The year of gratitude
It seems appropriate that the traditional first year anniversary material is paper.
As the front page of this week's edition proclaims, it has been one year since the formation of the new Courier Publications, LLC company. On April 5, 2012, The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal returned to newsstands and mailboxes in the Midcoast, serving up a week's worth of news, community events, opinions, obituaries, arts, sports coverage and all of the other things that go into traditional Maine weekly newspapers.
Prior to that, as has been well-documented, Village NetMedia had suddenly closed its doors in March 2012 due to financial pressures. At that time, the papers had strayed from their roots. The Camden Herald had been closed and merged with the Courier into The Herald-Gazette. The Republican Journal had been renamed The VillageSoup Journal. More significantly, the previous management had lost track of the purpose of the publications — were they newspapers or magazines? As staff dwindled and was not replaced, it had become difficult for remaining employees to keep up with both their own jobs and those of the people who had left.
To some observers the closing in March came as a shock. To others, it was less surprising, but no less sad to see 54 dedicated employees suddenly out of work.
The closing was very sudden and very public, an email sent out on a Friday night to staff informing them they no longer had jobs just as the announcement was going out to the readers online.
Employees and the community wondered what would happen next. Would another entity, perhaps a larger newspaper company from Bangor or Lewiston come in and start up a weekly paper? Would the employees somehow restart their publication as has happened in other communities when papers go out of business? Or would Knox and Waldo counties suddenly find themselves without local paid weekly newspapers for the first time in more than a century?
It was Reade Brower of the Free Press who took action, buying the assets of the company, meeting with some of the former Village NetMedia employees and hiring a management team for his new company, Courier Publications, LLC.
In some ways it does not feel like a new company. The papers carry the traditional names once again. Many of the employees' names are familiar and have been working in news, advertising, circulation, graphic design, computer technology and at front desks in the Midcoast for years. Online readers could now subscribe to VillageSoup to get all of their news and sports almost instantaneously.
In some ways we are very different. While most of the material on the VillageSoup site, including obituaries, blogs, bizbriefs and weather are still free, it was not sustainable to offer news and sports gathered by reporters for free. That became paid content at 8 cents a day.
We are under new management and our headquarters moved into the fourth floor of the Breakwater Marketplace at 91 Camden St.
A year ago, on April 5, we restarted with a clear sense of mission and purpose. We were here to serve Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties with the highest quality weekly newspapers and online content. We would serve as watchdogs of local government, telling readers how their tax dollars are being spent and holding accountable those in power.
We also continued to serve as a community bulletin board. We know that every event, every benefit supper and local service organization meeting is the most important newspaper item to someone.
We have committed to objective journalism in the news pages and taking stands in the editorials.
However, over the past year we have not merely embraced newspaper tradition. We have remained focused on improving the way we provide news and other content online at VillageSoup.
VillageSoup is a brand not only for local news, but a platform that we sell, market and service to other news organizations in and out-of-state. We have experts in the field of programming working behind the scenes on the cutting edge of technology. This first year has only been a first taste of the leaps we expect to make in the future of this company.
Not everything has gone smoothly or perfectly in the past year. Courier Publications employees have put in a lot of long hours and endured a few sleepless nights. Philosophically, we embrace the belief that there is always room for improvement and innovation.
If we were to use just one word to describe our feeling about this last, first year, it would be "gratitude." We are especially grateful to the community of readers and advertisers who have supported us.
In the newspaper business, we call delivering the news to subscribers "circulation." That too is appropriate, because the support of the readers and advertisers is the life's blood without which a community newspaper cannot succeed.
We will not forget our mission to serve the community and we welcome your continued feedback as to how we can do that better.
Remember to read all you want. We will write more.