Turning on the lights: It was pretty well documented one year ago when the lights went out at Village NetMedia and VillageSoup. Fifty-four people were out of work and three communities were left without a localized news source to tie them together.

Newspapers have been a part of the lives of most Americans for generations and, for the most part, taken for granted. “In faith we go” came to an abrupt halt one year ago when this newspaper and their sister website, VillageSoup, went out of business without warning. The website went down on a mid-March Friday night and then this newspaper failed to show up on newsstands and doorsteps the following Wednesday and Thursday.

Picking up and moving forward was done for several reasons. There was nothing pre-meditated in this journey; in the end it boiled down to hearing the calling and stepping up. It felt like it was just the right thing to do. I felt, without a doubt, that I was positioned to take over and that not doing so would create a void and mix up an already fragile print market. When I got a call on Saturday morning from the bank that was dealing with the Village NetMedia/VillageSoup situation, I had already met with staff at The Free Press and we had already decided that we needed to be part of the solution in bringing back daily news to Midcoast Maine.

On Monday, as agreed on Saturday, I went to the bank and an agreement in principle was hammered out. Working without a building or a staff I drove home thinking: “what have I done”? The deed done, I called my wife, Martha, to tell her not to be upset at the evening news reports knowing this was an instance to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Martha and I had worked together through one start-up newspaper which led me to what I now refer to as “my lost decade” and I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to rise up again. I also wasn’t sure if she had in her to witness and live through it with me again.

There is no “i” in team: My blind faith was rewarded in the days that followed. On Tuesday, I took the first step when I picked up the phone to begin the journey of hiring a staff.

I had competed with and always respected Dave Libby for 25-plus years. I knew that he could be trusted to work hard with the integrity I wanted as a backbone to the revenue side of the business. I know sales and I knew Dave Libby could provide the stability I was looking for. I knew he not only had my respect but the respect of The Free Press, which he would compete with for advertising dollars.

Also on the list was Ken Waltz, another longtime competitor and a person I knew casually. I trusted my instincts that Ken is the real deal and had newspaper ink and sports reporting in his blood and under his fingernails. With his experience and lots of years in the newspaper business I relied on Ken to bring in those he thought could help us build the team that could fight through this with “attitude” and commitment.

Ken brought Dan Dunkle into the meeting and wanted editor Dan to be part of the new management team. I could tell from day one that Dan brought with him a competitive fire and the desire one wants from a team member. He continues to want to grow, both as a news director and editor but also, and more importantly, as a person.

Rounding out the original management team meant hiring Dan’s wife, Christine, to run the production department. I figured you couldn’t have one Dunkle without the other and hired her without meeting her. One year later, I love the way she quietly adds to the team, takes her job seriously and wants the best for her staff while working well with all other departments, not a given in the newspaper business.

Not understanding the “paper-of-record” business, I was lucky that our final piece of the management team didn’t fall through the cracks. About a week later, as we were searching for a home and re-hiring staff, it was brought to my attention that Bryan Gess needed to be brought into the fold. He had a lot of fans among the managers. I asked them, “What would Bryan do”? The response was, “What doesn’t Bryan do”? As the IT guy, Bryan has kept things running. He handles circulation, the VillageSoup platform and basically anything not covered by someone else. He is the “go-to” guy and he brings the same enthusiasm and “can do” attitude of the entire management team that has impressed me from day one.

It is the “can do” attitude of the management staff that has carried over to their associates that has left me with no regrets. I know we are far from perfect, have a distance to get to great, but we are trying. And, we want great and we have heart in all senses of the word. The management team is motivated to serve our communities while creating a sustainable model that will allow us to support ourselves and give ourselves and our associates what they deserve.

Over the last year, we’ve had to reexamine how to do it and where we fit in. Our parents and grandparents come from a generation where newspapers were abundant and a staple of every day life. Most towns had multiple newspapers and they were the main source of news while radio and television complemented them. When I started The Free Press less than 30 years ago there were still morning and afternoon editions of several larger city papers as well as two papers in Belfast, a separate paper for Camden and a community paper based out of Rockland that came out three times a week. My, how times have changed!

The beat goes on: Though times have changed we move forward trying to get a new heart beat going, answering to a new generation, and new needs. The Internet has created immediacy that print, newspaper and television cannot keep up with. As we’ve settled into this new era, print circulations kept falling and their relevance questioned.

Just like radio didn’t disappear after television added the video component to our lives, print has managed to survive and find its niche. In small rural communities, like this one, we still need the connection to our local news, to our friends and neighbors and to our sports, opinions, calendar, arts, and obituaries. We want stories and photos of those we know and of our loved ones. Our newspapers continue to be relevant and that was evidenced by how we were missed in the month of March 2012.

At Courier Publications and VillageSoup we have melded to become one news source with two different delivery modes. You, our kind readers, have embraced us and we celebrate a year of achievement because of that.

When we explained that we needed 8 cents a day to create a sustainable model on the Internet so we could keep 10-plus reporters on the street, you responded. Just a few complained, but most said “thank you for bringing back our connection.” At 8 cents a day, that works out to less than one cup of coffee a week at a convenience store.

We responded by going retro with the newspapers and continuing to heavily invest in our Internet site, VillageSoup. In this case, two heads are better than one.

So Happy Anniversary to us and thank you very much for allowing us to come back, be relevant and earn enough money to keep us moving forward.

With the goal of providing information, news and the connection to community, we are humbled by your participation. Our newspaper circulation is up around 25 percent from when we took over and is now at around 11,000 for Courier Publications while our Internet subscriptions include more than 5,000 paid subscribers that support our news stories and our reporters.

With growth comes the ability, and the responsibility, to do more for our customers and our community in 2013. We will continue to grow our staff and we will continue to look for new opportunities to serve our readers and our advertisers.

Please look for the notices for our upcoming open houses in the communities we serve. We will celebrate our first year together and we invite you to join us in a “meet and greet” and to help us continue on a path that will best serve you, our reader.

Turn the Page. Peace out; Reade

Reade Brower, a longtime local resident, is owner of The Free Press and Courier Publications LLC. He can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com.