CLAYTON, CA (April 20, 2023) — Twenty years ago this month, I stood with Jill Bedecarré in the middle of Center Street in front of the post office waiting for delivery of the first Clayton Pioneer. For six solid weeks, we had been white knuckling it up the steep side of the learning curve. As the driver unloaded the pallet with the first 5000 Pioneers, Jill sighed and asked “Did we just give birth to the same baby?”
Two decades later, as we put our 429th “baby” to bed, I’m again feeling more parent than publisher. Our kid grew up, Jill.
“Gestation” was in much simpler times. There was no Facebook or Nextdoor. The Internet was a tool, not a way of life. Computers did our bidding, printing what we told them to, not what they thought we should have said. Our phones had not yet become body parts. The local paper, although endangered, was still breathing on its own.
Today local journalism is on life support. Costs have skyrocketed, online advertising has eroded our revenue base and news aggregators are stealing our stories. In the last 20 years, hundreds of local news organizations have gone dark. Fully one-fifth of the country lives in a news desert.
But despite my dark words, it’s still light outside if we open the curtains. There are still great stories to tell with plenty of people to read them. Publishers are getting more creative with their business models–many converting to non-profit. While hundreds of news sources have abandoned print altogether, many of us are still die-hard parents of “dead tree” babies.
We will keep on keepin’ on. Another 20 years? Not likely since in 2043, I will be 97.
But for the near future, we will keep doing what we’ve done for the last 20 years. We will find good stories and tell them well. We will stay in our lane, keeping our stories local. We will hire good people and stay out of their way. We will stay flexible.
And we will be forever grateful to the readers, the writers, the advertisers and the staff that helped us raise our baby. It does take a village.