A New Beginning For The Shawangunk Journal By Alex Shiffer
Eleven years ago, when I wrote the first editorial in this space introducing the paper, I had no idea of the challenges that lay ahead — for the community, for the publishing industry, and for me personally. It was 2006 — the housing bubble had not yet burst, Hydro and the Nevele had not yet closed, the Internet had not yet devastated newspapers' bottom line, and I could still walk without a cane. (I don't need one anymore, fortunately.) Creating a newspaper seemed to make sense— the region didn't have one, we liked reading them, and we had the bare minimum of skills (we thought) necessary to put one together. We got off to a great start. Readership grew, advertisers flocked to us, and the paper flourished. But then, well, reality set in. The initial burst of community support waned and the economy soured, and quickly the brutal economics of local publishing became apparent. By 2010 the newspaper was losing money. Not a lot, but we worked hard, and we were paying for the privilege.
Some years were better than others; overall though, the newspaper survived because my other business was growing and profitable, subsidizing what we had come to call "our problem child." But with that growth came serious demands for my attention, and then a two year illness began, so my work at the newspaper virtually stopped. I wrote my last editorial in 2012.
Without a publisher, the paper's financial picture got darker. There was no one out there hustling, working the biz to improve the bottom line. I spent most of these challenging years lying on my back. In this position I couldn't do much and the newspaper struggled to survive. If it weren't for our dedicated staff, the paper would certainly no longer be here.
And that brings us to 2016 — a truly unique year in so many ways. The newspaper's economics dropped off a cliff, and if conditions continued for 2017 — why wouldn't they? —we were facing a $50,000 loss for 2017. We had no choice. Time to pull the plug.
The new year is always a tough time for local businesses around here, and so for the newspaper too. January looked particularly dire for us, so we picked a date for the last issue we would print. But as a last ditch effort we decided to try something novel for us: asking for help. The newspaper was larger than ourselves. Dozens of writers and thousands of readers had a stake in it too, so we made our appeal. The response was truly astonishing. Hundreds of you agreed to pay more, some just a little, some a lot, for us to continue publishing. It got us through the month, and will keep us going for the next few, and has enabled us to address what the newspaper needs even more than money: a new publisher.
So, without further delay, please welcome Amberly Jane Campbell, our new publisher. She started last week, and many of you have already met or spoken with her. With her in charge, we anticipate big changes for the newspaper. A renewed focus on the communities we cover, more stories about the people who live here, new products and plans for advertisers, and maybe even a new look. A little about her: she lives in Rosendale, born and raised in Highland, is a great writer, loves the news, and skates for the Mid-Hudson Misfits roller derby team. A perfect fit for our corporate culture.
The Shawangunk Journal is a fine newspaper, brought to you every week by a capable and committed crew. Amberly will spend the next few weeks getting to know it and our community, and already has some great ideas of how to make the newspaper even better. She has a huge challenge ahead of her, and we are appealing to you to help her get off to a great start. Please reach out to her and tell her what you would like to see in your community newspaper. Her task is to make the Shawangunk Journal strong and sustainable, and that can only happen with the full support of the community it serves. We wish her all the best. Thank you all.