations who bought it later — Chronicle Publishing Co. and Tindle Newspapers Ltd., respectively. None of these folk outsourced anything, including the British Ray Tindle who owned it for nearly 20 years just before we bought it.
Tindle knew me, having promoted me to publisher-editor in 1996. That was all the impetus they needed when Jack and I placed a bid on the TC in 2013. Maybe we didn’t make the decision a smart CEO would have made, but we couldn’t see staff losing their jobs, and the community losing touch with their local newspaper.
Retirement was over. And it really was! I won’t go into the crazy details but the past four-and-a-half years have included two building moves; a major wildfire three weeks after the purchase; a grandchild born on deadline by our daughter, also our employee; loss of two close friends who were employees; a lawsuit by a former employee who took one of the latter two with him; and a heart attack. Those are just highlights. And we didn’t get paid.
We downsized and continued to do so. Last year, when an employee left, Mandy, Halie and I took that position and split it among us. So I label papers and prepare them for mailing, as well as handle the subscriptions (now Memberships) for both print and online.
(Interestingly, that is the only TC job I had never known much about before I took it over last year.)
It was last year at a California News Publishers Association summit that we first heard about appealing to readers rather than advertisers to keep the newspaper going. By then, even with all the cuts, the TC was still bleeding red and it was staying afloat through our own money and labor.
We studied and pondered the Membership idea for several months, reading about other newspapers’ successes with the idea, until we reached crisis status.
Important to us has been to keep the newspaper local, keep the employees local, keep covering the government agencies when you, our readers, can’t get to the meetings. You need to know what they’re doing with your tax dollars. You need to know what these three water districts are going to charge you.
But you also care about other things, too, like being able to read the word games in the back, which has been difficult with the other company. King Features, that syndicate that provides the good ones, was cut sometime back. And with it went a feature LB Hunsaker began in the 1980s that was very popular: “It’s Different.”
But because of your Membership, we’ve re-signed with King Features and not only do you get readable word games, but “It’s Different” is back!