The advice was sage, and the calm, steady tone of voice made it clear that it came from a lifetime of experience. Nothing theoretical, just the simple truth.
“You’ll need to make a few withdrawals from the ‘goodwill’ account now and then,” Dave Gauger told me with just a hint of a chuckle. “You won’t always get it right, despite your best intentions. You’ll need to seek forgiveness at times.”
Gauger is a longtime newspaper publisher and the founder of Gauger Media Service, which helped facilitate our purchase of The Chronicle on Feb. 28, 2019. His support and counsel – along with so many others who have generously given of their time and experiences – have helped sustain us ever since.
Why and how are we still publishing a weekly newspaper and delivering real-time news and information on our website and social media platforms?
The “why” has never wavered: Deliver credible hyper-local news and information that helps inform and edify our communities, and lifts our economy via small businesses.
The “how” is a bit of a head-scratcher, to be honest. The depressed economy, lack of scheduled events from concerts to sports, the devastated dining industry, and other sectors have choked off revenue from multiple streams.
Or, it’s not a head-scratcher.
We’re still here because we’ve made difficult, strategic decisions to stay alive. We’ve reduced our number of pages on certain weeks, which in turn limits our ability to publish all of the content readers tell us they enjoy. Very hard decison. We believe this is a short-term sacrifice, and we will recover and grow with the rest of the community once we can safely move past the pandemic.
We’re still here because we’re learning new lessons and leaning on old ones. Whether managing people in a corporation or owning your own small business, one quickly learns that it’s not “all about me,” but, rather, it is “all on me.” Our individual team members are making the difference; responsibility for what is published, though, ultimately rests with me. It’s never comfortable asking for help or owning mistakes. Every withdrawal from that “goodwill” account is painful.
We’re still here, mostly, because of our readers, advertisers and staff. Specifically, my co-owner and spouse, Dee Dee, our executive editor Erin Tierney, our creative director Chelsea Greenway, our sales leader Jordan Cora Lampe, writer and photographer Emma Routley, writer and copy editor Ron Hartman, and all of the local residents who serve as correspondents and contributors.
We’re still here because of colleagues like Oregon Web Press. Before we bought the newspaper, of course, we sought advice far and wide. Several publishers made the case that I should “shop for a better printing business every year.”
Not all advice is equally good.
OWP is an Albany-based printer on the cutting edge of ecologically friendly printing, with alternative sources of paper and ink products. Its production values are evident. Besides that, Nancy Gilson, Mark Moore, Randy Leopard and Matt Crowe, among others, are hand-in-glove partners for us, sharing their expertise and morale-lifting support.
We’re still here, and the “State of The Chronicle” remains upbeat. We’re two years into an effort to rethink community newspapers and solution-oriented journalism, and readers have responded.
A year ago we launched a fundraising drive as the pandemic’s financial impact was immediate and severe. Our readers donated more than $3,000, helping us survive the unforeseen crisis.
Now, we’re looking forward to serving the community with even greater impact and in partnership with organizations such as Creswell First!, and both the Springfield and Cottage Grove Chambers of Commerce. We’re working with local businesses such as Farmlands Market, Coast Fork Brewing Co., and Major Family Funeral Homes – homegrown businesses of, by and for our communities.
Pre-pandemic, one of our goals was to make The Chronicle a place for folks to gather. A public water cooler, so to speak. Coffee at The Chronicle on weekdays never got off the ground. Instead, we were stuck in a world of sequestration, “appointment only” and “office closed” messages due to staffers working from home. Constant uncertainty.
And, yet, we’re still here.
The boxer Mike Tyson once paraphrased an old military strategy this way: “Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.”
We’ve all taken unexpected blows in the past year, thanks in large measure to the Coronavirus.
I hear from small-business owners all over the southern Willamette Valley about the punches taken and the pain – and their perseverance.
It’s inspiring to read stories that profile the business owners in our towns who are making adjustments on the fly, figuring out how to stay open, support their family and serve the community.
You won’t read encouragement in this space for anyone to defy government mandates or public health guidelines. My heart breaks for restaurants such as Along Came Trudy in Springfeld, and our neighbor in downtown Creswell, Pazzo. Their owners are resilient and determined, trying to survive ever-changing, Byzantine regulations in a landscape of openings, closings, and just about every option in between.
We arrived in February 2019, eyes wide open and promptly drove into a blinding, once-every-half-century snowstorm.
A year later, the pandemic stealthily entered our lives, at first a far-off concern. What we’ve been fortunate to avoid in sickness and death here in the valley, we’ve suffered in economic distress, mental health and educational challenges. Recently, nearing our second anniversary, we were nominated to be among the best businesses in Springfield.
The Chronicle, and the communities we serve, will get stronger. We look forward to evolving, growing and innovating in a way that engages, informs, and supports people.
And, hopefully, make more deposits than withdrawals from the goodwill account.
Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.