I received a nice note this evening from Sadie Hutchings, the Provincetown veterinarian (and our new “Animal Clinic” columnist).
“I think you guys must have just had a birthday for your newspaper,” she wrote. “My 13-month-old daughter was featured in your ‘birth issue’ when she was a few weeks old, so Happy Birthday to the newspaper!”
Dr. Hutchings is right. The birth of her daughter, Juniper, last July 21 was described on the front page of Volume 1, Number 1 of the Provincetown Independent, which appeared on Sept. 6, almost one year ago.
That was our “preview edition,” actually. We didn’t start publishing weekly until October, so we’re going to wait until the end of this month to celebrate our first birthday and the beginning of Volume 2.
What a year it has been.
We knew we were embarking on a venture that most people considered risky, if not downright foolish. “They’re starting — yes, starting — a newspaper on the Cape” was the Boston Globe’s headline for its story about us.
We didn’t know that six months into our first year we would face a global economic and health disaster that would hobble the business community at the precise time of the year when we had projected our business would start to take off. Like almost everyone else, we had to learn to do our work in new ways and rally our young team remotely.
Sometimes it felt as if we could barely go on.
But here we are, still here, and getting stronger, with a growing subscription and advertiser list and an all-star cast of contributors. In spite of the headwinds, and the grievous condition of big chunks of the newspaper landscape, we were sure that a lively, readable, risk-taking paper would find a loyal audience here. We still think so.
More and more people are worried about the future of journalism, including a majority of the Mass. House of Representatives (see Allyson Birger’s story on page A9). The House voted recently to create a commission to find out what’s gone wrong and see if the government can help shore up local newspapers. Many people say there needs to be a new “business model” for community journalism, perhaps including some kind of government support.
We’re glad that our legislators think newspapers are important. But we agree with Worth Robbins, a founder of the weekly Harvard Press, who says, “Newspapers should keep government at arm’s length.” Our job, after all, is to blow the whistle when government goes out of bounds.
We’re all for new business models, but we also believe in the value of time-tested principles. Local papers have survived hard times again and again by serving their readers well and earning their support. It doesn’t take a state-sponsored commission to see that.